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Reduction to Open Individualism

by Iacopo Vettori - September 2016

Chapter 6: List of problems solved or simplified

83. During the discussion, we had the opportunity to discuss many problems of personal identity, not only its origin and the persistence, but also its beginning and ending points, and the issues of teletransportation, fission, and union. Now we will discuss other problems related to the concept of personal identity. We will see that Open Individualism solves many of them, and gives a different view from which many other problems become simplified. These problems comprehend the Self-Sampling Assumption related to the Doomsday Argument and other paradoxes, the possibility of using the melding of minds to overcome death, the managing of the risks and ethical problems related to conscious machines, issues of free will, and even the overriding of the contraposition between dualism and reductionism. I think that the acknowledgement of how easily Open Individualism solves these issues constitutes by itself a concrete hint that it represents the best theory of personal identity. I am convinced that once these advantages are acknowledged, the next theories of personal identity will always be refinements of Open Individualism. This theory is here to stay.

84. Open Individualism manages in a simple way paradoxes related to the Self-Sampling Assumption, such as the Doomsday Argument. The Self-Sampling Assumption states that every observer should reason as if they have been randomly selected from the set of all observers. The Doomsday Argument is a probabilistic argument that claims to predict the number of future members of the human species given only an estimate of the total number of humans born so far. The reasoning under this argument is that, supposing that all humans are born in a random order, chances are that any one human will be born roughly in the middle. If I think I have only one chance to be born, I may evaluate the total number of humans in the set on the basis of my position in the set. The conclusion is that there is a 95% chance of extinction within 9,120 years ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomsday_argument ). This reasoning is not valid if we accept Open Individualism. Consider that in this case, I cannot think myself to have been randomly selected: I am always selected at each birth, so my position represents the progress of the human species in this world, but cannot be used to estimate the total number of future human births. To get to the original reasoning at the base of the Doomsday Argument, imagine that you have two bowls, the first containing 10 balls labelled with 10 names, one of them being your name, the other containing 1000 balls labelled with 1000 names, only one of them being your name. If you randomly select one of the bowls, you have a 50% chance of selecting the first bowl. But if you pick a ball from the bowl, then another, and continue until you extract your name, and if you find that your name is extracted in one of the first 10 extractions, then the probability is about 99% that you chose the first bowl. But if all the balls in both the bowls are labelled with your name, you cannot make any predictions when you read your name on the first extraction. This is the case with Open Individualism, and this gets rid of the reasoning on which the Doomsday Argument is based, as well as many other paradoxes based on the Self-Sampling Assumption, which you may find in the book Anthropic Bias: Observation Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy by Nick Bostrom (2002).

85. Currently, the nearest achievable event that may push humanity to a global awareness of Open Individualism is the technical possibility of connecting multiple brains so that they cooperate to form a single mind. I think that participating in such an experience would bring all of the participants to the awareness that they actually became a single mind, in a mental state that we may call the “the unified state”, in which it would be impossible to determine which participating brain the single “unified mind” came from. In such a state, the unified mind would access the memories of all the connected brains. Once disconnected, every participant would have a memory of what was thought in the “unified state”, but their mind would again be restricted to accessing only a single brain. I imagine that some participants would see that this experience would prove that they actually are the same person as everybody else when connected, and they could thereby conclude that it also has to be true, in the same sense as Open Individualism, even when nobody is experiencing a state of “unified mind”. Other people will argue that this is just an illusion given by the sharing of memories in the unified state. Some of these people will wonder if the “unified state” had messed up all the minds of the participants, and may also doubt that they actually are the same individual mind that was associated before the connection with the same brain that they find they have after the disconnection. For a reductionist, there is nothing that can be messed up. If such an experiment takes place, it is important that every participant be aware of Open Individualism Theory so as to interpret their experience in the correct way. What really would happen in such a joining experiment is that the subjective time associated with each flow of consciousness would converge to a single subjective time, and later, as soon as each participating brain is disconnected, many subjective times will be generated again.

