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Staying Alive (philosophyexperiments.com)
73 points by memalign 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 99 comments



My brain groks this by considering it pass-by-reference vs. pass-by-value. The original you is the first instance. It occupies a particular place in space which you move about, and also experiences a particular path and timeline. As long as I'm considered alive, I'm adding to that path by moving around and interacting with the universe. You can keep finding and adding more details to get a unique picture of the first instance. The challenge here is easy because you only have to find one unique difference between the first instance and your copies to figure out which is which. It gets harder and harder to prove that one is perfectly equal to another.

If you're building a copy of someone (regardless if the original is destroyed), that's pass-by-value. It's just making a copy at another memory location in the universe. If you're moving me around in a space ship, that's obviously pass-by-reference. If you're moving my soul (even with some limitations), that's pass-by-reference as well. What's convenient about this is that if you remove enough things from the soul enough that you can't know if it really is your soul, it casts doubt on how this transfer process was found out and proven in the first place, so we could reject the premise.

But if you go and make a second copy of yourself (regardless of destroying the first), memories and personality and other things might be equal, but you can't replicate the path you took unless you can go back in time, so that will always be unique to the instance you're making a copy from. Teletransporters and brain implants are far, far more believable technologies compared to time travel.

Experienced history is as much apart of you as your body and mind, and it's conveniently observable externally, so people don't have to trust your word that you're really 'you' or the first instance of you.


The game told me I was a psychological reductionist, for whom only psychological continuity is important. Fair enough, but it then berated me for taking the spaceship rather than the teleporter. Um, what? Whatever appears at the other end of the teleporter is not me, I'm dead and my consciousness extinct, so why the tut-tuting?


I took Space Ship + silicon rather than virus. I thought the tut-tutting was pretty well explained:

> But there is a tension. In allowing your brain and body to be replaced by synthetic parts, you seemed to be accepting that psychological continuity is what matters, not bodily continuity. But if this is the case, why did you risk the spacecraft instead of taking the teletransporter? You ended up allowing your body to be replaced anyway, so why did you decide to risk everything on the spacecraft instead of just giving up your original body there and then?

The question being posed is "what is the difference between replacing all of your cells, vs all of your neurons over time?".

My logic was that my molecules are being replaced over time, so is that so different than my neurons being replaced over time, whereas a wholesale replacement of my body felt like a break in continuity. I'm no philosopher though :)


This is a thought experiment know as the Ship of Theseus[0]. I never thought of it in terms of replacing molecules in a human body, it certainly spices things up.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus


Yes it is like the difference between rolling a wheel from point a to b and picking it up and carrying it over. Life is the rolling. Once the rubber leaves the road it's rip.


Exactly the same for me, this is incorrect, though not for the reason you point out. The person at the other side of the teleporter is you. One copy of myself dies whereas another copy of myself lives. Both copies are identical, so both of them are me. So in my opinion this should count as a half death.

Otherwise, if the argument was that the destroyed copy doesn't count because I can "feel no continuity", then any quick and sudden death wouldn't count as a death. That would be absurd. If, on the other hand, you believe the teleporter makes a copy of yourself that isn't you, then you're simply not a genuine psychological reductionist.

In my opinion, it makes sense to avoid a 1/2 death by taking a 1/2 chance of staying 100% alive. If it doesn't bother you to die at the teleporter, then any sudden, quick death shouldn't bother you either, which goes against the explicit instruction to ensure survival. This is also true in general without the instruction. If a perfect copy was made of someone, it would be rational for both copies to desire to survive.


I'm not following. Let's assume the teleporter fails and the original is not destroyed, leading to a clone of you on Mars. What then? Who are you?


>Whatever appears at the other end of the teleporter is not me, I'm dead and my consciousness extinct, so why the tut-tuting?

If you think you died when you entered the teletransporter, then you either think bodily continuity or an immaterial soul is relevant. All that matters for psychological continuity is that the person has the same memories, personality, etc. as you.


This isn't my first rodeo down this particular philosophical culdesac, but what I've always wondered is - why do you have to destroy the source person in the teleporter? If you don't, then there's still an exact replica of you at the destination. What if the copy comes back to Earth via spaceship and shoots you? The end result is the same, but it sure looks like you're dead.


If you don't destroy the original body, then both copies have an equal claim to being "you" right after the teleportation, since both are psychologically continuous with the person who existed moments before. Over time, they will have different experiences and different memories and gradually become different people.

>What if the copy comes back to Earth via spaceship and shoots you? The end result is the same, but it sure looks like you're dead.

The end result is very different because the memories of the surviving copy will be very different. He will remember killing a copy of himself, which by that point is more like a close family member than an identical self.


> If you don't destroy the original body, then both copies have an equal claim to being "you" right after the teleportation

This doesn't seem like a good enough reason to kill one of you?


Not sure what you mean. Do you mean would it be ethical to kill one of them? In my opinion, once two people exist, it would be unethical to kill either of them.


Then the transporter should never destroy the source person, right? That's my whole problem with the idea. Imagine that the technology to destroy the person at the source didn't exist (this is fantasy tech for the purposes of philosophical naval-gazing, afterall), and the machine simply shot you to death after completing the upload to the source.


