The body, consciousness, and Altered Carbon

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posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 07:52 AM
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I've been reading an interesting if violent science fiction novel Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. In this book, individual consciousness can be downloaded into a different "sleeves", or bodies. A traditional science fiction idea to be sure. It got me thinking about how well this downloading would work.

Phenomenology is a style of philosophy made popular in the 20th Century where human experience is described and analyzed as it is lived, in concrete, embodied existence. The philosophical movement of existentialism is often considered a correlate philosophy to phenomenology.

A principle philosopher in the phenomenological tradition is Maurice Merleau-Ponty who was particularly interested in describing our bodily experiences, and our consciousness as part of this bodily existence. One way of getting us to think phenomenologically about the body is thinking about the experience of parallel parking a car we have never driven before. It feels awkward. We don't quite no where the back and front of the car is. We don't quite get how sharply the car can turn. It feels like we are inhabiting another skin when we park a strange car.

It's this insight that made me wonder how feasible it would be to try to download a consciousness from one body to another. How well would it work? It seems that our consciousness is made up of a matrix of our bodies, emotions, thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Indeed, it seems that our bodies our pivotal to the generation of our consciousness. Would it be possible to download one consciousness into a foreign body, and still have it be that same consciousness?

Alternatively we might ask, as is often done in science fiction, is it possible to download a consciousness into a computer, or some other dis-emboided agent? Would consciousness even be human if it didn't inhabit a body? Would our consciousness be the same if it inhabited a different body?

Those are lots of questions, but I often find the questions the most interesting part of philosophical discussions.

[edit on 8/26/2008 by Toromos]




posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 10:29 AM
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Originally posted by Toromos

It's this insight that made me wonder how feasible it would be to try to download a consciousness from one body to another. How well would it work? It seems that our consciousness is made up of a matrix of our bodies, emotions, thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Indeed, it seems that our bodies our pivotal to the generation of our consciousness. Would it be possible to download one consciousness into a foreign body, and still have it be that same consciousness?

[edit on 8/26/2008 by Toromos]


I've wondered the same thing - but from a different angle

a person who is trapped inside a body that no longer works the way it did - or even if it doesn't look the way it did

I have had a personal experience with a loved one that was similar to the situation in the movie The Sea Inside - which I never saw because it was too close

who are you without your ability to function or interact with anything in your environment - the way you used to?

are you still you?

in some ways the question applies to anyone who has suffered through an illness, accident - anything that changes the way they function - or look even - since that is so much a part of identity - how do you reconcile who you are now with the you that you had become based on different circumstances?

if you knew you could continue - but the essence of who you really are now will continue on in a machine - what would be your incentive?

life is so physical - we are so physical

in a way - your question involves reincarnation - not to redirect this towards religion - I only mention it because the concept is the same - your consciousness is transferred to another "sleeve"

whether it's real or not - the one thing that always comes up is - you can't necessarily recall who you were before - maybe there's a reason for that



posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 11:23 AM
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Those are great questions Spiramirabilis, and having a broken or disabled body as raising these issues of consciousness is perhaps even more pressing in our daily lives.

I've studied Buddhism for many years, so the concept of rebirth interests me. For Buddihists (and for Plato interestingly enough) we tend to forget our previous lives. Also, personal identity for Buddhists is a fluid kind of illusion, so there's no real problem in being born into a different body.



posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 12:09 PM
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I have a jew disorder which disfigures me slightly. I guess some people would think I look weird, but I think I look fine...most of the time. It also gives me a slight speech impediment and can be frustrating, obviously. On top of that, I have aneurological condition which has never been diagnosed. Nobody can find anything wrong with my brain, but I get these things I refer to as "thought explosions". I'll be sitting there, and start to feel faint... and then BOOM for about 5 seconds, I'll be paralyzed by this rush of images, voices, sounds, sensations, thousands and thousands of them, seemingly instantly.... and if I'm standing up while this happens, I might fall over because my body panics and sometimes I lose control of it.

If my consciousness is this body and is purely made of this body, then I should be a completely insane person with an ugly and creepy personality... but I'm a very mild mannered kind and cognizant person inside. I don't view this body as me at all. It feels like a car with a few very annoying malfunctions that I am forced to drive constantly.

I don't know if I would change that if I had the chance, though. I definitely agree that the body shapes personality.... but I don't think personality is what consciousness is. I sometimes get sick of trying to be who I am, and I think about moving away and playing the role of someone completely different than me. Can consciousness get tired of itself?

Or can consciousness just be tired of the "person" it has become and been for so long?

Like... Dungeons and Dragons or an RPG videogame. Sometimes our "selves" feel much the same.

I think consciousness would definitely mold to whichever body it is in. You could be quiet and withdrawn in one body of seeming "lesser quality", but if you had the chance to be in a Brad Pitt body, you would eventually become more outgoing and daring because of how your environment interacts with your new body.

I believe you are talking about personality here, and personality is just the suit within the suit that consciousness wears.

Interesting to note that even if you still kept the same body, simply changing the environment that the body is in will augment the personality...