86. Because Open Individualism requires reconsidering our naive concept of time, we are naturally led to imagine what will happen “after our death”. It is very hard to grasp that this is an “empty question”. The Open Individualism model requires us to introduce an eternalist framework where the world, or all the possible worlds, exist together without the need for any “absolute time”; there is rather just a property that previously I called “external time” that actually does not flow, it just allows us to sort two or more states of the world so as to interpret them as a sequence. Time as we experience it is a “subjective time” that represents the flow of the subjectivity phenomenon along a path in this eternalist framework. Death is the closed end of one of these paths. There is no “time after”: there is simply the end of the subjective time that was created by the flowing through the path. In the immediate neighborhood of that end, there is no viable continuance of such subjective time, so it simply ceases to be perceived by the subjectivity phenomenon.

87. But suppose that a brain that is about to die is connected with other brains. The unified mind will not cease to exist at the death of one of the connected brains. The subjectivity phenomenon will continue to flow through the common path supported by all the other connected brains. Subjectively, no one will experience any death. Once disjoined, the unified mind will split into (n - 1) brains instead of n brains. This corresponds to the experience of having an incident where a part of our brain ceases to function. This may be very unpleasant and may bring a loss of capability, but it is not a real death. Thus, it would be the same if we were connected with other brains forming a unified mind at the moment of the death of our individual body. This may also be very unpleasant and may bring about a loss of capability, but it is not a real death. Actually, this will represent for us the only effective way to avoid death.

88. This will be even more effective if we ever build a real conscious machine. Such a machine may seem impossible to build, but actually our body can also be considered to be a very sophisticated machine, so I think that this will be possible. A real conscious machine will have to generate the subjectivity phenomenon, creating a contextual subjective time. I think that this cannot work just using a software simulation, it will require some special hardware, because this hardware will have to use entanglement and maybe other quantum phenomena. This implies that it is impossible that we live in a simulated world, as many authors have suggested. Anyway, for all the reasons explained, the subjectivity phenomenon has to be exactly the same whatever may happen, so it would apply at every level of reality, as well as through all the possible multiverses that may host life. Once a real conscious machine is built, it will be possible to connect our biological brains with it to form a unified mind. It will also be possible to use a large conscious machine to connect our brains together, almost like what we do today connecting with the Internet. In this case, when an individual is about to die, to avoid the discontinuity of consciousness at the end of the individual path they just have to connect to an artificial brain and wait for the death of the original body. Maybe the death could be provided directly by the connecting machine, once the mind of the individual is merged with the unified mind. This will prevent the death from occurring when the individual is again in the disconnected state. As a final remark about this argument, I think that these conscious machines will require the same technology that will allow us to build brain extensions to enhance our mind capacities. This will make us as intelligent as any conscious machine may ever be. Because of the possibility of directly connecting our brains with conscious machines, I do not think that conscious machines will ever become malevolent to humans, as many authors today are afraid of. All conscious entities will become like hardware support for the subjectivity phenomenon, which will seek to use all of them to the best. Actually, I think that the worst danger for humanity, aside from an external condition such as a catastrophic cosmic event, will be the inability to avoid social disaster for already ongoing events such as the vicious cycles of the financial markets and the wars to control economic resources. These dangers are implicitly related to the widely-adopted assumption that everybody has their own separated personal identity, the view that Daniel Kolak calls “Closed Individualism”, because occasionally it makes what is actually a loss for the whole community seem to be advantageous for a single individual.

89. In regard to free will, the tale of Jorge Luis Borges’ “The library of Babel” suggested to me a way to demonstrate the conceptual equivalence between a world model where every single event is not deterministically defined at the quantum level, so leaving room for a genuine chance factor, and a world model where every single event is deterministically defined even at the quantum level by some hidden variable or by the pilot wave of Bohm’s interpretation. The key concept is that the latter model does not eliminate the chance factor, but instead moves all of its occurrences to the beginning time, applying a unified choice to the initial conditions of Big Bang. To choose by chance a book in the library of Babel is perfectly equivalent to choosing by chance every single character until the sequence of characters forms an entire book. To choose all together a large number of conditions is no different, in a reductionist sense, than making a large number of choices, each for every condition, at the time the choice is required.

