Archive for the ‘teleportation’ Category

Phoenix – episode 3

Friday, March 26th, 2010

This is the third and final episode of “Phoenix,”  a short story about an improved kind of life insurance.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

(video on – metallic cylindrical interior)

Frank here.  So here I am in the itravel pod on Olympus Station, Mars orbit, which is home, heading out to Prince Rupert BC.  Who the heck was Prince Rupert, anyhow?  This system’s running slower than ever.  I’ve been sitting doing dick for five minutes, bored out of my skull, listening to Eleanor Rigby on their crappy sound system.  Okay. here we go, I’m finally getting a tingle…a-a-a-and…must be there!

Welcome to Prince Rupert, Canada’s Pacific Rim deep-water port. (more…)

Phoenix – episode 2

Friday, March 19th, 2010

This is the second episode of “Phoenix,”  a short fiction about an improved kind of life insurance.  If you haven’t read episode 1, start here.

That was my first taste of problems involved with using my life insurance policy.  I didn’t think they were all that bad, considering the alternative.  It was only after I died a second time that I felt a tiny bit concerned, because it was so stupid.  Even now, now that the pattern is obvious, I have trouble understanding how I could have done it.  Back then, I couldn’t begin to understand.  My log entry after I saw the evidence is pure confusion – just screaming question marks.

I’d survived a year and a half since the volcano.  By that time I had lots of experience and was diving safely.  In fact I was getting bored, and looking at other sports.  Anyway, this is what happened, as well as I’ve been able to reconstruct it.  I needed the cruiser for a date with a girl on some other station so I asked Dad well in advance and he agreed.  Fine.  Eight o’clock Friday night I climbed in and the fuel-oxygen was down to zip.  Almost.  The spare tank was empty too.  How could Dad let that happen?  I was probably late, probably frustrated.  I drove that thing into a station and traded in the spare.  The attendant was pretty young – I saw him at the inquest later – didn’t know much.  He gave me a tank with the wrong fitting.  And I didn’t notice. (more…)

Phoenix – episode 1

Friday, March 12th, 2010

“Phoenix” is a short story about a young guy who found freedom in a life insurance policy.  Here is the first of three episodes.

This is Frank Forster speaking on January 7, 2092.  This is a confidential message for Frank Forster.

Frank…if anybody’s around, save this for another time.   You’re going to have to make a decision, and you don’t need anybody’s advice except your own.

You’re probably wondering why there’s no video.  I turned it off.  I’ll explain why later.  Just keep listening, Frank, I need you to hear this through to the end without any interruption.  Arrange that, okay?  I don’t want somebody like Georg dropping in for a cold one in the middle of this.  Not that Georg will, ‘cause he’s dead.  I assume you heard.  God, I hope you did – I’m not trying to be brutal.  Yeah, Georg’s dead, permanently…yeah, permanently…and that’s a lot of what this message is about, so pay attention, hamhead!   Oops, sorry, sorry, I, uh…Frank, I’m not trying to offend you.  I don’t want you to stop listening.  Don’t stop listening.  Understand that I have strong feelings.  You will understand, if you just listen to this.  So, if I start to get abusive, just go with it, okay?  Do that for me.  Shit, do it for yourself.  I don’t want to edit this, I’d mess it up.  So some parts may be a bit raw, so what?  I care about you, Frank, so no bullshit.  You’re my future – all the future I’ve got.

I’m going to ask you to do something you won’t like.  It’s about life insurance, Frank.  I’m going to ask you to cancel your policy. (more…)

What We Are

Friday, February 26th, 2010

What are we, if we are informational entities?

Like most people (and unlike some philosophers) I will stick to the view that we are persons.  In this post I will try to state clearly what persons are according to the theory of persons I recommend, which I call the Information Theory.  I will begin to flesh the theory out, by drawing out some of its consequences.

The Information Theory

Here are some claims of the Information Theory of Persons.