Like a friend who's been living in another part of the country for a while. He comes to visit, and he's totally different. I guess it all depends on how stubborn the personality is.



posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 12:14 PM
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Also.... I do0n't think personality comes entirely from the body or the environment. I think possibly it comes from the combined experiences of the higher consciousness that lives behind and transcends our personality and our body. Just look at someone who's grown up in a completely dysfunctional and negative environment, but somehow the person transcends these things and is fully functional and positive, despite his difficulties. They definitely color his personality, but if his personality came strictly from the person's environment... you would expect the said person to be completely dysfunctional and full of negative behavior.



posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 06:10 PM
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Originally posted by Toromos
I've studied Buddhism for many years, so the concept of rebirth interests me. For Buddihists (and for Plato interestingly enough) we tend to forget our previous lives. Also, personal identity for Buddhists is a fluid kind of illusion, so there's no real problem in being born into a different body.


I've become very interested in Buddhism myself - and the idea of reincarnation makes sense to me

the idea and questions surrounding our true identity - and true natures - has always been something that keeps poking at me

I see reincarnation as a spiritual form of evolution - who knows that it doesn't work with our physical evolution in some way

and maybe remembering who you were would interfere with the process

who knows

I only know that I think your original question is a very interesting one

maybe in the future we literally end up being the ghost in the machine



posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 06:18 PM
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Originally posted by dunwichwitch
....I sometimes get sick of trying to be who I am, and I think about moving away and playing the role of someone completely different than me. Can consciousness get tired of itself?

Or can consciousness just be tired of the "person" it has become and been for so long?


I think those are very interesting questions - on several levels

maybe it is a sign a needing to move on -

or, maybe the things you do to be you are literally wearing you out - and you just need to learn a new way to just "be"?



posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 06:49 PM
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reply to post by Spiramirabilis
 


These are also things I've considered... but the problem is I don't try very hard to "be" anything. I just try to be, period, no matter how it turns out.
If you told me to abandon my music in favor of submitting to a spiritual regiment or something, I could never do that. If you told me to join society again and just do what it takes in order to get ahead in said society, I definitely couldn't do that... because this society has very shallow foundations.

This is where the conflict arises. Society VS my consciousness.

I cannot consciously submit to it, and believe me I've tried... and I always end up making myself really physically and mentally sick in the process.
This raises quite a few questions and might possibly deserve its own thread. What do you do if you are incompatible with "society", and how does THAT shape your psyche? Are you mentally unstable? Or is society psychotic?

Sorry that was a bit off topic.



posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 07:08 PM
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Originally posted by dunwichwitch
reply to post by Spiramirabilis
 


This is where the conflict arises. Society VS my consciousness.

I cannot consciously submit to it, and believe me I've tried... and I always end up making myself really physically and mentally sick in the process.
This raises quite a few questions and might possibly deserve its own thread. What do you do if you are incompatible with "society", and how does THAT shape your psyche? Are you mentally unstable? Or is society psychotic?

Sorry that was a bit off topic.



actually - if part of the topic is about transferring our consciousness - then a conversation about what that really means seems fitting

and can it be separated from personality?

what I meant earlier is - maybe trying to be compatible with society is just not your thing - some people can do it - some can't

what I meant by learning just to "be" is as simple as it sounds

but in actual practice, I realize it's not always so simple

the OP has asked:



Alternatively we might ask, as is often done in science fiction, is it possible to download a consciousness into a computer, or some other dis-emboided agent? Would consciousness even be human if it didn't inhabit a body? Would our consciousness be the same if it inhabited a different body?


I think it's an interesting thing to think about - what would your reality be - who would you be - if you were suddenly plucked out of your current situation - and transferred into a completely different environment?

different - except that you're still you - your thoughts/likes/dislikes/personal philosophies, etc.

would any of us remain the same - or would we adapt our "self" to the new environment?

the only thing I can say that might be of any value is - put your energy where it will do you the most good

it may actually only be your perception that you're out of sync with society

but, whatever is closer to the truth - come to accept that you don't fit in

after that - it's all cake - I promise



posted on Aug, 26 2008 @ 07:12 PM
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reply to post by Toromos
 


Another book that plays with this idea is actually "The Tale of the Body Thief" by Anne Rice. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it -- I enjoyed others of her books more -- but I do remember being struck and impressed that she took the trouble to ask these questions when her characters landed in other bodies.

Both the question of how our physical form shapes our consciousness and how it shapes our personality are profoundly interesting. My gut feeling is that personality is shaped more by how our body fits into the world outside ourselves while consciousness is shaped by how our thoughts fit our body, if that makes sense.



posted on Aug, 28 2008 @ 09:39 AM
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I'm just starting to read Lakoff and Johnson's PHILOSOPHY IN THE FLESH. It begins with the idea that we are an embodied consciousness and that there is no such thing as an unembodied consciousness. Given the qualitative differences in each human (from the hormonal/neurological wiring to the environmental arena), I should think that such a thing would profoundly transform the person so that they are "not the same" when they come out on the other side.