90. The problem of whether at least some of these choices are given by chance or by some “free decision” of some “subject” is simplified when the identity of the subject is eliminated, as Open Individualism allows us to do. In this way, once the possible subject is reduced to the subjectivity phenomenon, and once all the choices are reduced to a single initial event or many single nondeterministic events, we may think in two ways: First, that these choices are given by some genuine subjective decision, and in this case, the fact that the subject is always the same allows us to attribute to the very same subject all the genuine decisions of all the living beings. Otherwise, we may think that the choices are the result of some non-reducible rules (in the sense that they cannot be determined by the scientific investigation of the physical world) that govern the mind behavior in a hidden but deterministic way. In any case, however, the fact that there is only one possible subject means that these rules should be both general and specific to the subject. I mean that if we assume that free will is true, we cannot predict if a brain in a given state A will in the next instant assume the state B or the state C, if both B and C are acceptable results. If there exist many different subjects, the outcome may depend on the identity of the subject. Each subject may have different probabilities of choosing the B state or the C state. This would imply that these differences express the different wills of the subjects. But if we reduce the subject to one, each outcome B and C will always have their specific probabilities even if we repeat the same test many times. This makes it impossible to determine whether the hypothetical rules related to the changes of brain states are something that influences the nature of the single subject, or something that expresses the nature of the subject.

91. Every possible story has its chance to become real. Returning to the library of Babel, we may think that once all the stories that are nonsense or impossible for some physical reason are removed, we may group the remainder into different sets of books. Each book of these sets of books will contain the story narrated in the first person of each living being in one of the possible universes. One set will tell the story of our universe as lived from the different points of view of all the creatures that ever lived or will live in it. But there can also exist many variations on this set, maybe another set of books with all the same stories up until now, but with differences from now to the far future, based on a different choice that you may make now about some private fact of yours. If you have genuine free will, your behavior will influence what set of stories will be possible from here into the future. You cannot exclude all the unpleasant futures, but you may exclude a small portion of them. This means that it makes sense for you to choose the best for you and everybody else in the future (being aware that they are all different versions of you). You may think that having free will does not change the fact that, in all the possible lives of all the possible worlds, there still remain some bad choice paths that you must, sooner or later, walk along. What would free will mean in this case? My answer is that free will in this case will affect the frequencies of the stories you determine with your choices. This implies that every story can be chosen more than once, and that our free will can increase the frequency of each story. This implies that stories are finite in number. This might be an idea that many refuse to accept.

92. The DVD library of Babel is the set of all the possible movies that can be stored on a DVD. We are led to think that they are infinite in number, but if you consider that each of them are stored on a DVD containing 4 or maybe 8 GB of information, we have to conclude that the number of all the possible recombinations of those bytes is finite, although that number is so great that we could not write it down in decimal form within an entire lifetime. If we want to imagine more movies, we have to imagine increasing the resolution of the audio and video formats and the length of the movie. In regard to the resolution, consider that we have some hardware limits with our natural senses, so too high a resolution is useless. In regard to the length, consider that any DVD with twice the length can be obtained by choosing in a suitable way two DVDs in the existing collection. So we really do not need an actually infinite number of choices, because we are not able to distinguish between them. This excludes the infinities, so let us to conclude that it makes sense to think that, provided that free will is real, then my behavior in a given situation will influence the outcome of the same situation when I live it from another point of view.

93. Finally, Open Individualism can eliminate the debate between reductionist and dualist philosophers. This is possible because once you reduce the mind to one, you have no need of anything that differentiates one mind from another. To understand this, imagine that you believe that everybody has a soul. Imagine then that each body has a soul with a different color for each person. When you reduce the total number of souls to one, everybody has a soul with the same color. But at this point, it is completely unimportant what color it is: you may also imagine that that color is completely transparent. The need to use color disappears. From this metaphor, once the mind has no identity, you have no reason to imagine an entity that integrates the physical world to explain the complexity of the mind and its behavior. All these complexities, once they refer to the same subject, have no reason to be interpreted on a dualist theory: they can be accepted as general rules that we can consider inherent to the world and its perception from a first-person point of view. The fact that you and me see the color red in the same way does not require appealing to something that particularly addresses my mind and your mind and every other mind: this can be regarded as a rule that is inherent to the subjectivity phenomenon that happens every time a complex bunch of matter represents a starting point for being processed by the subjectivity function, generating a subjective time. This generalization of the mind, eliminating the need for the identity concept, can transform every subjective problem into an objective problem. This is the real power of Open Individualism, making it the ideal complement to any Reductionist Theory, and I dare say, the only possible definitive complement.

 

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