  1. Persons are entities that can be multiply instantiated, like tunes, dances, literary works, electronic files, computer programs, and genes.
  2. Like all those things, persons are entities that can be expressed as information.  A person can cross a spatio-temporal gap in the form of information carried by any convenient medium, such as electronic files.
  3. Persons are distinct from the living biological organisms they depend on, as software is distinct from the hardware it runs on. (more…)

What We Are Not

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

What We Are NotWe are not Cartesian egos.  We are not biological organisms either.

Not Cartesian egos

A Cartesian ego is a kind of mental or spiritual thing that is thought to inhabit a human body and give it life.  Many people believe we can exist independently of a human body – that we survive the death of our bodies, continuing to have experiences either without a body, or by being reborn in another body.

I hardly need to argue against Cartesian egos.  The idea is in widespread disrepute without any assistance from me.  It is hard to reconcile with a scientific view of the world.  We have no convincing evidence that such things exist.  Until we have, we should use Occam’s Razor for its intended purpose to prune them from our conceptual scheme.  Leaving them in creates clutter and awkward problems.

One problem comes from split brain research.  When the corpus callosum connecting a patient’s two cerebral hemispheres is cut, two centres of consciousness appear where there was one before.  Should we conclude that the surgeon’s knife divided a spiritual substance?   Instead of deepening our understanding, this multiplies mysteries.

Despite its academic unrespectability, the idea that we are Cartesian egos is embraced by billions of people.  It is deeply involved with emotion, as this passage from Umberto Eco’s novel The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana illustrates:

One evening the spiritual director stood in front of the altar balustrade, illuminated – like all of us, like the entire chapel – by that single candle that haloed him in light, leaving his face in darkness.  Before dismissing us, he told us a story.  One night, in a convent school, a girl died, a young, pious, beautiful girl.  The next morning, she was stretched out on a catafalque in the nave of the church, and the mourners were reciting their prayers for the deceased, when all of a sudden the corpse sat up, eyes wide and finger pointing at the celebrant, and said in a cavernous voice, “Father, do not pray for me!  Last night I had an impure thought, a single thought – and now I am damned!” (more…)

The Self Illusion

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Vase-faces2

To find the right answers, ask the right questions.  I have skated around the question, “Is there a rational justification for self concern?” without coming up with a solid argument that settles it one way or the other.  But there is a related question which can be answered.

Two Views of Teleportation

As we have seen, teleportation by means of information transfer can be viewed in two ways.  The facts of the case are: I am scanned in North Vancouver and my information is sent to Omaha, where it is used to construct a living replica of me.  Meanwhile, the original in North Vancouver is destroyed.  Two views of these events are:

SURVIVE: I am transported from North Vancouver to Omaha.

DIE: I am killed in North Vancouver, and someone else – my replica – is constructed in Omaha.

People who think about teleportation disagree about whether SURVIVE or DIE is an accurate description of the case.  How can it be settled which view is true – or whether neither is true?

People who disagree about SURVIVE and DIE do not disagree about the facts of the case.  The facts are not in question.  No scientific experiment can be devised to settle which of SURVIVE and DIE is an accurate description of the facts. (more…)

Gappy Things That Branch and Change

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

IdentityImagine, in the early days of books, a small library consisting entirely of original manuscripts.  Some of them are very old, and have been attacked by mice.  Some have deteriorated so much that their pages crumble to dust when the custodian of the library tries to read them.  He mourns the loss of these books, and contemplates the inevitable decay of the remaining books with sorrow.  To be sure, new manuscripts are occasionally added to the library, but they cannot replace the volumes that are lost forever.  This goes on until, one day, the young assistant librarian has an idea.  “This book will be unreadable in five years,” he tells his elder.  “But I can read it now.  If I copy the words of this book onto sheets of new vellum, and bind them in a strong new binding, we will be able to read it for many decades to come.”  The old librarian tenderly strokes the cracked spine of the crumbling volume, and shakes his head.  “What good is a copy?  It wouldn’t be the same book.”

In the previous post, I summarized one of Derek Parfit’s main arguments that personal identity – being the same person over time – is not what matters in survival.

