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Old 04-17-2012, 08:57 PM   #101
sir_pudding
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Default Re: Space Opera vs Hard Sci-Fi, personal vs realistic

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Originally Posted by vierasmarius View Post
Yeah, that's basically my only concern with it. I have no problem accepting memory uploading, but have no expectations that it would be anything but a copy. It's no way to cheat death. It just allows a lineage of individuals, all with the same memory and identity.
Which doesn't seem to prevent using it for space travel.
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Old 04-17-2012, 09:23 PM   #102
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Which doesn't seem to prevent using it for space travel.
True. In fact, in the example I used (from Accelerando) the main character does sends one copy of herself on the trip, and leaves one copy home. When she returns, she finds that the one that stayed home is in financial ruin (partly because of the expedition's expense) and current laws make her returning copy equally culpable for the debt.
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Old 04-17-2012, 09:26 PM   #103
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Uploading an existing consciousness might pose problems, but to my mind only due to the psychological hang ups involved in the possibly meaningless question "but will it still be me?". Get over that, and you're gold.
Well, there are actually two different questions here. There's the question of identity—is it the same person or a copy? But there's also the question of what you personally will experience.

1. I use nondestructive nanoscanning to describe your brain down to the molecular level, and program a very powerful computer to simulate it and provide inputs via simulated senses, while you watch. You can talk with the computer and everything. Do you think that you will suddenly start experiencing the spectacle of your organic body through the lenses of the cybershell in place of the spectacle of the cybershell through your eyes? Or both simultaneously? Or the two in alternation?

2. If you think you'll still be seeing the cybershell, while the simulated you sees your organic body, then if I cut your throat, do you think you will experience a final cessation of consciousness, not followed by regaining consciousness in a cybershell?

3. If you think the cessation of consciousness for your organic brain will be terminal, does it make a difference if I cut your throat before I activate the cybershell, or even before I program it?

4. If not, does it make a difference if the destruction of your organic brain is extrinsic to the copying process, or a necessary part of it?

(Note that Ray Kurzweil has described a process of uploading that doesn't raise those issues, in which one set of neurons is destructively scanned and replaced with a simulation that is interfaced with your remaining brain, and then another, and then another, with information processing being shared between brain and simulation at every step but the first and the last, and with only tiny sets of neurons being lost at each step. See The Singularity Is Near.)

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Old 04-17-2012, 09:44 PM   #104
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Old 04-17-2012, 09:45 PM   #105
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Default Re: Space Opera vs Hard Sci-Fi, personal vs realistic

My primary take on this is that a simple dichotomy—space opera is X, hard sf is not-X—can't possibly be right, because there's a lot of sf that's neither space opera nor hard sf.

Space opera has an attractor: The use of interplanetary or interstellar space travel as a focus for larger-than-life action/adventure. It's cinematic in the GURPS sense.

Hard sf has an attractor: The serious exploration of speculative scientific ideas through drawing out their implications on the basis of actual theoretical and empirical science.

There are other attractors. There is, for example, the expression of social commentary, criticism, and satire through the safe medium of portrayal of a fictitious society somewhere else, in the style of Swift, Lem, or Pohl and Kornbluth. Or there's worldbuilding for its own sake; this can be hard sf, as when Poul Anderson or Vernor Vinge does it, but it can also be more about making up exotic cultures, as when Gordon R. Dickson or Cordwainer Smith does it. There's even an entire genre that has the same cinematic appeal as space opera, but that minimizes or avoids space travel: Planetary romance in the style of Burrough, Moore, or de Camp.

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Old 04-17-2012, 11:29 PM   #106
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Default Re: Space Opera vs Hard Sci-Fi, personal vs realistic

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Well, there are actually two different questions here. There's the question of identity—is it the same person or a copy? But there's also the question of what you personally will experience.

1. I use nondestructive nanoscanning to describe your brain down to the molecular level, and program a very powerful computer to simulate it and provide inputs via simulated senses, while you watch. You can talk with the computer and everything. Do you think that you will suddenly start experiencing the spectacle of your organic body through the lenses of the cybershell in place of the spectacle of the cybershell through your eyes? Or both simultaneously? Or the two in alternation?

2. If you think you'll still be seeing the cybershell, while the simulated you sees your organic body, then if I cut your throat, do you think you will experience a final cessation of consciousness, not followed by regaining consciousness in a cybershell?

3. If you think the cessation of consciousness for your organic brain will be terminal, does it make a difference if I cut your throat before I activate the cybershell, or even before I program it?

4. If not, does it make a difference if the destruction of your organic brain is extrinsic to the copying process, or a necessary part of it?

(Note that Ray Kurzweil has described a process of uploading that doesn't raise those issues, in which one set of neurons is destructively scanned and replaced with a simulation that is interfaced with your remaining brain, and then another, and then another, with information processing being shared between brain and simulation at every step but the first and the last, and with only tiny sets of neurons being lost at each step. See The Singularity Is Near.)

Bill Stoddard
I think the answer is probably obvious yet not acceptable to most: there is no "self", as such. We know the brain has to do stuff in order to create the idea and experience of a continuous self. This goes wrong in conditions like Cotard's Syndrome (or Delusion, if you like, although that word is more judgemental). Numerous dissociative states, some functional, some wildly dysfunctional, some subtle, and some wildly obvious (D.I.D., dissociative amnesia and fugues) exist which show that the so-called normal "healthy" state of integration of personality, thoughts, emotions, memory, and physical sensations require the brain to do stuff in order to create this idea of the unified "self" (and I'm not convinced that this is a necessarily healthy state, this total integration, just a socially desirable and useful state... I'd advocate pursuing a high degree of dissociation).