According to the psychological continuity theory, it shouldn't matter what happens to the original body, as long as the experience is the same. Whether your original body is vaporized or shot, you experience entering the teleporter on Earth and emerging from the teleporter on Mars a moment later. You weren't killed, you were transferred to a different body.

Of course, you don't have to agree with the premise that personal identity is psychological continuity. But I think there are other thought experiments that make the bodily continuity theory counter-intuitive. What if my brain was transplanted in such a way that I experienced going to sleep in my body and waking up in someone else's body, with my memory and personality otherwise unchanged? The bodily continuity theory says I would be a different person, but my intuition is that I would still be the same person, just with a different outward appearance.


Speaking as a potential original body, screw that - I'm not setting foot in a teleporter. But if other people want to try it, that's interesting too. Of course, it's hardly a new problem/paradox; if you haven't seen Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige", it's worth a watch and this is a plot point. And obviously the thought experiment goes back much farther. I'd hardly be surprised if some Greek dudes were arguing about it before the birth of Christ.


Yeah, I'm generally not an early adopter of technology -- I would probably let a few million people try it out before I put my own body in it. The Prestige is excellent. Christopher Nolan has a talent for taking a philosophical concept and turning it into a great action/thriller movie.


Not a philosophical point, but potentially a physical one.

The quantum no-cloning theorem says that it's physically imposible to make any copy of a quantum state, for example all of the state which comprises your body. But it is possible to transfer quantum state from one form to another. This is of course only true of the physical world if the assumptions of the no-cloning theorem are true. Let's assume they are.

Teleportation of your body including whatever quantum state you might consider important therefore must involves a process that appears, to an observer outside, to dissolve the state at one end simultaneous with recreating it at the other end. For some fuzzy definition of simultaneous; this is quantum state after all, and time is subject to the uncertainty principle just like position and momentum famously are.

The information transfer is analogous to transferring a box which the teleporter cannot look inside. You know it can't look as looking destroys the delicate contents. The teleporter cannot use non-quantum information to encode the contents. But the no-cloning theorem doesn't rule out translating quantum states to different forms, such as complex molecular states to light pulses and back. This is difficult, after all modest size quantum computers are difficult to build, maybe even impossible in practice, and they are much simpler than quantum teleportation of interesting size objects.

Squint a bit, and from a certain point of view, this is not destroying your body while creating a copy. It is an exotic form of physical movement, a bit like traversing a wormhole with your body retaining its integrity during the movement, except the wormwhole geometry is not spatial as we normally think of wormholes, it is instead a kind of complex state transformation analogous to geometry. But to you, it might appear that the universe around you is dissolved by the teleporter, then a new location of the universe is reformed around you, then you step out. No loss of physical continuity.


If you do take the teleporter it mentions that as well:

> Your three choices show that this is what you see as central to your sense of self, not any attachment to a particular substance, be it your body, brain or soul. However, some would say that you have not survived at all, but fallen foul of a terrible error. In the teletransporter case, for example, was it really you that travelled to Mars or is it more correct to say that a clone or copy of you was made on Mars, while you were destroyed?


>so why the tut-tuting?

because you've suddenly switched to a sort of dualism. If you are a psychological reductionist (from some of your other choices, like say using the artificial brain parts), then you assume that minds are what brains do. There is no consciousness separate from your brain, your brain produces your consciousness. So all that matters for you to be alive is for some brain to be around that produces the same mental states you have. There could even be multiple of you!

But if you hop on the spaceship you threaten that continuity for the sake of your body. In that case you treat your consciousness as distinct from your body and are afraid of 'losing' it or not being able to transfer it should that particular body die. So you don't just care about your psychological state any more, you think your particular body 'carries' your mind around. That's a contradiction.


What is the difference between slowly replacing your cells a few at a time through biological processes, and instantly replacing all of your cells through the teleporter?

In both cases, an older version of you is "extinct", meanwhile, the latest version of you does not have any recollection of becoming extinct.


Imagine the "destroy the original" part of the teleportation fails. Is your consciousness still in your original body or on Mars? Certainly, still in your original body.

Now the doc is replacing parts of your brain with silicon. It's posited that it makes no difference to your mind. Because of that, is your consciousness still in your body? Very probably.

So I'm not following their logic.


> Imagine the "destroy the original" part of the teleportation fails. Is your consciousness still in your original body or on Mars? Certainly, still in your original body.

How do you reach this conclusion? The only conclusion I can reach is that an identical consciousness is certainly in both bodies. (And as soon as both bodies are making new memories, you have a "fork", where the two persons stop being identical)


How would that work? Would you control both bodies, see through both set of eyes, think with both brains? How would the ineffable quality that makes you feel like you are you get transported to Mars? I don't think that's a tenable possibility.


There is no single "you" in this scenario, there are two distinct persons. One experiences being transported to Mars, the other experiences the transporter failing and them being stuck on Earth.


I think we're talking at cross purposes. Me, the body I inhabit, is still on Earth. The person on Mars, who likely also has a consciousness, and is for the whole world exactly the same as me, is still not me, but someone else, because I am on Earth, and I can't be in both bodies.

So I will not take the teleporter any more than I will shoot myself.


This conflict only exists if you believe in a single, inviolable self.

Which cell is the “real” one when it divides? Which branch of a tree is the true tree?

Both versions of you have equal claim to the past, as long as the copy is truly identical.


