« Where would I invest $10 Million into life extending technology? | Main | Still Here, What I've been thinking about »

March 30, 2008



The difference between the voice message and the person in that instance is that you will not get a response to what you say until the actual person hears the message. What is the difference between a cryogenic zombie and an actual person? If there's no way to empirically differentiate them, I will conclude that zombies are people and people are zombies.

Hopefully Anonymous

1. Actually, you could get responses. Prank voice mail messages have gone rather long, in the manner of "Hello, who is this? ... Hey, how's it going? ... ... Interesting, anything else new with you? ... ... ... sike! I'm not home right now. Leave a message after the beep!

2. The difference between my definition of a zombie and an actual person is the subjective conscious experience. We're currently technologically precluded from knowing what actually has that experience and what doesn't, but it seems reasonable that the further a phenomemon gets from my putative experience of being a wet-brained human on the course of a normal life arc, the more likely I can expect it to be not to be experiencing subjective consciousness. As far as your last line "I will conclude", hey, you can conclude whatever you want. The explicit purpose of this blog is to attempt to understand reality to maximize my persistence odds, not to persuade other people to adopt certain conclusions (or to adopt a skeptical stance to certain conclusions).


How do you understand reality any better by postulating the existence of something that does not make any empirical difference?

Hopefully Anonymous

TGGP, there's a difference between no empirical difference at the time I'm reanimated from cryonic suspension, and no empirical difference for all of time. Our ability to determine things empirically is limited by the tools at the time the empirical determination is made. As a hypothetical, in 2100 when I'm "revived" there may be no empirical difference between how the "revived" me performs subjective consciousness and how the actual current me experiences subjective consciousness. But then in 2250 anyone who cares may be shocked to learn that the "revived" me was either more like a twin than like me (in that I'm not experiencing subjective consciousness through it), or even that it's more like that trick phone call, in that it's not experiencing subjective consciousness at all.

I suspect there's terminology in science to cover how the more different something is in one way, the more different it's likely to be in other ways (for example, the more you change the chemical composition of an apple, the less likely it is to have the same color, taste the same, etc.) That, I think, is the crux of what I'm getting at. Our understanding of an individual's subjective consciousness doesn't seem to be extremely well understood, so at this stage it's reasonable to think that the more we change a wet brain's state from the normal life arc, the more likely we may be do lose an individual's subjective conscious thread in the process. That the individual still acts like the same individual, at least as best we can tell with the technology of the time, is helpful evidence that that individual's subjective consciousness may have been preserved, but it doesn't seem to me to be decisive evidence. And I don't think waving one's hands and saying "it doesn't make any empirical evidence with our currently available technology" makes it decisive evidence.

It does seem to me to be tricky to determine the degree to which a concern (which may start out as intuition coming from something like the "yuck" bias) not grounded in solid empiricism should be factored into decision making, including the concern that future empirical inquiry may reveal knowledge not revealable with present empirical inquiry. It does somehow seem to me that the scale of consequences and the scale of deviance from normal actions matter. Cryonics and uploading seem to be greater deviances with greater adverse negative consequences to be concerned about, from the perspective of perpetuation of an individual subjective conscious experience. Thus, some greater amount of critical energy should go into examining them, and greater disinclination towards those paths rather than SENS or some other more conservative approach to living biological persistence seems reasonable to me.

william hessian

awesome blog post. good comments you have recieved too. its an interesting topic.

and hey, jesus was a zombie.

check out my blog sometime as well: Zombie Robot Frosting


You had a comment flagged as spam on my blog which I have despammed.

more like a twin than like me
Speaking of that, would you get in the booth?

more we change a wet brain's state from the normal life arc
The brain changes a lot during its normal life arc. Cryogenics seems to be based on having it change less than it would normally in a given time span.

And I don't think waving one's hands and saying "it doesn't make any empirical evidence with our currently available technology" makes it decisive evidence.
String theory is not testable with today's technology. It is hoped that with better technology it will be. With this on the other hand we don't even know what we're talking about and there is no expectation or idea of that sort.

I'll actually agree that freezing seems more risky given that its significantly different from normal anti-aging methods. It might kill you outright or give you frostbite. I don't worry about it stealing souls though because souls are meaningless concepts (unless we postulate an afterlife or an ability of dogs and automatic door-openers to detect them, which I see no reason to do).

The comments to this entry are closed.