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Continuity of Consciousness
Sunday. 5.5.13 11:31 pm
For no apparent reason, I've been pondering immortality. There's a company that claims it's making robots that will one day be able to house a human so they can live forever. Besides the obvious hurdle of designing a computer powerful enough to contain the human mind, the designers will have to overcome the problem of Continuity of Consciousness.


It's all well and good to be able to transfer your memories into a robot and have it "wake up" with all your knowledge, but would that really be you? Imagine two tv sets. You watch half of a movie on one tv, pause, then go to the second tv and press play. The second tv picks the movie up exactly where it left off, but it's not the first tv. The first tv is still paused.


It's not enough to just transfer memory. If, from the perspective of the human, their life just ends the moment they flip the switch, what's the point of making yourself immortal? The whole idea is to continue your stream of consciousness into the next stage.


It makes it even more difficult that scientists don't really even know what consciousness is.


Kind of makes the prospect of transporters on star trek a dubious notion. According to the lore of the show, transporters disassemble you, and reassemble you on the other side. So what if that process isn't perfect? What if... David 1 is on the planet, ready to be beamed up. As soon as they flip the switch, everything goes black. Lights go out. Nothing. End of stream. Then, on the ship, what is essentially a clone wakes up with all of david 1's memories. Isn't that a terrifying idea? It's basically a machine that murders you and replaces you with a clone of yourself. And they'd never know. All those originals were silently killed the moment the transporter turned on.
5 Comments.


Have you seen the Prestige? If you have, you know why I refer to it. If you haven't, go watch it right now. I don't want to spoil the ending.

Not only do scientists not know what consciousness is, but as far as I know there's no way to test for it. I read a book called Blindsight, where humans run into an alien species that is, well...extremely alien, to put it simply. We find out they're hyper intelligent, but we also find out that they're not even conscious; they have no self-awareness or stream of consciousness at all. Their entire existence was just reactionary. In theory, a person could be the same way. If they were good enough at faking it, we'd never know the difference.
» middaymoon on 2013-05-06 01:24:47

middaymoon is right, this is totally reminiscent of The Prestige.

The mind and body are deeply interconnected and I don't think we can separate them without losing the self. I was under the impression that monism was widely agreed upon as the view of mind and body now, not dualism.

Also, I have GREATLY decreased my number of self pictures, I will have you know.
» randomjunk on 2013-05-06 01:43:35

Have you seen the Prestige? If you have, you know why I refer to it. If you haven't, go watch it right now. I don't want to spoil the ending.

Not only do scientists not know what consciousness is, but as far as I know there's no way to test for it. I read a book called Blindsight, where humans run into an alien species that is, well...extremely alien, to put it simply. We find out they're hyper intelligent, but we also find out that they're not even conscious; they have no self-awareness or stream of consciousness at all. Their entire existence was just reactionary. In theory, a person could be the same way. If they were good enough at faking it, we'd never know the difference.
» middaymoon on 2013-05-06 09:40:09

Sorry for the double comment, please delete both of these if you wish.
» middaymoon on 2013-05-06 09:40:32

After many years, I've come back to point out that every time you fall of sleep, your consciousness is discontinued. Every morning you wake up with the memories of your past self, and coincidentally also the body of your past self.
» middaymoon on 2017-05-26 03:39:28

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