Is uploading feasible?

Peter Alexander Merel pete at extro.ucc.su.OZ.AU
Sat Dec 11 15:52:00 EST 1993

mfragass at nickel.ucs.indiana.edu (Michael Fragassi) writes:
>Focusing upon the quote: 

>"If your hand doesn't think, then how about the nerves that relay the 
>brain's signals to and from that hand?"

>	Define "thinks".

I doubt anyone can. A thought is not a tangible object, not something with
boundaries or dimensions. It is more like a wave on the sea. What I'm 
suggesting is not that hands can think, but that 'thought' and 'identity'
are artificial distinctions, abstractions that we use to manage our
experiences but which don't correspond to any real physical process.

>	Does "thinks" equal "the transmission of action potentials"?

Doesn't it? Does 'thinks', in the abstract, mean anything at all?

>	Is the transmission of action potentials from any set of neurons
>diagnostic for "thinking", or for consciousness?  That is, is it necessary [at
>least in the forms of life such as we are] and is it sufficient, such that the
>presence of active populations of neurons warrants the "diagnosis" of

I guess that depends on the diagnostic method you employ.

>	This is not to deny that the hand is in some sense "part of your
>identity", but is it part of your consciousness?

Oh dear, we have to distinguish between someone's identity and their 
consciousness? I should say that both of these concepts are abstract.

>	A similar question would be, "is the presence of activity in
>recurrent or 're-entrant' feedback loops, whereby one population of neurons
>receives signals from and sends signals back to another population, equivalent 
>to introspection?" 

What is introspection anyway? Ascribing human thought processes to
mechanical models is not a falsifiable exercise, not science. Human
descriptions of human thought processes are simply not adequate as
formal descriptions, so we'd do better to direct our efforts towards
modeling the actual low level behaviours that we can detect than
waffling on about the 'meaning' of those behaviours; there may be
no 'meaning' to them at all.

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