> and is for the whole world exactly the same as me, is still not me

If both are identical I don't see why both aren't equally me.

> because I am on Earth, and I can't be in both bodies.

Why must there be a single continuation of "me"? I wouldn't necessarily consider this true even under current medical technology - we can split the brain in two and have two parts that do not directly communicate.

What if the process is symmetrical (one body in, some kind of mitosis occurs, two bodies out at equal distance)? Does one get assigned "the real me" at random? If both have the same memories/personality/train-of-thought and experience the process as continuous, why not both?


I can't seem to be able to reply to your comment below, but thanks for the clear illustration. I don't disagree with PM PM; I don't believe in souls. What I do believe in is that there is a quality of consciousness that is linked to the PM - what makes you see through your own eyes and not others. That quality does not seem transferable, in that bodily possession is not a thing.

If you posit that teleportation is equivalent to spaceship, and that a single consciousness cannot inhabit two bodies, then what is your hypothesis about the more-or-less instant transfer of that quality to a remote planet's newly created clone?


> I don't believe in souls

Consider IM to be any immaterial "self" that you believe wouldn't be included in the clone - doesn't have to be a soul as various religions may conceptualize.

> and that a single consciousness cannot inhabit two bodies

I believe there could be two bodies with identical personalities/memories/train-of-thought/etc. (whatever we label as consciousness) at some instant, but they would diverge due to different environments and not have any kind of special link between them.

> what is your hypothesis about the more-or-less instant transfer of that quality to a remote planet's newly created clone?

In my view it's just included in the clone - there's nothing extra that hasn't been cloned that needs to be transferred afterwards. If you totally clone an ocean, it has the same waves.


But we are not talking about mitosis, so we don't need to go there. We are taking about a machine that assembles atoms on a remote planet. None of the atoms come from your current body. What magic would transfer your consciousness into this clone?


> But we are not talking about mitosis, so we don't need to go there

I'm probing to get a better understanding of your belief system. How does it hold up under symmetrical cloning?

> What magic would transfer your consciousness into this clone?

I'll label:

* PM: Physiological "me" - personality, memories, train of thought, currently instantiated as a brain

* IM: "Immaterial" "me" - a "soul", impacted by the PM. May impact the PM or just be an observer (depending on variant of dualism)

From what I understand, you believe there's an IM controlling a PM, and the IM is a different kind of stuff that would not be cloned. The IM generally follows the same PM, but could be "shaken off" from too-large changes. On cloning of PM you think this happens (at the instant of cloning):

    IM    New soul
    |     |
    PM    PM
You ask "Would you control both bodies, see through both set of eyes" because you thought sunaurus is proposing this happens:

       IM 
      /  \
    PM    PM
Whereas I (and I think sunaurus) don't believe in an IM. We think two identical PMs really are identical persons, including whatever we'd call consciousness:

    PM    PM
Others may believe that IMs do exist but supervene on the PM (so identical PM has identical IM arising from it):

    IM    IM
    |     |
    PM    PM


That brings me back to my original question:

> What is the difference between slowly replacing your cells a few at a time through biological processes, and instantly replacing all of your cells through the teleporter?

If you believe that you die when your cells are replaced (because you are in the old cells and thus can't be in the replacement), then I understand your point of view. But if you're saying that slowly replacing you is different than quickly replacing you, then I would be super curious to hear the logic for this! (This is a sincere comment, I am not seeing the logic myself and would really like to understand it)


So, the slow replacement preserves consciousness. Why, who knows, but it happens to us already every day, so we can take it as granted. If it didn't, we'd be someone different every day, with false memories, and while it's not impossible there's not really many places reason can take us from there.

The problem with the teleportation is not even that it's a quick replacement... it's that it's not a replacement at all. You're building a clone somewhere else, and destroying the original. You could build 50 clones at the same time on 50 planets if you wanted - and of course none of them would be you, there's zero chance you're preserved. So, you're dead, even if to the rest of the world it makes no difference.

Is that clearer?


What you're saying seems like a clear contradiction to me.

In your first paragraph, you say that we can take for granted that when an original is destroyed, having a replacement will preserve consciousness. Then, in your second paragraph, you say the opposite - that destroying an original would NOT preserve consciousness, even if there exists a replacement.

There must be some key assumption which lets you not see this as a contradiction. Maybe you believe that there is something extra-cellular which wouldn't get replicated in a teleporter?


I'm saying replacing a neuron or cell at a time within a quadrillion of them empirically leads to continued consciousness, and that assembling a quadrillion cells on a remote planet with no material connection whatsoever with the original body is a very different thing. You want to hide both cases behind the same word. I don't see why you think that's valid.


I think it comes down to how that replacement happens. If you keep adding new chips or whatever it is as your old cells die or get altered by the virus, that's one thing. However, if you download your conscience to silicon and have that replace your brain, that's entirely different. I'm unsure which one it was in that question.


Everyone in this comment section needs to read Greg Egan's Permutation City.


I viewed those questions as a play on the Ship of Theseus.

If the ship is completely destroyed and a perfect replica rebuilt elsewhere, is it the same ship? Almost certainly not.

If the ship is slowly replaced over time, is it the same ship? As a matter of form or psychological continuity as posited in the question, almost certainly.


