Thursday, October 08, 2015

If Memories and Personality Make You "You", Here's How You Could Transfer into Another Body (Maybe)

... with no high technology required!

Step 1: Write extensive memoirs, and have servants constantly follow you around, recording every detail of your life, in painting, story, and song.

Step 2: Drink some hemlock to kill your present body.

Step 3A: Have your servants find a newborn baby. Your servants will be experts in hypnosis, in the induction of "false" memories, and in psychological training. They will induce in the child, as she grows, memories from your past -- not false memories, but veridical, accurate memories! Memories at least as accurate and complete as other people's normal memories of three or ten years ago. With proper suggestion, the growing child will experience the memories from the first-person perspective and think of them as her own.

Step 3B (simultaneous with 3A): Surround the child with institutions designed to convince her -- I mean you -- that she/you really is just the continuation of you in a new body. She will look on all of her induced memories as memories of the old days from her previous body. She will share your name, "remember" your friends and attitudes as her own, be personally proud of your past accomplishments and personally embarrassed by your past failures, identify with your old goals, projects, debts, and obligations. With some luck and good psychological training, the child will grow into an adult who shares the values and attitudes of your old self -- perhaps about as much as normal people retain their values and attitudes over the course of a decade or two.

If she and all of society then say that she really is the re-embodiment of you -- that is, a continuation of the same person over time (only in a new body), as much as your 40-year-old self is normally thought to be a continuation of your 20-year-old self -- would she and all her society be factually, philosophically, metaphysically mistaken? If she isn't really a metaphysically legitimate continuer of you, why not? What would be missing, exactly?

You might say they aren't real memories, because they're the memories of a different person -- but to say that is just to beg the question, assuming the falsity of the very view in dispute.

You might say that personal identity requires strict continuity of body, which she doesn't have with you. But that's to move away from psychological criteria for personal identity, which many people find attractive in hypothetical upload cases, brain transplant cases, and teleporter cases.

This is the topic of my latest science fiction story, "The Dauphin's Metaphysics", now out in the latest issue of Unlikely Story.

Related Posts:
  • A Somewhat Impractical Plan for Immortality (Apr. 22, 2013)
  • The Mnemonists (Apr. 22, 2013)

    Arnold said...

    Are different speeds of entropy, in our sense feel and thought memories, taking place in our Memory...can we transport them all at-in the same time ...

    D said...

    This is pretty much the plot of Cyteen, with the additional twist that the child so raised is a genetic clone of the powerful woman who wanted to continue after death.

    Unknown said...

    So if step 2 is skipped one would have two "metaphysically legitimate continuers" of oneself?

    Eric Schwitzgebel said...

    D: I suppose I'll need to read Cyteen -- that does sound interesting.

    Anders: I'm inclined to think so, but that's a minority view in the literature. Step 2 is there to prevent the existence of a better or equally good competitor, which some people think is relevant (but which I think makes identity objectionably extrinsic).

    Anonymous said...

    Isn't this how the Dalai Lama works?

    Eric Schwitzgebel said...

    Anon: I don't think the Dalai Lama goes so far as to use hypnotic memory induction of real experiences recorded from previous lives -- but it would be very cool if he did! If so, then yes, that would be a similar case.

    chinaphil said...

    I totally agree that the only difficulties here are technical. The problem is the goal - so small-minded. The objective of all that training and hypnosis is to persuade the child that it is person A and NOT person B. The question is, why bother with that repression? The miracle of writing means that for a brief moment, when I read a poem, I can be Du Fu, or Shakespeare, or whoever - and I don't have to deny the identity of Phil Hand to do it.

    I think in some ways you've slightly mistaken the nature of the task we're talking about here. Giving continuity to parts of a person is easy, now, with writing and video. In the end we will certainly get to the point where we convey enough of a person to allow a future being to inhabit them quite fully. The question is the bit that you touch on in the new Dauphin's existential crisis: does the new host accept the old identity as her entirety? Does the computer into which we upload stop believing it's a computer? What benefit would that repression (or even deception) have?

