The Brain of Theseus

  • 8 Replies
  • 2121 Views
*

Trekky0623

  • Official Member
  • 10061
The Brain of Theseus
« on: February 24, 2014, 07:27:31 AM »
One of the aspects of transhumanism regarding the preservation of the brain is the ability to "upload" a brain into a computer, thus ridding oneself of the body and all the baggage that comes with it.

However, how does consciousness fit into this? In order to discuss this, I thought it'd be helpful to consider another philosophical problem, the ship of Theseus. You probably already know it, but for those who don't, the question is if you replace parts of a ship over time until none of the original ship is left, is the end product still the same ship?

It's an interesting problem. However, what if we apply it to the brain? Suppose we could create artificial neurons and replace neurons in the brain as they went bad. Eventually the brain would be completely artificial, so is it still the same brain? Is it still "you," whatever that means?

The difference between this question and the ship of Theseus is that the brain seemingly has a continuous string of consciousness. If the end product is not the same brain, then at some point it would stand to reason that consciousness was interrupted. That would certainly be the case if we were to simply upload the brain into a premade computer and then destroy the original, but both situations have the same end result.

The problem is we are unable to determine whether or not the consciousness we observe is the same as before externally. The new brain would have the same memories and experiences as the first, so to an outsider would be the same person.

Moreover, this happens naturally all the time. Certain neurons are replaced if damaged, and even for the ones that aren't, atoms and molecules and subatomic particles move all the time. Your brain is not the same brain of even a decade ago, so how is it that consciousness can be seemingly continuous if the brain is not the same as it was?

The point of this discussion is to explore the nature of consciousness, namely what it means in connection to the biological components of the brain and how the identity of self relates to the physical parts of the brain.

Re: The Brain of Theseus
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2014, 07:19:06 PM »
I say it's kind of like cloning yourself. Yes you would be technically identical at the moment of cloning but all your experiences after the cloning process would make you two separate individuals so if every part of your central nervous system was replaced mechanically you would die and the machine would be essentially a clone of you acting exactly like you but your actual consciousness would be dead at that point.

*

Space Cowgirl

  • MOM
  • Administrator
  • 45603
  • Official FE Recruiter
Re: The Brain of Theseus
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2014, 07:36:27 AM »
I don't think I'd want to upload my brain to a robot if it would be the same. I'd want some improvements, and some memories deleted. I don't care if it would mean I am not the same!

On the other hand... if your consciousness is uploaded to a computer it wouldn't be the same anyway. A computer is not biological. There wouldn't be the same emotional reactions. Perhaps the memories wouldn't matter.
I'm sorry. Am I to understand that when you have a boner you like to imagine punching the shit out of Tom Bishop? That's disgusting.

*

EnigmaZV

  • 3471
Re: The Brain of Theseus
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2014, 03:55:53 PM »
I don't think I'd want to upload my brain to a robot if it would be the same. I'd want some improvements, and some memories deleted. I don't care if it would mean I am not the same!

On the other hand... if your consciousness is uploaded to a computer it wouldn't be the same anyway. A computer is not biological. There wouldn't be the same emotional reactions. Perhaps the memories wouldn't matter.

A computer doesn't have to be biological, it just has to have software that emulates biological processes to a sufficient degree that we would all agree there was no difference.
I don't know what you're implying, but you're probably wrong.

*

Space Cowgirl

  • MOM
  • Administrator
  • 45603
  • Official FE Recruiter
Re: The Brain of Theseus
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2014, 04:27:54 PM »
It doesn't seem worth it, then. I don't want to live forever.
I'm sorry. Am I to understand that when you have a boner you like to imagine punching the shit out of Tom Bishop? That's disgusting.

*

sceptimatic

  • Flat Earth Scientist
  • 28338
Re: The Brain of Theseus
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2014, 06:42:45 AM »
Going back to the ship analogy and replacing parts over time till nothing of the original ship remains, you have to think of it like our bodies, as in, although one part is replaced, it absorbs into the ships' frame/mechanism and becomes a part of it, as one again. Like replaced cells in our bodies. Some die and are replaced and become part of the same conscious body.

It's like on going training or like a new kid starting a new class. He/she is the newbie or the odd one out until they fit into the ongoing cycle of the other kids and becomes a comfortable part of that environment. Think of that like a class of cells and a new cell on the block.

Re: The Brain of Theseus
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2014, 09:58:21 AM »
Going back to the ship analogy and replacing parts over time till nothing of the original ship remains, you have to think of it like our bodies, as in, although one part is replaced, it absorbs into the ships' frame/mechanism and becomes a part of it, as one again. Like replaced cells in our bodies. Some die and are replaced and become part of the same conscious body.

It's like on going training or like a new kid starting a new class. He/she is the newbie or the odd one out until they fit into the ongoing cycle of the other kids and becomes a comfortable part of that environment. Think of that like a class of cells and a new cell on the block.

Except if you inject machine parts that have a consciousness apart from yours then the machine will essentially kill you and hijack your body.

*

Trekky0623

  • Official Member
  • 10061
Re: The Brain of Theseus
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2014, 08:12:54 AM »
What if parts of your brain were replaced gradually, and then somehow the original pieces were put back together. Would there then be two of you? And which one would be the real person?

Re: The Brain of Theseus
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2014, 03:12:29 PM »
What if parts of your brain were replaced gradually, and then somehow the original pieces were put back together. Would there then be two of you? And which one would be the real person?

Well if they were replaced, there would be no room for the original pieces anymore......

I think you have to look at in terms of the act of replacing. When a new piece replaces an old piece, it inherits the traits of the old piece, so consciousness is not altered. When you build a lego airplane, and you replace a piece of the wing that has been worn with a new piece, it fulfills the same function as the old piece, so the overall function of the wing is not altered.
you can't spell planet without plane. or net... 8)