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  1. 26 Sep '13 18:01
    The following from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/24/stephen-hawking-brains-copied-life-after-death_n_3977682.html?utm_hp_ref=technology&ir=Technology

    Could your brain keep on living even after your body dies? Sounds like science fiction, but celebrated theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking recently suggested that technology could make it possible.

    "I think the brain is like a program in the mind, which is like a computer," Hawking said last week during an appearance at the Cambridge Film Festival, The Telegraph reported. "So it's theoretically possible to copy the brain on to a computer and so provide a form of life after death."

    He acknowledged that such a feat lies "beyond our present capabilities," adding that "the conventional afterlife is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark."

    Hawking, 71, made the remarks in conjunction with the premiere of a new documentary about his life.

    He has spoken previously about what he calls the "fairy story" of heaven and the afterlife. Likening the human brain to a computer whose components will fail, he said, "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers."


    Some people are actively working to develop technology that would permit the migration of brain functions into a computer. Russian multi-millionaire Dmitry Itskov, for one, hopes someday to upload the contents of a brain into a lifelike robot body as part of his 2045 Initiative, The New York Times reported recently.


    A separate research group, called the Brain Preservation Foundation, is working to develop a process to preserve the brain along with its memories, emotions and consciousness. Called chemical fixation and plastic embedding, the process involves converting the brain into plastic, carving it up into tiny slices, and then reconstructing its three-dimensional structure in a computer.
  2. Standard member sonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    26 Sep '13 18:13
    Originally posted by vistesd
    The following from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/24/stephen-hawking-brains-copied-life-after-death_n_3977682.html?utm_hp_ref=technology&ir=Technology

    Could your brain keep on living even after your body dies? Sounds like science fiction, but celebrated theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking recently suggested that technology could make it possible. ...[text shortened]... g it up into tiny slices, and then reconstructing its three-dimensional structure in a computer.
    And of course the real you who died and had that done to his brain would still be dead and would know nothing about the computer clone of his brain, but if you put that brain into a body that looked human, people who didn't know the original was dead would THINK that was the guy since he would have the same knowledge, sense of humor, same fears, and so forth. People THINKING him to be the same dude will not make the real dude come back, its only the impression of that reality that other people think is still here.

    The original dude is quite dead and all the clones in the world will not make THAT particular consciousness come back. People might be fooled into thinking it was him, but it is only in the minds of other people.

    I read a sci fi story where the dude dies but his brain was recorded kind of like having a camcorder on your head but instead, all the neural connections and such were recorded by this extremely powerful computer the size of a pea. So that recording gets transferred to a live person a literal clone of the original guy and the writer had it seem like the guy died and his own consciousness came back to life in the new body.

    I don't think it will ever be like that unless you have a clone grown and are connected to it neuron by neuron, you might feel like you were in two bodies at once, then one dies and you go on with your consciousness in the new body where the person you were knows exactly what happened and you watch the original body die.

    THAT level of technology might happen some day.
  3. 26 Sep '13 18:35
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    The original dude is quite dead and all the clones in the world will not make THAT particular consciousness come back. People might be fooled into thinking it was him, but it is only in the minds of other people.
    This is a topic I enjoy, but find it hard to get any discussion going. Partly because theists realise the pitfalls and steer clear.
    I think you are making the error of assuming the person who died is an easily identifiable entity. This is not in fact the case. What constitutes a person is not so clear cut. We can change every atom in your body (and this does in fact happen during your life time), and you will still be you. So what make you you? If we copy every atom in your body, will the resulting entity not be you? Why not? It has the same configuration of atoms? So the difference now is which atoms. But we already established that the specific atoms do not constitute you.
  4. 26 Sep '13 19:15
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    And of course the real you who died and had that done to his brain would still be dead and would know nothing about the computer clone of his brain, but if you put that brain into a body that looked human, people who didn't know the original was dead would THINK that was the guy since he would have the same knowledge, sense of humor, same fears, and so fort ...[text shortened]... appened and you watch the original body die.

    THAT level of technology might happen some day.
    I think you're making the mistake of treating the conscience like a spirit. We are our experience, thoughts and fears. If you copy those at the point of death and somehow put them into a younger body we would still be alive... the only point of view that might argue with that fact would be a dead body. Think of it like this, when you sleep a dreamless sleep and then wake up, how could you prove that you are the same you that you were when you went to sleep?
  5. 26 Sep '13 21:34 / 2 edits
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    And of course the real you who died and had that done to his brain would still be dead and would know nothing about the computer clone of his brain, but if you put that brain into a body that looked human, people who didn't know the original was dead would THINK that was the guy since he would have the same knowledge, sense of humor, same fears, and so fort ...[text shortened]... appened and you watch the original body die.