Why do you think those two questions have different answers? For me, the only logical option is that both questions must have the same answer (regardless of what your answer is).


I don't follow your logic. How would constructing a new ship from new materials ever count as being the same as the original ship?

At least in the Ship of Theseus paradox, there is the case where you take the old replaced parts and construct a ship from those parts - which is an interesting question, is it the original ship? In this case, the only thing consistent about the ship is the design. Take mass manufactured goods then - are they the same article because the have the same materials?


> How would constructing a new ship from new materials ever count as being the same as the original ship?

If it's a perfect replica (as you said in your original comment) then by what parameters is it different from the original ship? Sure, cooordinates might be different, but cooridnates can change. If the exact replica switches places with the original, then even that difference would disappear.

By the way, I am strictly speaking about this topic in the context of the thread we are in. If a replica is built according to exact blueprints of a snapshot of the original (and assuming no mistakes are made), then why would the result be any different than just replacing one part on the original with an replica part made according to exact blueprints of a snapshot of the original part?


> What is the difference between slowly replacing [...] and instantly replacing [...]

Not to be obtuse, but... the speed.

Really this is a shortcoming of the thought experiment. Progressive replacement is subjectively more continuous than complete replacement. A better thought experiment would be to feed it out something like:

* What if we replaced every atom of you body progressively over 24 hours?

* What if we replaced every atom of your body suddenly all at once?

* What if we replaced every atom of your body, but delayed by 1s?

* What if we replaced every atom of your body, but delayed by 1 day?

* What if we replaced every atom of your body suddenly all at once, but moved about 1mm?

* *What if we replaced every atom of your body suddenly all at once, but a day later and moved by thousands of miles?"


What is the practical difference, though? From the point of view of the entity whose atoms have been replaced, I don't think that the speed of replacement has any noticeable effect. And the previous versions are all "extinct" regardless of the speed, so from the point of view of any previous versions, the situation doesn't change either.


We replace the cells in our body every few months, correct? The gradual replacement is key to the continuity. I'd be ok replacing every one of my neurons one at a time but not to upload my brain to a computer and then kill myself. To an outside observer the result may be the same, but not something I'd be comfortable with. I know my consciousness is an illusion and I probably "die" every time I go into deep sleep but the key is to uphold the illusion, otherwise why go on?


But why would the feeling of continuity be broken by an instant replacement?

In both cases (gradual and instant replacement), at any given moment, there exists only one entity with your consciousness and self of sense and continuous memories leading up to that moment.


I think my point is, maybe there's no such thing as continuity of experience (since we sleep every day) and consciousness itself may be an illusion. With an instant replacement, and also with a large distances, it makes it clear this is not me any longer, but if I replace my neurons gradually with digital components it's essentially equivalent to what is already happening with my brain cells, so it doesn't break the illusion. My identity and consciousness is an illusion and I just don't want to break it. I know that is contradictory and makes no sense, but that's the reason I would not use the transporter.


It's not a replacement, a collection of atoms is assembled on a remote planet. And it needs not be a single entity, as the thought experiment with the failure to destroy the original body shows.


I took the same path and got the same tut-tutting. The clear issue is being uncomfortable with immediate replacement vs incremental. I agree it’s illogical, but I’m okay with being illogical on this very hypothetical question.

For me, personally, it comes down to the risk of copies. While both scenarios make copies possible it seems less likely in the case where you’re simply replacing parts of my brain. I cannot imagine copies not being made in the teletransportation scenario.


I also took the same path, got the tut-tuting.

It seems to me that it's only illogical in retrospect. I don't know that there's body and brain eating viruses ravaging Mars, or that souls have to be frozen to die, and I have to make a choice about this, or what any of that means. I make that decision with only the knowledge that I have to take a ticket to Mars and that my goal, throughout, is to "stay alive."


That’s because the author’s concept of “psychological continuity” is looser - “your mind’s rough configuration exists somewhere in the universe some time in the future“, which is different from how you and I define it.

Perhaps the ”strict psychological continuity” could be called “psychological+spatiotemporal continuity”, but apparently the author considers the spatiotemporal part to be a component of “strict bodily continuity” and nothing else. If you value temporal continuity independently of bodily continuity, the third question becomes a choice between “dead and soul-destroyed” or “dead but reincarnated”, which is clearly not the author’s intent.


Same. Is there not a reductionism for memories, which is what I believe at least partially defines who I am and probably greatly impacts my choices?


Under "memory reductionism" as you describe, wouldn't the correct choice be to take the teleporter that preserves memories?


If you were an AI on a computer, and you had a choice of either being copied to a fresh computer with 100% reliability, or having your computer packed up and shipped with a 50% chance of being destroying in transit, which would you pick?


I played this after playing the No vehicles in the park one the other day.

When I got to the question about the soul I saw it as misleading and confidently selected the other option because previously the teleportation worked, and IIRC the other option had 30% success, both of which disproved the existence of a soul.


Yeah the soul question seemed unfair, in the sense that I answered the first two with the assumption there is no soul, but the third question asks to assume a soul exists, so there's no way to answer it and stay consistent with my previous two answers


I thought that initially, but I think the question is intentional in only describing (as stated facts, rather than as implied by labelling of "call it a soul") its properties as something immaterial that floats between humans/animals very slightly affecting their character - without asserting that it's "the real you".