Human fission – one person ‘splitting’ into two – is clearly imaginable.  It is physically possible, and is not far from being technically possible.  Parfit argues compellingly that fission would preserve what is important in survival.  Specifically, if Parfit knew that both of his cerebral hemispheres were about to be separately transplanted into two separate bodies, he would have the same rational justification for anticipating the experiences of both of the post-op survivors as each of us has for anticipating his or her own future experiences.  This, despite the fact that the original Derek Parfit ceased to exist when he was divided.  In this case, ceasing to exist is very unlike ordinary death.  Ceasing to exist just consists in the fact that the two post-op survivors are different persons from one another, and neither one is the same person as the pre-op Derek Parfit.  Loss of identity of this kind does not matter. (more…)

Forking – episode 4

Monday, November 16th, 2009

This is the fourth and last episode of Forking, a short story in the ‘philosophy fiction’ genre.  If you haven’t yet read Episode 1, start here.

Forking 4 composite 3Roger Beethey shows up late, with a blonde.  Elliot gives him a pleading look.  “Relax,” says Beethey.

“You said it would be a skeleton crew,” Elliot complains, gesturing to a clump of technicians.

“It is.”  Beethey nudges the blonde.  “This is Sylvan.  He’ll do your faces.”

The Elliots exchange glances, and stand up.  “This isn’t a game,” one says angrily. 

“You’re right, it’s no game,” Beethey hisses.  “You chose us, a US major network, over your socialized Canadian TV, because you wanted the exposure.  Well if you want our exposure, you’ve got to get us our ratings.  The network doesn’t even know what it’s invested in, because of your paranoia about leaks.  They’ll be watching with interest, and if I don’t come up with a professional product” – he draws a line across his throat – “I’ll have to pull your stunt right after you. (more…)

Forking – episode 3

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

This is Episode 3 of Forking, a short story in the ‘philosophy fiction’ genre.  If you haven’t yet read Episode 1, start here.

Forking 3 composite 3Getting into the Institute turned out to be easy.  Arriving in a crowd from the bus, he found the iid-controlled gate held open for him by a smiling girl.  Security at that boundary is given low priority.  The ‘free-campus’ tradition.  Half-hidden in a big armchair in a departmental Reading Room – not his own department’s – he checks the messages on his phone.  Nothing new that matters.  He re-reads Elliot’s reply to EB, agreeing to meet before class.  Elliot must be in his car by now, probably in slow traffic on the Expressway.

Elliot forwards another copy of Elliot’s message to EB, adding a note at the top.  “BTW, I hope it goes without saying that I take issue with Dalton.  I notified the board that he he’s a lightweight, unsuitable for that job.  Between us, he’s a dick-head!”  Elliot pictures EB’s reaction when he reads it.  He feels strangely exhilarated, and almost giggles.

With a few minutes to kill, Elliot wanders out of the Reading Room.  He notices the libertarian, Wade, coming down the corridor.  Wade nods to Elliot in passing.  Only since Elliot gained tenure – over Wade’s opposition, he is sure – does the old anarchist grant him even that much recognition.

A suitable target.  Elliot saunters after him. (more…)

Forking – episode 2

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

This is Episode 2 of Forking, a short story in the ‘philosophy fiction’ genre.  If you haven’t yet read Episode 1, start here.

Forking 2 composite5 flattenedInstead of the motel on Bridgeport, as the other Elliot wanted, he checks into the Verdmont for what remains of the night.  He owes himself that much.  He is a bit surprised that his iid still opens doors.  The other Elliot could have changed his code, which would have made his own implant useless.  But the surprise vanishes when he thinks of what he would have done in the other’s place.  Without a valid iid, he could hardly last a day in Waterloo without coming to the attention of the police.  He has to eat, to sleep somewhere, and although he knows that resourceful denizens of the city’s underbelly do so without an iid, he cannot.  He might, of course, approach the authorities for assistance, were it not that he fears publicity just as much as the other does.  As the other Elliot said last night, the stikists could ‘get mileage’ out of this.  That could set the itravel industry back ten years.

Although staggeringly tired, he is afraid he won’t be able to sleep.  Still bug-eyed after a mael-bath with deep massage, he tries to get sleep meds from room service but no go.  (more…)