    THAT level of technology might happen some day.
    The language in the article is a bit confusing—Hawking uses the word “brain” to refer to the software, while the Brain Preservation Foundation group seems to refer to the physical brain.

    You’re point about consciousness is interesting, as is MC’s reference to dreaming versus waking consciousness. Waking consciousness normally entails awareness of an exogenous reality, as well as self-recognition and continuing thought-processing.

    If memories are preserved (recorded) along with the rest of the “software”, and the transferred software is running, I would think some self-recognition would be involved (although perhaps truncated). “Who” would that software “think” it is? (Following twhitehead, what is required for self-identity?)

    Doesn’t the software-versus-hardware analogy raise something akin to the old “ghost in the machine” dualism? [EDIT: By referring to that old "ghost in the machine" line, I do not mean to imply a "spirit" (and I don't think that Ryle did either)--just that the dualism is similar.]
  6. Standard member sonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    26 Sep '13 21:54
    Originally posted by vistesd
    The language in the article is a bit confusing—Hawking uses the word “brain” to refer to the software, while the Brain Preservation Foundation group seems to refer to the physical brain.

    You’re point about consciousness is interesting, as is MC’s reference to dreaming versus waking consciousness. Waking consciousness normally entails awareness of an exog ...[text shortened]... to imply a "spirit" (and I don't think that Ryle did either)--just that the dualism is similar.]
    Sure. I gather you don't agree with Ryle that mind and body are one and the same? Of course the ATOMS of the body get replaced, if they didn't the first crack in our immune shield would kill us but that would be like having a house where you see a board in a wall deteriorating, you replace it. So you live to be extremely old and you have worked on your house continuously, at some point all the wood in the house has been exchanged for new. It is still the same house, there is no 'spirit' living in the house.

    I don't think there is a spirit living in our minds or bodies, I think we are what we see and no more. We can't project our minds out of our bodies, we can't move stuff with telekinesis, we can't use telepathy, as much as people wish so, tests have proven there is no such thing. If there were, we would have something existing outside of our bodies.

    There are electric fields and magnetic fields that stick out from out bodies but that is the nature of atoms. We have complex things going on in our brains and some of the complexity can leave the brain maybe a few feet and maybe there could be some kind of communications going on for folks close together, say in intimate relations and you tend to feel what the other is doing and so forth but nothing has been scientifically documented that we can react to one another in that way. If anything, I think the empathy from such relationships is interpreting body language or subliminal smells and so forth.

    I can only assume you feel our minds and our bodies are totally separate items which I have to disagree with you.
  7. 26 Sep '13 22:07 / 4 edits
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Sure. I gather you don't agree with Ryle that mind and body are one and the same? Of course the ATOMS of the body get replaced, if they didn't the first crack in our immune shield would kill us but that would be like having a house where you see a board in a wall deteriorating, you replace it. So you live to be extremely old and you have worked on your hous ...[text shortened]... you feel our minds and our bodies are totally separate items which I have to disagree with you.
    Actually, I've always thought that mind-body dualism is wrong, and I'm not arguing the point--simply raising the questions . So your assumption is incorrect.

    Nevertheless, I thought the article intriguing. If mind-body dualism is wrong, then the whole software-hardware analogy (which I've seen elsewhere as well) is similarly flawed. If Ryle is right, then our self-recognition, for example, depends as much on the specific "hardware" as on the "software" which I think is your point?). If so, then what Hawking is talking about amounts to (assuming future technological capability), at most, storage (and retrieval?) of past brain content (memory).
  8. 27 Sep '13 01:18
    I only had time for a quick response earlier, sonhouse. My own view would be that the identity (or self-recognizing consciousness, or what we call “self” )—and consciousness as a whole—is an emergent phenomenon of the whole organism. If one uses the “software/hardware” analogy, then the “software” and the “hardware” are inextricably integrated and mutually dependent. That is a philosophical and experiential view—not one drawn from science (as that is not my background). I am philosophically a metaphysical non-dualist.