    There are a couple of fictional takes on this worth looking at: the Bene Gesserit in the Dune novels transfer personality and then simply have them coexisting inside future people. No sister denies her own, current identity, but she has within her millennia of accumulated generations of other personalities, more or less assertive, but subject to her control. The other is Stephanie Meyer's The Host, which is a bit trashy, but also covers this idea of taking over a mind very thoroughly. (One thing I think The Host does very well is allegorise how adulthood can be a bit like another person taking over a child's body. The alien who takes over a human and represses her is overwhelmed by the repressed host's strong feelings of physical and emotional love for a man, leading to a kind of detente between the two.)

    Narpac said...

    A new metaphilosophy blog:

    You have written quite a lot on metaphilosophy so I thought I would post this here.

    Eric Schwitzgebel said...

    chinaphil -- That makes sense to me, and thanks for the suggestions of Dune (wow, it has been forever since I read that!) and The Host.

    On "The question is, why bother with that repression?" In the story, Fu Hao doesn't make the choice to drink the hemlock until she has a higher aim than personal survival -- and in fact, she continues to think that it wouldn't really be personal survival. So she still doesn't quite accept the metaphysics of the hemlock-drinking nobles. Also, among her last thoughts is some concern about the newborn girl who will be the new Fu Hao, analogizing the girl's sale to her own horrible sale as a child bride many years before. So I intend the story to end without a clean resolution, either morally or metaphysically....

    Eric Schwitzgebel said...

    Narpac -- cool! Thanks for sharing the link.

    chinaphil said...

    Yep, of course. Sorry, I forgot to say that I like the story very much, as always. And I think that your aristocratic, sexist social setting does give you the justification that you need: if Fu's agenda is to be advanced, only she herself can or will do it.
    But in a more open society, all she would have to do would be to advocate, to write, to persuade. George Washington lives on in all Americans; Newton in every physicist. In order to judge whether one can, as suggested here, extend one's life through transmissions of memories and habit, we have to know more about the objectives.
    Some of those objectives might be:
    1) Having sole control of a living human body.
    2) Having a consciousness.
    3) Avoiding death.
    4) Achieving goals which will take longer than one's own lifetime.

    These four all seem to be quite different things, and to be achieved in quite different ways. In the story, none of the characters avoids death; they arguably have consciousness and sole control of their new bodies. Uploading into a computer might give consciousness, but not control of a body. And presumably the only way to avoid any death at all would be to do it piecemeal: stay in the original body, and replace or upgrade parts as they wear out. But achieving larger goals... I think that working more directly on the goals might be more effective than assuming that the self is the only person who can do the job.

    Simon said...

    Is this really any different to the teleportation thought experiment? And runs into similar objections?

    Regardless I think both the person/psychological vs biological/animal continuity have it wrong, so I come from a competently different perspective.

    I think this can be solved with a systems perspective of 'personal' identity in that what makes you the same entity are chains of organizational system continuity. For us that is material but for software A.I. that could be information.

    Brain transfer and split hemisphere are dealt with in light of this as extended system entities or pseudo deaths.

    This also entails IMO that we aren't ontologically speaking persons either, rather a relatively sophisticated type of embodied complex adaptive system with a phenomenological/informational command and control 'aspect' / biographical phases that while can be reduced or associated to the brain, the brain is still a mereological part of the larger system.

    Similarly given the systems ontology of this view, that systems cognitive capacity can shift up and down the non person, person, and more than person cognitive continuum and still be considered the same system entity through these materially embodied organizational states.

    LOL hope someone can understand that.

    Arnold said...

    Possible understanding of Simon...
    ..Motion and movement have a lot to do with subjugating memory to less than mind/body, nature/nurture, 'hardware/software' changing/experiences...
    Should we remember, as everything is changing...

    UserGoogol said...

    It's not really the same thing, but I can't help be reminded of Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote.

    Callan S. said...

    I'm inclined to think that's not much better than having a really, really good forger forge the mona lisa, then burning the original.

    As a benchmark I'll say that if someone made a high tech 3d printer print out a copy of the mona lisa then destroy the original, I'd still say it's a different set of atoms.

    Further I rather think there is discrepancy between records of our life made from other beings perspectives and our own memory. Heck, even our own memory of events is not really a trigger of what we are - we might remember a sinister figure in a window and be frightened of it. But really it was just some furnature in a funny configuration. But I'm probably being picky here, as I'm just picking at the resolution of the hypothetical, which isn't so much getting at the issue of the hypothetical.