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A Real Afterlife

  1. Mar 29, 2009 #1
    Does anyone here believe that one day it will be physically possible for a person to maintain self identity and/or consciousness after their bodies have deceased? I've seen this written about by some scientists, including physicist Paul Davies. Seeing as the mind is composed of the same stuff as all other physical matter in the universe, it doesn't surprise me that some believe that a "real" afterlife of sorts could be obtained one day. What are your thoughts?
     
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  3. Mar 30, 2009 #2

    Ivan Seeking

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    I too have heard a good number of people working at high levels in AI making the claim that "uploading" the mind will one day be possible. For starters, I don't see how that claim can be made since we can't yet quantify consciousness or self-identity. So, at a minimum, at this time there is no way to say if a person's consciousnes could ever be transfered in such a manner. We could never know if it really is good ole Joe, or just a fascimile.

    We have the same problem with the notion of Star-Trek-like transporters. Even if we could overcome the exponentially large problem of transporting [producing an exact copy] of a large system of particles, we have no way to know if the "mind" could ever be transfered in such a way. And even worse, again there would be no way for us to tell the difference between the copy [an exact copy] and the original. We could never really know if Joe ceased to exist the moment Scotty began the transport.

    Something else to consider: How could any process of uploading produce the mind of the original unless the original is deleted in the process? It seems to me that any so-called uploading process that does not intrinsically require deleting the original, has a problem. If it was your mind, wouldn't you know the difference between you and the copy? But then I guess the copy would be looking at the situation in an identical manner, so you really couldn't be sure if you are you or just a copy, except through the circumstances.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2009
  4. Mar 30, 2009 #3
    You seem to be arguing for duality, which there is no evidence for (physical "brain states" correspond 1-1 with "mind states", to within accuracy of measurement).

    Even if it isn't eventually possible to "upload" onto a traditional computer architecture, there have been several recent attempts to simulate brain function directly, using massively parallel systems, and/or using artificial neurons (that is, computer chips designed to behave like neurons). There is no reason to think that such a system, were it able to reproduce the connectivity of the human brain, could not have a person's consciousness copied onto it.

    The other alternative is to grow a new brain out of biological tissue (stem cell research could help us with this), and then somehow imprint the brain state of a person onto this "blank". Even if there were some fundamental reason that brain states cannot be replicated by silicon chips, there is no plausible explanation as to why replicating the biological brain directly wouldn't work.

    To respond directly to the OP:

    The only plausible reason why "eternal consciousness" (to within thermodynamic limits on the universe, and/or our capability of harnessing energy) would be impossible would be if the emergent property we call consciousness were somehow self-limiting. That is, if the conditions necessary for consciousness to exist and continue, necessitate the eventual termination of that consciousness. I don't see this as very likely, so I believe one day we will achieve this, assuming we don't go extinct first.
     
  5. Mar 30, 2009 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    If you wish to go down that road, then my response is that we can never know the exact state of the system at any moment. Quantum limitations [Heisenberg] of measurement make this impossible.
     
  6. Mar 30, 2009 #5
    Yeah imagine if you were able to predict the thought patterns of your own brain. It would be some infinite loop thats bound to end horribly.
     
  7. Mar 30, 2009 #6

    arildno

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    PARTIAL survivals of mental traits might well be possible, rather than a full re-capture of the mind.

    But then again, how to ensure we retain Stephen Hawking's abstract thought processes, rather than his sexual fantasies?

    Or perhaps the latter would be preferable?
     
  8. Mar 30, 2009 #7
    Precision on that scale doesn't appear to be necessary for the correspondence.

    Edit: Also, just because we can't know a quantum state, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Are you now arguing for a "dualism of the gaps"? Just because we (maybe) can't measure the brain state with enough accuracy, means that dualism exists.

    At least you had more sense than the "god of the gaps" people, and chose something that can't be known, rather than just something which isn't known yet.
     
  9. Mar 30, 2009 #8
    I thought it sounded too good to be true. Other than that, what hope do we have of an afterlife? The future does not look promising.
     
  10. Mar 30, 2009 #9

    Evo

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    It's probably better to live this life as the only one you've got.
     
  11. Mar 30, 2009 #10
    I agree in some sense, but most people would find little comfort in that when the subject is given serious thought. Think of how bleak the future really is: Total annihilation awaits us. There is no hope to live into the future or ever see loved ones again, and a painful death is in store for most of the world's people. How is one to "live in the present" when they know terror, torment, and anguish are staring at them in the horizon? I hope scientists start turning their attention toward that little issue instead of worrying how thin a television screen can be made.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2009
  12. Mar 30, 2009 #11
    What's the current line of thought on this problem?
     
  13. Mar 30, 2009 #12

    BobG

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    Before your next gathering with friends or family, you could try this:

    Hug the person next to you, take a deep breath, and imagine what life will be like once they're gone.

    Then, hug them a second time, with a deep breath, while imagining what they'll do in life without you after you're gone. (after all, you don't know whose leaving first).

    Then, hug them one more time, with a deep breath, and think about how you feel about being here, now, with them. Then enjoy your evening with your friends and family.
     
  14. Mar 30, 2009 #13

    LowlyPion

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    I don't see the practical benefit of extending a consciousness beyond death.

    Where would it start from anyway? From the disease wracked final moments, or from some time prior? And if some time prior then it is no longer a twin of the conscious existence it is replacing is it?

    It seems its appeal is in an appeal to the ego, the siren call of immortality, heard by those that would want to grasp at the idea that they would live on. But as what, once the surcease is past?

    And of what value to the loved ones left behind? Chambered in a computer that sits on a desk like a stuffed dead pet that has facility with working the Daily Jumble puzzle in the paper, and no longer snores?
     
  15. Mar 30, 2009 #14
    If we are to believe David Deutsch, we're coming back at the end of the universe. Where do these guys come up with this stuff?
     
  16. Mar 30, 2009 #15

    BobG

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    As opposed to a living elderly loved one that wanders around the house singing Toyota jingles until they finally pass out in your favorite recliner in front of the TV and snores loudly?
     
  17. Mar 30, 2009 #16
    The practical benefit is that you live beyond death. . .
     
  18. Mar 30, 2009 #17

    Evo

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    What if you live beyond death but have so senses, no sight, sound, touch, etc, you have no body, no one can see you or sense you in any way and you can't communicate. But you are conscious. Not too practical, eh? :uhh:
     
  19. Mar 30, 2009 #18

    LowlyPion

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    Not to put too fine a line on it, but you are still dead, and you are left with a computer that while it may no longer emit bio-gases at inappropriate moments is still just a program running in a computer with all of your quirks and faults - trapped forever without the ability to breathe deeply at the sea shore or cradle a tender flower petal in spring.

    Imagine the horror of realizing that your continued operation depended on a Microsoft Operating System.
     
  20. Mar 30, 2009 #19
    LOL

    Seriously, though, if you can put the person on a chip you could no doubt give them a prosthetic body. Which makes me wonder, is mind uploading scientifically impossible?
     
  21. Mar 30, 2009 #20
    How far do you want to go with this? I reckon that wanting immortality is akin to wanting infinite wealth. You'll never be satisfied with what you have by seeking such things. Say you now have a fully duplicated androidish body complete with full sensory system. You can maintain yourself indefinitely. Now what? Thousands, millions, billions of years go by. What will be your motivation? Will you do anything? Watch television? Write a book? Have millions of kids? Just how will you define a purpose for your life if you no longer have a constriction to do something meaningful now?
     
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