    However, I realize that scientific inquiry and developing technology could prove me wrong. Hence my interest being piqued by the article.
  9. Standard member sonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    28 Sep '13 01:22
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I only had time for a quick response earlier, sonhouse. My own view would be that the identity (or self-recognizing consciousness, or what we call “self” )—and consciousness as a whole—is an emergent phenomenon of the whole organism. If one uses the “software/hardware” analogy, then the “software” and the “hardware” are inextricably integrated and mutuall ...[text shortened]... and developing technology could prove me wrong. Hence my interest being piqued by the article.
    Does that mean you regard reality and mind as immersed in some kind of universal hologram? Where we are a kind of sub routine of god?
  10. Standard member Soothfast
    0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,
    28 Sep '13 08:35
    It's a funny thing, but, I've been thinking lately that we all in fact "die" from one instant to the next. There is no continuity, only memories of the past that create the illusion of such. There is only the "now."

    Mathematician + Whiskey = Philosopher.
  11. 28 Sep '13 11:59
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    So you live to be extremely old and you have worked on your house continuously, at some point all the wood in the house has been exchanged for new. It is still the same house, there is no 'spirit' living in the house.
    So how do you know it is the same house? If we copied the house exactly, atom for atom, would the copy be a different house?
    If we took the house apart and reconstructed it across the street, would it be a different house?
    If we demolished the house and then reconstructed it from parts that had earlier been replaced, would it be a different house?
    If we cut the house in two, and move each half to different locations then reconstruct the remaining halves, would one of them be the same house?

    Our definition of what constitutes a house is not as clear cut as you would like to think.
  12. Standard member Soothfast
    0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,
    28 Sep '13 18:43 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    So how do you know it is the same house? If we copied the house exactly, atom for atom, would the copy be a different house?
    If we took the house apart and reconstructed it across the street, would it be a different house?
    If we demolished the house and then reconstructed it from parts that had earlier been replaced, would it be a different house?
    If w ...[text shortened]... e?

    Our definition of what constitutes a house is not as clear cut as you would like to think.
    Part of what defines a house is its location, so a copy of a house placed across the street, or somewhere else, in part or in whole, I would say is not the same house. If, however, you picked up a house and carried it across the street, rather than copied it, the house will have changed its state insofar as location is concerned, but since there is no "original" to compare to, it seems reasonable to say you have the same house as before, only in a different location. That's like comparing yesterday-me to today-me (same person), as opposed to comparing today-me to a contemporary copy of today-me standing at the opposite side of the room (different person).

    Less so than organisms, but nevertheless still true, is that the atoms that comprise a house change from day to day. Chemical reactions play on its parts from moment to moment. But there is a continuity to the process, as with organisms, that allow for meaningfully identifying the "yesterday" with the "today" version of a house. We could talk then of "equivalence relations of self," it seems to me, which are defined by threads of continuity. Specifically, the continuity of various physical processes such as biological metabolism, thought patterns, and so on. This may break down at the quantum level when continuous processes become discrete, but not necessarily.

    The manufacturing of a "copy" of an animate or inanimate object creates no thread of continuity, as I've loosely defined it, to the state of the original object. Thus a copy is not the same as the original. This is something most people understand at some visceral level.

    Methodically disassembling and then reassembling a person at the atomic level returns the original person -- a person altered by the experience perhaps, but the same person nonetheless. The reason why I think this is simple: over the course of a lifetime very few of the atoms that originally constituted a person are still within that person's body, so we are in fact methodically taken apart and put back together between being born and succumbing to death. But the baby in the crib and the old man feeding pigeons on the park bench are the same person! There is a thread of transitional states of existence connecting the one to the other.
  13. 28 Sep '13 20:29
    Originally posted by Soothfast
    Thus a copy is not the same as the original. This is something most people understand at some visceral level.
    I generally agree with everything you said. However, the whole thing breaks down in certain situations. I notice you did not address my half house situation.
    Are identical twins the same person?
    But most importantly of all, why is continuity important? And to whom is it important. I suspect that if you were copied exactly, then you would feel the copy was not the real 'you', but your copy might feel otherwise. The copy of you might feel just as much connection to the past you as you do.
    A question I love to pose to theists is this: if your five year old self were to go to heaven in place of the current you, would you care whether he/she went to heaven? The whole heaven/soul concept suffers from continuity problems because most people suffer some sort of brain damage before death. In fact once could argue that all death consists of brain damage. Thats why we die. But just to emphasize, suppose you slowly loose all your memories and go insane over 10 years, then die. Whatever entity survives death in a theistic world has a continuity problem.
  14. 29 Sep '13 13:38
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Does that mean you regard reality and mind as immersed in some kind of universal hologram? Where we are a kind of sub routine of god?
    Are you confusing me with a theist?
  15. Standard member sonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    30 Sep '13 12:53
    Originally posted by vistesd
    Are you confusing me with a theist?
    This may be true. I thought you were a theist. So you are not. Are you Buddhist?