E.G: A family heirloom might travel between people on death and slightly affect the character of whoever's wearing it through self-perception, but (under the assumption that what I value is self-preservation) I wouldn't sacrifice my physical brain containing the only copy of my personality/memories/etc. in order to save it.

I'd guess what it's testing would then be whether you identify this thing with a pre-existing belief of an immaterial you, or already believe you are physical(ly instantiated patterns) and that this thing is just incidental - like any other environmental impact on yourself.


Same. If you accept the game's assertion that souls and reincarnation have been proven, it go e's you a hard time for changing your answer based on new evidence. Very strange for a game purporting to explore beliefs.


It depends on a certain consideration. If you take the argument (which I can't remember who laid it out) that (in Christian metaphysics, was the example) the experience of the individual (self) is replicable by God but the unique soul is not, consciousness experience (memories and sense of self) can be replicated by definition but the soul (necessarily unique) cannot. So soul and conscious experience must be distinct. The conclusion was that everything that makes an individual an individual as known (memories, experience, perception, personality) perishes with death and only the soul continues on and is completely distinct from the individual sense of self. So there is no experience of "heaven" by the self. Such is immaterial from the point of view of consciousness.

A version of this is what I took to be laid out by the 3rd question.

On this basis, the continuation of the soul is irrelevant with regards to the self. The death of the soul would be as immaterial to the self as the soul's continuation to "heaven" would be to consciousness.


IMHO, the body, the psyche and the soul can't be separated like that. A body without a soul is a cadaver. The soul is whatever makes the body not a cadaver. The psyche appears from the interaction of the body and the soul.

So, in question 1, the teleportation kill you 100%. In question 2, unsure but both choices is probably equaly deadly. And question 3 is pure fantasy because you can't have a living body without a soul.


At what point is replacing the self, no longer self? Hippocampal prosthesis already exist, dealing with memory encoding.


Could it not be possible that the teleportation also teleports/duplicates the soul?


[flagged]


Yikes. You took the thread way into religious flamewar here. That's not cool, and we ban accounts that do it, so please don't do it again. It's not what this site is for, and destroys what it is for. Personal attacks will also get you banned, so please don't do that again either.

If you'd please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to the rules when posting here, we'd appreciate it.


I think it was completely in context. The original submittal had religious questions, the comment I responded to, had religious reasoning to those questions. If I'm not allowed to respond, then just don't allow submittals of any kind that contain a religious overtone. But I think that will become more and more difficult as AI continues to progress and there are more posts allowed to discuss the nature of mind, 'self' and 'consciousness' and what is 'sentient'. These questions beg religious responses in a lot of people.

I did read the guidelines, and the recent "No vehicles in the park" post, and understand the difficulties of parsing language. You are in a difficult position. I tend to think linking religious beliefs with terrorism is a common argument, not controversial at all, so it seemed a reasonable response. My error was in calling him 'deluded', that is personal and un-called for. Instead of 'You are deluded', I could have said "such beliefs are delusional", or "such beliefs indicate a lack of self awareness".


You can't post things like "But you are so deluded it is scary. These kind of extreme beliefs is what drives terrorist." That's unambiguous personal attack and we ban accounts that post this way.

It wouldn't be ok to say "such beliefs are delusional" or "such beliefs indicate a lack of self awareness" instead - that's still personal attack.


> Your choices are consistent with the theory known as psychological reductionism.

> But there is a tension. In allowing your brain and body to be replaced by synthetic parts, you seemed to be accepting that psychological continuity is what matters, not bodily continuity. But if this is the case, why did you risk the spacecraft instead of taking the teletransporter?

It seemed to me that the virus would essentially kill me anyway by altering my personality and making me lose all my memories. Which means deep alteration of the physical brain as well. The other solution was also death, my brain would be entirely replaced, but at least my psyche would continue. It seemed to me I´d die either way, I picked the least bad.


To all the people with a problem with the 3rd question on Soul.

The point is, that many religions, and many people, do believe in a soul, or form of dualism, some form of immaterial soul. Thus the question is to tease out your stance, to make people think through some of the issues with their own beliefs.

Since it is impossible to define a single form of the immaterial soul, since there are a million interpretations, they provided a very generic simple model to base the question.

Who cares if it was new information, at the very start they said each question did NOT depend on the others, and would provide information for that question, that applies to that unique and generic hypothetic situation.

It would be pointless to have a questionnaire like this, but the first question be "if you don't believe in a soul, don't take the quiz, this isn't a safe space for the scientist."

The discussion of soul's and the possible interactions between material and immaterial go back 1000's of years, and not all from the religious. Early scientist spent a lot of time trying to reconcile science and soul, back to early scientist like Newton, Leibniz, Descartes. Even, does a soul have mass, with experiments on weighing a live body and dead body. It is a long standing question, and one that most people do not think is solved, hence still worth asking.

So, a lot of people believe in souls, there is hundreds of years of Scientist, Philosophers and Theologians trying to define and reconcile those views. But what? You, in particular, think it is all solved and wrapped up so it is a stupid question?

Note. I don't believe in the immaterial soul, but to discount a philosophical survey because it mentions it, is pretty bogus reason to discount that line of thought.

