Table of Contents
Your future seems different from mine. If people use teleportation, they’ll expect to survive it. Substance vs. attributes. We live through our effects.
Discouraging journey into loneliness. Relationship between love and death?
Trip plan for the Phantom Self project.
Ramachandran. Phantom limbs. Blindsight. Characteristics of consciousness and self. The phantom self and the limbic system.
Teleportation is coming; so is life insurance that restores your life. Estimated data volumes. An exact copy isn’t the most efficient, or the best. The Connectome Project. Molecular manufacturing.
The story of a man who is accidentally duplicated.
Self-concern – an emotional gestalt. Evolution of self-concern. Explanations are not reasons.
Parfit’s glass tunnel. An oppressive presence. Phantom anatomy. Ontogeny of the phantom. Phantom noses and hands. Capgras and self-image. A philosophical mirror trick?
Parfit’s Reasons and Persons. Split brains. Mind division. “My division”. How to count persons: opposing views of personal identity.
Two kinds of books. Boundaries of things. Identity defined. Why identity may matter after all. Gappy, branching things. Branching, changing things. Persons – a proposal.
No fact of the matter whether we survive teleportation. No fact of the matter whether we survive ever. Illusions and ambiguity. Importance of the illusion: reality and selfishness.
12. What We Are Not
We are not Cartesian egos. We are not biological organisms either. The Organism Theory vs. the Information Theory. The Two Lives objection.
13. What We Are
The Information Theory of Persons – core claims. Psychological continuity as a unifying relation. The brain is not the only bearer of psychological continuity. Relationships to self and others are not so different. Deception, self-deception, and anosognosia. Reconstruction of cognitive states from fMRI data. When do persons begin and end? What is a life, for insurance purposes?
14. Phoenix (story)
About a young guy who finds freedom in a life insurance policy.
Why life insurance is the ‘killer app’ of human replication technology. Its uses and abuses. The indubitable benefit of being able to undo tragic death. Recommended backup practices. The Ponce de Leon urge, and other ethical questions.
16. The Plastic Self
Plasticity of body-image and of the temporally extended self. Williams’ “The Self and the Future.” The Psychological Criterion. The Bodily Criterion. Two descriptions. Personal identity claims underdetermined by empirical fact. Psychological responses – The Golden Rule.
Raymond Martin’s Self-Concern. Anticipation of experience. “Rationally permissible” vs. “rationally required.” Martin’s fission rejuvenation case, and the ‘strategies of self-concern.’ Personal identity revisited. Alternative strategies of self-concern.
18. Coed (story)
“Coed” is a fictional exploration of fusion – two people coming together to cohabit in a shared body.
Fusion examples show that psychological continuity is not all that matters in survival.
Motivation belongs to the essential core of self-concern. Self-concern directed towards the past is indirectly motivating. Pride and shame. Respect for others’ autonomy is an obstacle to feeling ‘self-concern’ for them. Both motivation and anticipation of experience are necessary for self-concern.
A neurological look at the difference between self-concern and concern for others. ‘Rational’ behaviour depends on the ‘emotional’ limbic system as well as the ‘executive’ prefrontal cortex. Anticipation depends on dopamine-driven reinforcement. Memory of anticipation makes us think that future-directed self-concern is rationally required.
William Hazlitt may have been the first Westerner to realize that self-concern is not rationally required. An empiricist attitude, psychological introspection, and a thought experiment involving human fission got him there.
23. Death, Revisited
Humans excel at planning for the future. The dilemma of death: something we are very afraid of will inevitably occur. Belief in life after biological death. Is agony the price of realism about death? What changes do we survive? Does survival admit of degrees? Realism without agony. Engaging in the future – Terry Fox.
Our investments in the future do not stop paying dividends when we die. Our selfish goals are unlikely to be adopted by other people. To be emotionally invested only in oneself is to experience painful loss as one’s personal future runs out. The pain of self-concern is a prudential reason to be unselfish.
Health care is a business driver of human replication technology. State of the art of organ engineering: ink-jet printing and bioprinting. The bioprinting process is aided by cellular self-assembly. Prospects for and limitations of the technology.
Replication standards for the brain are higher than for other organs. Data volume estimates revisited; Moore’s Law. The Human Connectome Project. Limitations of the state of the art. Prognosis.