If they copied "you" into another medium (biological or technological), but didn't shut you down first (perhaps, by "killing" you), then you'd perceive an identical personality but a different person, not you. In fact, in all ways that count, the moment that the two entities started having different experiences, they'd be two different but very very similar persons. If they knocked you out to scan you or they destructively scanned you and then created the copy, and then destroyed your body, we could say that the new thing was "you". Heck, even if we made the copy, left it shut down, let you live in your current body for a year, then destroyed you and your body, and then switched it on, well, isn't that "you" but with a year's permanent amnesia?

The same types of issues come up with Star Trek style teleporters / transmats, that work via destructive scanning and building on the other side.

Maybe some day someone will come up with some way that a true continuous self can have an unambiguous meaning given a purely materialist or, more broadly, physicalist, understanding of consciousness, but honestly, I doubt it. These questions seem more like unresolved issues over not having fully let go of a dualistic idea of a non-physical soul. Of course, believing in such a thing, the question is still not really resolved because then you have to ask if the "soul" knows to go to the copy (or the "right" copy), or if it gets somehow "split", or if it always "moves on" when its current "vessel" dies and then a new one pops into the "newborn" copy (like a baby).

The truth is it's probably best to think of the question as meaningless, and hope for the best, barring new developments. After all, how are we to say that we're not "different persons" every time we fall unconscious or even asleep, or even from moment to moment? Is someone that suffers brain damage that causes irreversible physical amnesia the "same person"? How much identity critical information needs to be there? Is it all of it, which might make everyone that gets blackout drunk spawn a new person and die themselves? Is it even episodic memory, or rather our reactions and responses and feelings towards various stimuli (which would allow the common sense idea that a total and permanent amnesia can be the same person)? I don't see clear answers to those questions, and we shouldn't even begin to think about mind copying without getting a firm grasp on them.

And I think the reason there are no clear answers is that the answers are arbitrary, up to the preferences and belief systems (if any) of each individual. In other words, and IMHO, the answers to such questions are not all too dissimilar to the answers to questions like "what's the best kind of cheese?". I say havarti, you say edam, in the end, there isn't a "real" answer.
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Old 04-17-2012, 11:35 PM   #107
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Default Re: Space Opera vs Hard Sci-Fi, personal vs realistic

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..
And I think the reason there are no clear answers is that the answers are arbitrary, up to the preferences and belief systems (if any) of each individual. In other words, and IMHO, the answers to such questions are not all too dissimilar to the answers to questions like "what's the best kind of cheese?". I say havarti, you say edam, in the end, there isn't a "real" answer.
I'm of the opinion that the obvious truth is correct until proven otherwise. The more obvious the truth, the more evidence I need to change my mind.
The most fundamental obvious truth I can imagine is that I exist as a single being.
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Old 04-17-2012, 11:45 PM   #108
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Default Re: Space Opera vs Hard Sci-Fi, personal vs realistic

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Originally Posted by JCurwen3 View Post
I think the answer is probably obvious yet not acceptable to most: there is no "self", as such. We know the brain has to do stuff in order to create the idea and experience of a continuous self. This goes wrong in conditions like Cotard's Syndrome (or Delusion, if you like, although that word is more judgemental). Numerous dissociative states, some functional, some wildly dysfunctional, some subtle, and some wildly obvious (D.I.D., dissociative amnesia and fugues) exist which show that the so-called normal "healthy" state of integration of personality, thoughts, emotions, memory, and physical sensations require the brain to do stuff in order to create this idea of the unified "self" (and I'm not convinced that this is a necessarily healthy state, this total integration, just a socially desirable and useful state... I'd advocate pursuing a high degree of dissociation).

If they copied "you" into another medium (biological or technological), but didn't shut you down first (perhaps, by "killing" you), then you'd perceive an identical personality but a different person, not you. In fact, in all ways that count, the moment that the two entities started having different experiences, they'd be two different but very very similar persons. If they knocked you out to scan you or they destructively scanned you and then created the copy, and then destroyed your body, we could say that the new thing was "you". Heck, even if we made the copy, left it shut down, let you live in your current body for a year, then destroyed you and your body, and then switched it on, well, isn't that "you" but with a year's permanent amnesia?
So let me put it this way. If you have perceived the other entity, and then I step up to you with an injector filled with a lethal drug, and tell you what it is, presumably you're going to anticipate final loss of consciousness, never followed by regaining consciousness; you may dread it, or be indifferent to it, or even long for it, but you're going to anticipate that that fading of awareness as your brain shuts down will be the last thing you'll ever experience. Yes?

So why does it make a difference if I wait to activate the other entity until after your brain shuts down?

Bill Stoddard
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Old 04-17-2012, 11:47 PM   #109
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Maybe some day someone will come up with some way that a true continuous self can have an unambiguous meaning given a purely materialist or, more broadly, physicalist, understanding of consciousness, but honestly, I doubt it. These questions seem more like unresolved issues over not having fully let go of a dualistic idea of a non-physical soul. Of course, believing in such a thing, the question is still not really resolved because then you have to ask if the "soul" knows to go to the copy (or the "right" copy), or if it gets somehow "split", or if it always "moves on" when its current "vessel" dies and then a new one pops into the "newborn" copy (like a baby).
I think you have it exactly backward. My self = me = my physical being. The idea that you can say that two different physical entities are the same "self" is a metaphysical fantasy based on dualism; no materialist could possibly believe such a thing.

Bill Stoddard
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Old 04-18-2012, 04:10 AM   #110
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What suggestions do you have for taking ultra-tech equipment and keeping the scale of adventure at a personal, human-oriented scope, using in-setting or in-system (ie cinematic options or house rules) justifications?
There's hard sci-fi and there's high fantasy. In between them is space opera. Not much more to say. Pick one to use in GURPS.
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