These are all very valid questions in the latest craze of AI. I wouldn't doubt that at some point soon, there would be some religious type protest when someone's loved one is 'mimicked' by an AI bot and then the rest of the congregation calls it a demon, or possesedd, or that it has trapped the persons soul.


> You should always base your decisions on nothing more than the desire to keep yourself in existence. Also, each scenario should be taken at face value. The situation will be as described - there are no "tricks" - and you do not need to worry about other 'what ifs'.

> Strange as it may seem, it has been discovered that reincarnation of a sort does actually occur. It seems that there is some immaterial part - call it a soul - in all human beings.

In the premise of this fictional reality a soul exists; as does reincarnation. It has a 100% success rate to "keep myself in existence" vs. a 30% chance via cryogenics.

I was told there would be no tricks, to take each question at face value, and to keep myself in existence. I did so. I was then "tricked" via mid-witted word-play.

I'll up the ante, and reduce this problem further: there is no "you." "You" are not in existence. "You" are a collection of atoms in the singular universe (a single entity, where the grouping of its individual parts is a purely subjective matter, and open to interpretation by different pieces of itself). "You" will continue to exist, because "you" are just a collection of energy that is neither created nor destroyed -- simply rearranged.

If we take this to the extreme, your choices in this hypothetical philosophical reality do not matter. "You" will always be in "existence."

I feel the meme with the bell curve is apt to be used here -- and the author of this tomfoolery is squarely in the middle of it.


These are hypothetical questions to discuss where peoples beliefs fall.

Teleporters also don't exist, but we assume them for the questions. The 'soul' for 're-incarnation' was hypothetically 'discovered'. Given this discovery, how would that change peoples answers. Since many people do believe in souls, it is valid to see how they would answer. The questionnaire isn't just for what you already believe.

Guess, Why are you ok with hypothetical teleporters, but not ok with hypothetical soul? Really splitting hairs on the hypothetical questions.

Don't you see how your response to the questions makes you see a different framing of others beliefs? There are others in this thread that so believe in souls that they can't fathom the teleporter question and think it is foolish.


I took spaceship, then virus, under the idea that what I was keeping "alive" was some sort of soul - at least potentially - and that I could be sure of the soul's continuity as long as I took the ship, and then that the virus wouldn't change me as much as I'd changed from being an infant.

then, with the existence of the soul seemingly confirmed, there's no way I'd let myself be frozen - I'd become a philosophical zombie.

but it takes me to task for my inconsistency, since I made previous choices to preserve bodily integrity over mental integrity. and I don't quite understand that.


I am bit surprised by the diversity of discussion. There seems to be so many strong opinions on both sides of the same argument that has raged for centuries.

Immaterialist:

There seems to be as many people that believe in a soul very strongly, to the point where they can't fathom the questions. The questions almost have no meaning in a worldview with souls. Or extreme, the belief in soul has changed their mind to extent they can't see the point of these questions, can't get the point of the questions. (belief in soul in context of the questions in post means dead in a lot of cases)

Materialists:

There are just as many people that so strongly believe there is NO soul, scientific minded, that the third question that contains the word soul invalidates the entire questionnaire. Materialist think that modern science and technology has rendered the question pointless, that all the answers are already known. This is also false, there might not be an immaterial soul, but the nature of self and its continuity is still open question, and a lot of people equate that with soul, for better or worse.

Soul is just all around bad word to describe what we are getting at with consciousness, or sentience. It is too loaded with baggage.

Thus, it is a successful questionnaire, it makes both sides think a bit more.


It didn't make me think more. I don't believe there is a soul, and I answered the first two questions accordingly. The third stipulated I must believe in one, so of course my behavior changed.

But that did nothing to convince me there is a soul, nor to change how I would behave if there is or isn't one.

"If things were different, you'd act different!" is some reply-guy gotcha bullshit, not serious philosophical discussion. You might as well lead with "Imagine the teleporter kills you. Should you use it?"


If you don't dig the teleporter question, nor the soul question, because they are just hypotheticals. And "If things were different, you'd act different!" Is off limits because it is just a 'gatcha'.

Then how do you think about any issues that don't have pre-determined iron-clad answers. If thinking through un-known situations is not allowed, how would people come up with anything new?

I'm really not seeing how these long standing philosophical questions (look them up, they have been around for a long time), are some how not valid for 'serious philosophical discussion', because you personally don't believe them.

The concept of continuity of self and what constitute a self, and is it a soul or not, has been part of philosophical and scientific debate for centuries.

I don't believe in a soul either, but it's foolish to dismiss most of the world that does believe, or dismiss a questionnaire that includes some aspect of what most of the world believes.

This sounds like it should have been pre-faced with "this questioner is not a safe space for those that can't think in hypotheticals from other points of view"


First of all, fuck off with "can't think in hypotheticals from other points of view". I've had accounts banned from this site for less.

Second, no, my complaint is about the framing, not the issues. (Did you miss "if there is or isn't one"?) From the "summary":

The third possibility is the continued existence of some kind of immaterial part of you, which might be called the soul... Your first two choices were consistent with the view that psychological continuity is necessary for survival... But your last choice sees the end to your psychological continuity, since the continued existence of the soul does not provide it. So you first ended bodily continuity and then you ended psychological continuity. Perhaps you made these choices because all along you thought that the continuity of the soul is what counts?

