SMBC: So, how long do we live?

Click through for full sized version, and for the red button caption.

via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

This cartoon reminds me of one of the objections I often hear to mind uploading, that even if the uploaded mind was identical to the original, there would be a break in continuity between them.  I’ve never quite understood why that break in continuity would be any worse than the one that occurs with a nap, or any other period of non-consciousness.

It’s interesting how strongly some young children resist falling asleep, occasionally not allowing themselves to succumb until they’re exhausted.  It’s made me wonder if there isn’t some primal fear of the end of the current consciousness.  Of course, it’s probably just a fear of missing out on whatever’s going on after they go to bed.

10 thoughts on “SMBC: So, how long do we live?

  1. I’ve never quite understood why that break in continuity would be any worse than the one that occurs with a nap, or any other period of non-consciousness.

    Even if you’re not actively aware of it, most of your brain processes continue when you’re asleep. That’s different from an upload, where you’d have complete cessation of brain processes.

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    1. True (although I’d use the word “many” rather than “most”). Things are far more shut down when under general anesthesia where you’re basically put into a coma. (The times I was under anesthesia, I found it subjectively the same as sleep.)

      But in all cases, consciousness stops, and is restarted later. A break in continuity is still experienced.

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  2. That’s actually sort of refreshing – to get a new consciousness after a night’s rest brings a whole new meaning to various cliches. Sleep on it. It’ll seem brighter in the morning. Tomorrow’s another day. Etc.

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    1. Absolutely. You’ll feel like a new person in the morning 🙂

      Of course, it’s refreshing because, during sleep, waste products that built up throughout the day are removed, information storage consolidated, and other housekeeping tasks performed. If that could happen without sleep, you might live in a perpetual state of freshness.

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  3. This argument worried me for several days until I realized that it proved too much. If sleep (which may be partly unconscious, but shallow NREM-stage-1 sleep is conscious enough that people awoken from it often think they were still awake, & about 2/3 of deeper sleep, according to studies where scientists woke people up & asked them what they were experiencing, consists of dreams, non-immersive hallucinations, or thinking of other sorts) or uploading interrupted consciousness, then so would being in a simulation that someone paused & then restarted, which is indistinguishable from normal reality. For that matter, at any particular time, you can select a period of time too short for your neurology to do meaningful processing in, & declare that that time (considered alone) interrupts your consciousness. These comparisons convinced me that uploading doesn’t change personal identity, & since I would believe that even if the uploaded mind was edited slightly, neither does sleep.

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    1. Thanks for your comment! Not sure which argument you’re referring to, but I agree uploading (assuming the fidelity is high) doesn’t change personal identity. Although I do think it’s a matter of personal philosophy, of how we define “personal identity”.

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