A.R. Damasio’s Descartes’ Error shows how rationality depends on emotion – reason is not pure. Parasympathetic symptoms. “Emotions are about the body”. How decisions are made. Consciousness is slow; reason is weak. Motivational impairment caused by ventromedial frontal lobe damage in Phineas Gage and contemporary patients. Evidence – the ‘Gambling Game’ experiments. When rationality fails.
Thomas Metzinger’s model-centred theory of mind. Structure and methodology. Criteria for consciousness. From consciousness to selfhood. No such things as selves exist in the world.
The experience of being a subject. PSM and PMIR. An ambiguity about “perspectivalness.” Centred experience and the ‘little red arrow.’ Is the PMIR really a phenomenal model? Transparency and opacity. The phenomenal quality of me-ness. The rubber-hand illusion. Existence denial – Cotard’s and enlightenment.
Does the self-model model the system accurately? Metzinger’s final arguments for “No Such Things as Selves Exist in the World.” Reasons for doubting intuitions about the self. The ethics of being no one.
Metzinger’s functional specification for consciousness and the self? Is the Turing Test fair? Does Google’s driverless vehicle meetMetzinger’s criteria for consciousness? What ethical concerns surround the creation of artificial minds?
32. Persons in Law
The self cannot be wholly understood without reference to society. Persons are units of moral and legal responsibility. Implications of teleportation for the law—non-branching and branching cases. Implications of restorative life insurance for moral and legal responsibility for actions.
33. Jihad of the Heart (story)
“Jihad” is a story/thought experiment about our legal system coming to grips with restorative life insurance. What happens to someone charged with a crime committed by his later self?
34. Kolak: I Am You
Kolak’s thesis, called Open Individualism, is that we are all the same person. His book does not aim to prove this, only to remove obstacles to believing it. Why would anyone want to believe Open Individualism? Argument from dreams. “Boundary dissolves.” Kolak’s criticisms of Parfit’s account of human fission. Criticism of the Psychological Criterion. The ‘subject-in-itself.’
Open Individualism says that because we are all one person, there is no problem of distributive justice, and everyone’s interests are aligned. What are its implications for morality? The Case of the Needy Visitors. Endorsement of “brutal” free-market capitalism. Evaluation of competing theories of personhood.
What paradigm shift requires. Inconsistent intuitions as anomalous psychological data. Correlation of identity judgements and self-concern. Neuroscientific evidence of causation. Natural selection of beliefs. How philosophy and science work together.
A simple argument seems to show that we have reason to care about the quality of our experiences in the future. Continuing to have experiences is at least part of what what matters to us in survival. The core meaning of “person” is “subject of experience.” The Extreme Claim, that our special concern for our own future is not rationally required, is true. Anticipation of future experience is not psychologically necessary, because another motivating attitude—sympathetic concern—is available to us.
38. On Sympathy
The philosophy of personal identity is giving way to the science of human motivation. How to substitute sympathy for self-concern. Self-concern leads to excessive competitiveness, a trait that is dysfunctional for both the individual and the species. Planet of the rats.
39. What Does Matter
What matters in survival is preservation of information, but not mere similarity. Different things matter for the survival of different kinds of informational entities. The importance of choosing one’s personal transformation. Our values give us reasons to survive. Why the Narcissist’s defence of Egoism fails. Compromise of of one’s values for survival destroys what it aims to protect.
Are persons really as ‘profoundly alone’ as Kathryn Schulz portrays them? The theory of other minds in developmental psychology. Three problems with privacy. “Primitive” data is not necessarily “private.” Mirror neurons: the neurological basis of interpersonal connection.
The Gallese/Keysers/Rizzolatti “mirror neuron hypothesis”says that humans and other primates have specialized neural circuitry enabling simulation of actions and emotions witnessed in others. Evidence for the hypothesis, and objections. An emerging paradigm of subcognitive, broadband interpersonal communications. Implications for the informational theory of persons.
A personal identity joke from ancient Greece. A person has the same kind of continuity relations to himself as to other people. The unity of persons is not the unity of the body, partly because of the replaceability of body parts. Society depends on the concept of a person as bearer of legal and moral rights and obligations over a long time. Cases of the reformed felon and conjoined twins. Personal unity is a kind of fiction, sanctioned and legitimized by social convention. Identity over time as it applies to jokes and to persons.
Parfit’s 2012 paper is a significant departure from the theory of persons presented in Reasons and Persons. His new view that persons are identical to their cerebrums sits uneasily alongside his Lockean position that transformations such as information-based teleportation preserve what matters in survival.