No, dumb game author, I made the first two choices consistently and the third one inconsistently because the rules said I had to act as if the soul existed in the third one, which by the game's own definition means abandoning the sufficiency of the other two types of continuity!

After all, the teletransporter transmits information about body states. Why would the soul follow this information? Given the lack of reasons to suppose a soul would do this...

"The lack of reasons to suppose?" I've got all of two sentences saying "the soul exists", why is your inference about its teletransportability better than mine? Maybe the soul moving from one to the other of me is precisely why teletransportation isn't death!


I choose Freeze. I chose that Psychological continuity defines life. It sounds like you took 'soul' as meaning 'life' and chose that. But that was not necessary to live.

Congratulations! You have survived!

You chose: Round 1: It's the teletransporter for me Round 2: I'll take the silicon, thanks Round 3: Freeze me now

There are basically three kinds of things that could be required for the continued existence of your self. One is bodily continuity, which may actually require only that parts of the body stay in existence (i.e., the brain). Another is psychological continuity, which requires the continuance of your consciousness - by which is meant your thoughts, ideas, memories, plans, beliefs, and so on. The third possibility is the continued existence of some kind of immaterial part of you, which might be called the soul. Of course, it may be the case that a combination of one or more types of these continuity is required for you to survive.

Your choices are consistent with the theory known as psychological reductionism. On this view, all that is required for the continued existence of the self is psychological continuity. Your three choices show that this is what you see as central to your sense of self, not any attachment to a particular substance, be it your body, brain or soul. However, some would say that you have not survived at all, but fallen foul of a terrible error. In the teletransporter case, for example, was it really you that travelled to Mars or is it more correct to say that a clone or copy of you was made on Mars, while you were destroyed?


The soul question did not ask that. It stated that the soul has minimal impact on the person. Nature and Nurture still played the dominant role in personality, and memory. The soul does NOT remember and does NOT contribute to you, your personality.

It also did not ask you to believe in a soul. It said that it had recently been proven that souls exist, not that you MUST answer the question as if you believe it. The question asked "FOR YOU TO LIVE". What does 'LIVING' mean? If you freeze, and the soul dies, but it doesn't contribute anything, does it matter? You can very well choose to let the soul die, because to you, that isn't what defined life.

What this teases out, is if a soul does not provide any information about you, do you care? If the soul does NOT contribute to the next person, and you can't remember it, does it matter?

Typically people that believe in souls think that they are the essence, even if they don't continue on mentally. They think there is something immaterial that makes them 'alive'. But even in this question, since soul contributes nothing, you can choose to freeze yourself and kill the soul.

You did NOT have to answer to save the soul. If that is not what defines life for you.


> I've had accounts banned from this site for less.

Unless you're dang under an alias, I think getting accounts banned from this site is rather beyond your power. And you sure don't sound like dang.

In fact, you sound much more like the kind of person who gets banned than FrustratedMonky does. HN doesn't usually ban for bad arguments; it does ban for hostility to other users.

Note that this has nothing to do with whether you or FrustratedMonky are right. It only has to do with who gets banned, and why.


You've somehow come to the right conclusion despite misreading the sentence. Yes, obviously, it's my accounts that got banned. For saying things way more mild than "can't think in hypotheticals".


I've had some stern warnings from dang. So yes, I am more careful now.

When it comes to questions like these (mind, consciousness, etc..) where the other persons personal perspective enters into the argument, their personal view point is what is making the argument, it makes it difficult to not respond that does not look like personal attacks.


> But your last choice sees the end to your psychological continuity, since the continued existence of the soul does not provide it. So you first ended bodily continuity and then you ended psychological continuity.

I reject the framing of the centrality of the soul in this exercise, and being forced to reconcile this question with the previous questions that do no pre-suppose the existence of the soul.


I had the same problem, the last question added new information.


Had the exact same thought.


70% is an outstanding success rate for cryonics. The real problem, of course, is that whatever idiot scientists regrew a complete biological replacement for me from silicon didn't bother to keep a backup before the cryonics attempt. Like, the teleteleporter already made a perfect cellular replica so the technology is readily available.


It's a 70% failure rate, not success rate.


Still outstanding since current real-world success rates are estimated to be somewhat less than 1%.


Just to cut off a problem at the pass I ain't nitpicking him here like he is reading palms or nothin. Just blabbering about some frustrations on somethin I think important but maybe for dumb reasons I don't know. So I want to share in case it is, but don't want claims it's dumb for reasons I ain't meaning. I can't be the only one who feels round 3 didn't make sense and feel bamboozled by the jumping guesses about why I answered the prior two. Not in some silly way like "how dare the fella" I mean like he might not notice people interpret his soul thing in a way he definitely doesn't seem to. I took the teleporter, and sure silicon whatever, but round 3 claims souls exist changing what my assumptions are for the game. The guy who made it seems to assume soul means no 'psychological continuity', but I ain't ever heard nobody think that and they seem to think the opposite which is why I went with dying because round 3 gave me information telling me reality don't work like I think it does now.

Gotta say ahead of time I read the thing and I know he says the "soul effect" is small but that don't matter if 'that small part is what counts'. Thing is that's exactly what everybody who believes in a soul thinks so I went with the stuff I've heard all my life and thought "Well guess they were right so I better change how I think and answer like they do". Now where that seems a problem is he seems to think people who think souls exist don't think that mental continuity exists in souls in an important way, or that changing your choice based on new information implies I believe in souls when I don't.

