Socratic Angst

Graham is concerned about Socrates …

… well, not Socrates exactly. But it starts with him.

Unexamined is one thing, but what if the exam already took place without our knowledge? This chap continues with the fear that if the Unexamined status were ended right now, he might actually fail…

Or considered another way — how much examination is enough, and how much too much? That thought was triggered by this quote …

Russian billionaire Dmitry Itskov wants to ‘create technologies enabling the transfer of an individual’s personality to a more advanced nonbiological carrier’.

The Guardian

— which then continued with a description of how that might look — as a humanoid opens the cranium of a conscious human and extracts both data and tissue, preserving only one intact…

At some point, you become aware that you are no longer present in your body. You observe – with sadness, or horror, or detached curiosity – the diminishing spasms of that body on the operating table, the last useless convulsions of a discontinued meat.

And this is now where it gets really worrying. We are humans, curious and inquisitive: What we can do, sooner or later we will — just because, or —

We are talking about not just radically extended life spans, but also radically expanded cognitive abilities. We are talking about endless copies and iterations of the self. Having undergone a procedure like this, you would exist – to the extent you could meaningfully be said to exist at all – as an entity of unbounded possibilities.

“You can be anything you like,” as an article about uploading in Extropy magazine put it in the mid-90s. “You can be big or small; you can be lighter than air and fly; you can teleport and walk through walls. You can be a lion or an antelope, a frog or a fly, a tree, a pool, the coat of paint on a ceiling.”

Or something entirely different, something outside our experience altogether.

I found myself thinking often of WB Yeats’s Sailing to Byzantium, in which the ageing poet writes of his burning to be free of the weakening body, the sickening heart – to abandon the “dying animal” for the manmade and immortal form of a mechanical bird. “Once out of nature,” he writes, “I shall never take/ My bodily form from any natural thing/ But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make.”

All of a sudden our lives could move from being unexamined to being way too examined, by half. Suddenly Rabbie Burns’ wish moves from charming and whimsical to possible —

— and as such, downright scary.

Just suppose you could actually extend your eye-stalks, so to speak, and really see yourself — would we really want to know, without the filters? There is such a thing as knowing too much, maybe.

Although we do, clearly, we have some defences …

Let’s just hope those are enough before we all end up running  —

… or, possibly, wheeling or hopping, screaming away from our ‘selves’ at top speed.

This Chap is worried …
… about the other chap worrying so much about such abstract matters. Perhaps he needs to get out more … the other chap that is.

This Chap is Adding This Comment – What Five Months later

Say What?

I know – right

Anyway – long story – recounted here actually ….

Bottom line – two quick thoughts …

A long while ago – this chap read this book … published in 2011 actually, but an interesting read around connecting the world of energy and vibration to the science of same. Bottom line connecting Eastern Philosophies to Western Science – highly recommend.

Number two – need to find the podcast – but was listening to some chap the other day likening a watermelon to a human head – and how the chemistry, physics and biology of the two really aren’t that different – even when you get down to the molecular and quantum levels – still pretty similar.  BUT, when you get to the frequencies and vibrations of same – well – now you are talking.This chap is excited – and definitely, makes sense in the context of what the other chap is talking about up there and starting to see the intersection of religious belief and

This chap is excited – and definitely, makes sense in the context of what the other chap is talking about up there and starting to see the intersection of religious belief and demonstrable science.

5 Replies to “Socratic Angst”

  1. The Boston Dynamics (now owned by Google I think) robots are impressive inverted pendulums. (After that, they are fork lifts.)

    Snarky of me – probably. So I want to quickly say that these are truly impressive, especially the elegant mechanics.

    But the core technology is do it yourself:

    Which may only increase chap’s unease.

    (Also, I think that inverted pendulums have been used to keep super tall buildings from swaying. Can’t track that down however.)

  2. The comment about Boston Scientific was really a kind of placeholder for what I really wanted to write about.

    That takes me to deeper waters than I normally like to swim, so I’m only going to walk out till the water is no higher than my ankles and just splash around a bit.

    What strikes me about Dmitry Itskov’s program, which of course has been a subject for any number of science fiction plots, is its radical egocentrism. A best, Descartes mind/body mistake taken to the extreme. Or maybe the trap of modeling the brain as an information process system.

    I think the brain needs to be thought of as an extension of the senses. Without a connection to the environment, which includes other people, in an epistemological sense, the activities of the mind no longer exists. (Yes, there may be a slight of hand here: brain = mind.)

    If a tree fall in a forest, does it make sound? What is the ontological reality of pi if the ratio exists exclusively in one mute mind? (This one is tricky too though. Neil Stephenson tried to write an entire novel about the reality of mathematical concepts. Didn’t like the book very much.)

    From another point of view, consider the results of sensory deprivation. Without the senses, ‘reality’ recedes. I would argue this is because without the senses, the mind is missing essential parts. This is different than just lacking sense data.

    So to capture and reproduce a mind (interesting that it is referred sometimes as personality or identity), you need to reproduce the senses as well. All 9 to 21 of them. And any artificial reproduction of them, I will argue, would create a different mind.

    Final thought. A persuasive theory of speech perception is referred to as the motor theory. It posits that words are represented cognitively by vocal tract gestures. In an extreme form, the motor theory suggests that consciousness emerges as these representation become more neurologically distinct, and thus that proprioceptive senses and audition are a prerequisite to consciousness. (This needs to account for language acquisition by the congenitally deaf, though a parallel between gestures of the limbs and vocal tract gestures immediately suggests itself.)

    And then there are mirror neurons.

    So my advice to Dmitry Itskov. Give your brain to Boston Scientific, but don’t expect ‘you’ to be the result.

    And to the chaps, if you want to see yourself, go for cloning.


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