Mark Johnston argues that neo-Lockean views of personal identity cannot be reconciled with the fact that we make personal identity judgements by ‘offloading’ onto substances. Self-concern is primarily for the self (or ‘subject of experience’, ‘arena of consciousness’), rather than the person, in cases where they diverge. But the self is a ‘merely intentional object’ and as such, cannot rationally justify self-concern. No self ‘worth caring about’ exists – the Buddhist doctrine of anatta.
Alternative narratives of personhood contradict one another, but are justified in the same way. To accept one rather than another is to adopt its corresponding pattern of emotional concern. Searching for an “even-handed treatment” by which each narrative is “right on its own terms,” Johnston arrives at Proteanism: the idea that the extent of each person’s life is established by his or her emotional dispositions. What’s right about this idea is the centrality of emotional concern to personal identity. What’s wrong is that a concept of personhood defined solely by emotional affect cannot fill important roles that the traditional concept fills. Missing are qualities emphasized by Parfit: stability of personality and memory.
“Why does religion exist?” is a challenging scientific question. A primary function of all major religions is to curb selfish motivation. Buddhism accomplishes this by teaching that the self does not exist. Western monotheisms assert the existence of another, more powerful entity to whom the self should submit. Many of the attractive elements of religious experience documented by William James—‘meaning’ (emotional salience), a sense of revealed truth, comfort, joy, beauty, and compassion—can be explained as responses to a weakening or disappearance of the self-concerned emotions.
The persistence and prevalence of belief in God indicates that it cannot be negative for human evolutionary fitness. The same argument applies to belief in the self—but religion’s emphasis on curbing selfish motivation suggests there may be two sides to the story. If it were not curbed, would selfish motivation still be positive? Recent work by E.O. Wilson and Samuel Bowles suggests that religion has increased the competitivenessof human groups by promoting altruism at the expense of self-concern.
Widespread political acceptance of rampant inequality depends on acceptance of the idea that humans are motivated exclusively by self-interest. This is a reductionist view that denies important real distinctions. At least two branches of science provide strong support for the alternative hypothesis: ethology, which can demonstrate evolutionary advantages of shared goals and fellow feeling, and neuroscience, which is revealing the role of ‘mirror neurons’ in social skills and empathy.
Psychologist Mark Leary’s book goes into detail on the dysfunction as well as benefits of the human self-model.
In The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil argues that persons can survive uploading into robotic bodies, or even into a virtual-reality environment maintained on a powerful computer. He mentions a hypothetical technology, Utility Fog, which resembles virtual reality, but is implemented physically. A Utility Fog environment, I suggest, is one which persons are unlikely to survive for long. The remainder of this post examines the question whether persons can be said to survive uploading to robotic bodies, with reference to what Kurzweil calls a “personal Turing Test.”
The single most important result of the Phantom Self project is that personal survival is an illusion. There is no fact of the matter whether radical transformations like teleportation preserve what people value most in survival—the relation that justifies anticipation of future experience. There is no fact of the matter in the case of ordinary survival either.
52. The Human Kludge
Natural selection works opportunistically, modifying and recombining existing elements rather than redesigning from the ground up. The human motivational system combines an advanced ability to imagine and plan, of recent evolutionary origin, with a phylogenetically ancient emotional structure oriented towards self-preservation. The result is a kludge of mismatched components that works, but not well. Humans are now in a position to redesign their own motivational apparatus for the better.
The ‘phantom’ is the brain’s representation of the body—so transparent that it only becomes visible when there are discrepancies between representation and reality. Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), characterized by the desire to amputate a healthy limb, is caused by such a discrepancy. Objections to the ‘negative phantom’ explanation of BIID. A ‘layered phantom’ explanation is more promising. Parallels between BIID and transsexuality. An ‘ownership’ layer, or ‘me-layer’ of the phantom may accont for amputation desire.
Ian Brown’s 60th birthday essay portrays his remaining life as diminishing in length, deteriorating in quality—a thought to which humans are particularly susceptible. Such thoughts do not express fact but an attitude. A better attitude is available.
Someone with Capgras delusion has the stubborn belief that a person close to her is someone else—a stranger, an imposter. Neuroscientific studies attribute the failure to recognize the familiar person to an aberrant emotional response. This post examines alternate interpretations of Capgras, and the role of emotions in personal identity judgements.