I'm tryin to explain, badly I guess, that he tried to make it sound unimportant in a way that doesn't do what he thinks it does. Just goin by a lifetime of bibles being thumped on me. So others might make the same choice for the same reason but don't seem many notice the mountain looks real darn different from where someone like me is at.


I took the transporter, silicon, and freeze. The soul comes from the brain/mind. I don’t accept the premise of the third question. It is not a reduction to see that the brain/mind produces the soul. And I use the term soul because if one does not then their morality is questioned so that is an easy fix to make.


Yeah, I have never read a definition of "soul" that made sense to me. The premise for Question 3 said that it has some small effect on character, smaller than upbringing and genes. But lots of people have character or genes like me. So are souls unique? If not memories, what information _is_ stored in the soul?


> Your choices are consistent with the view that bodily continuity is necessary for personal survival. You risk death on the spacecraft, allow your mind to be messed around with by the virus and allow your soul to be destroyed so that your body (or at least your brain in a body) can have a chance of staying in existence. And it does.

apparently i have survived. the "virus vs silicon" choice was very easy, i already took something that changed my entire personality and rewrote my memories (mtf hrt)

> But is this survival of you? Is it enough for your body to continue to exist if your personality, wishes, beliefs, desires and memories do not?

it's the survival of a version of me and that's enough imo


For scenario 1, in terms of a soul (self-awareness), will it replicate you or a clone of you?

What does our soul constitute?

In other words, does option #1 effectively kill you?

Edit: Thanks for the polite clue, klausa. Back to mowing.

Edit 2: If this thought experiment interests you, check out this[1] Black Mirror episode (which has mixed reviews, but illustrates this experiment fairly well).

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel,_Jack_and_Ashley_Too


Congratulations, you correctly identified the underlying philosophical thought experiment!


Well, I guess I'll have to stop doing my yardwork and do the other two scenarios!


I chose teleporter, silicon, and reincarnation. My view of a "person" is a continuous arc through time: unlikely to be constant, but you can see how f(t) is connected to f(t-1).

The teleporter preserves physicality and behavior. Ship of Theseus via silicon is fine, because replacing bit by bit is close enough to continuity. Reincarnation is a strange twist in the arc, but still continuous; the other option had a chance of termination.


I had went with spaceship, virus, letting my body die.

Teleportation would kill me anyway, it is not the same person. Either getting a silicon brain or letting virus go on would kill my current self, so I chose to preserve my body; and if in third question we are sure soul exists, risking its' obliteration is never worth the gamble.


Could be more convincing if the https://www.philosophyexperiments.com/Contact.aspx did not return a Runtime Error.


Even if we replicate 100% the state of our cells, we would also need all of the micorobiome that was developed on/in us over the year. Myself without my current gut, is not the same person.


It's kind-of a bad test. When you get to the "reincarnation is real" bit, you've undermined anyone who doesn't believe in a transcendent soul.


A lot of people on the planet do believe in a soul, and it impacts these decisions. It makes the people that do believe in souls wonder "hmm what would a transporter do", and those that don't believe in souls wonder "hmm if there was a soul, how would that change this".

These are long standing questions that go back hundreds of years. And for many people are not solved.

The point is to make you think. To say a test should not have questions that make you think is wrong.

Note: I do not believe either. But I understand it is a long standing question, that is still open for a lot of people, so worth asking.


In my case I made some choices following my belief that we don't have transcendent souls (took transporter), then the game says we do have transcendent souls, so I changed my course of action based on this new knowledge.

The game criticized me for being inconsistent, but the new me on Mars is acting on new knowledge to save their life. It's the same choice original me would have made if I'd been alive to make it given the circumstances.


The question asked "FOR YOU TO LIVE". What does 'LIVING' mean? If you freeze, and the soul dies, but it doesn't contribute anything, does it matter? You can very well choose to let the soul die, because to you, that isn't what defined life.

What this teases out, is if a soul does not provide any information about you, do you care? If the soul does NOT contribute to the next person, and you can't remember it, does it matter? They question outlined that genes, nature-nurture, are what make up a persons personality and memory. The soul does not contribute.

Typically people that believe in souls think that they are the essence, even if they don't continue on mentally. They think there is something immaterial that makes them 'alive'. But even in this question, since soul contributes nothing, you can choose to freeze yourself and kill the soul.

I choose Freeze. I chose that Psychological continuity defines life. It sounds like you took 'soul' as meaning 'life' and chose that. But that was not necessary to live.

From my result: Congratulations! You have survived!

You chose: Round 1: It's the teletransporter for me Round 2: I'll take the silicon, thanks Round 3: Freeze me now

There are basically three kinds of things that could be required for the continued existence of your self. One is bodily continuity, which may actually require only that parts of the body stay in existence (i.e., the brain). Another is psychological continuity, which requires the continuance of your consciousness - by which is meant your thoughts, ideas, memories, plans, beliefs, and so on. The third possibility is the continued existence of some kind of immaterial part of you, which might be called the soul. Of course, it may be the case that a combination of one or more types of these continuity is required for you to survive.




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