...but the book is 600 pages and I've just read the first 40, so please take observations with much sodium chloride.

(sorry for the hit and run post, but I'm off to the museum)



posted on Aug, 28 2008 @ 10:39 AM
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My earlier years on the internet were often spent in online gaming. As an experiment and for fun, I would sometimes change my name. Because they didn't know me, people would usually treat me differently. As a stranger, I was often treated with less respect if I won a match for example, depending on the person on the other side. Using my "known" name however, I was known and respected. It gave me a bigger picture of who those people really were, and helped me to differentiate between "friend" and "acquaintance".

It would certainly be nice to have the opportunity to change identities as easily in RL.



posted on Aug, 28 2008 @ 02:15 PM
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Thanks for all the good replies, and thanks for the book recommendation Byrd. I've read Lakoff's Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things in grad school, so will look forward to the other book sometime.

Dunwichwitch, I do think there is some validity in parsing the idea of "personality" from the whole of consciousness, but it's a murky area for sure. I'm just not sure how to analyze it.

Kruel, lots of research being done these days on how people mediate their identies through online environments like WoW and Second Life. Definitely interesting avenues to explore there.



posted on Aug, 28 2008 @ 02:22 PM
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If what one was downloading was "Consciousness itself" then no, I dont think it would be awkward at all.

If one was calling "consciousness" what some would call the Ego, or identity, or the "self constructed of memories of prior experiences" then yes, it would be as awkward as suddenly being the driver of an unfamiliar car, as in your example. In the very short run. However, the ego or identity, or "self constructed of memories of prior experiences" would soon incorporate this new "car" into its construct, and all would be well again.



posted on Aug, 28 2008 @ 05:38 PM
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I am very confused and conflicted over what everyone here on ATS considers 'consciousness'. Everyone seems to talk about it as if it is some full separate object, a function of the brain that seemingly runs everything.

This idea is wrong though, have any of you bothered looking at what consciousness is? It is the same thing as saying self-aware, which is a mirror of empathy. Qualities that all species on this planet have.

It is not consciousness that separates us from other species, it is the degree of complexity of our brains that does. The tiniest genetic differences that just happened to give us that evolutionary nudge and inadvertently allowed our language to become so complex that we can ask why are we self-aware.

Given that, downloading a human brain into a computer is going to be a difficult task no doubt. The issue is recording every single nerve firing and ALL chemical balances. Even then you have to have a pretty damn good program to make sense of the new data and has the ability to simulate it to such a high degree that it continues functioning flawlessly. It has to simulate all those nerves and those chemicals. Every single function of the brain. Everything.

Consciousness isn't this one 'thing', it is a culmination of various aspects of the brains advanced functions with the added benefit of being self aware and having the complex language skills to ask why am I self aware. This needs to be considered before everyone thinks we can transfer a 'one thing' into another thing.



posted on Aug, 28 2008 @ 06:00 PM
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reply to post by Toromos
 


one way to think about it is the "ship of Theseus" complex...you got this old boat that Theseus used to drive, in your museum...every year like the woodworm eats one board off of the boat...you get the interns to go out and cut another piece of gopher wood, shape it authentically using the sincere simple tools of ignorant oldtime artisans, put it on the boat...okay it's still Theseus's boat except for that one board, which is just like the others except for provenance...years pass, every original board is rotted off, but you got all these nice replacements, every time you've assessed it, yeah, it's still Theseus old boat (yes or no?)
the relevance is, you replace your fragile protein-sac nerves one at a time with rock-candy nanotubes or what-not, preserving the wiring diagram...threw a few fresh ones into the hippocampus, hey I'm still me...until now my brain is a rock, but I've felt like me every step of the way...(or was there a tipping point when something like my spark or soul died but the mechanism left is by definition the part that doesn't notice that and I am dead but there's a stony behemoth who thinks it's me running along on my dead routines)
I come down, I am so narcissistic and egotistical that I would be quite happy to have a long-lasting psycho robotic caricature of myself running on for centuries, even if I actually died some centuries previous in the important ways...seems like a win-win to me...it all depends on how destructive the scanning/upload process is, and the penalty against early-adopter-of-crude-technique versus the risk-of-being-caught-dead-without-a-backup...



posted on Aug, 28 2008 @ 11:29 PM
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Originally posted by sirnex

This idea is wrong though, have any of you bothered looking at what consciousness is? It is the same thing as saying self-aware, which is a mirror of empathy. Qualities that all species on this planet have.



I think many of us, as philosophy junkies, have indeed bothered to look at consciousness with an eye to figuring out what it is.

We simply dont all agree on the definition of consciousness. Nor, even after consideration, do we all agree with your definition of consciousness. ( I speak for myself of course, but since I dont, ALL cannot)

In fact, "self awareness" is NOT a quality the "hard sciences" agree all animals share. In fact, they only attribute self awareness to dolphins, Asian elephants, and a few primates including humans older than 18 months old. Not that I agree with that, but the tests they have decided show self awareness, noticing when ones own image has been altered in a mirror AND making an examination of it, only those few species "pass."

www.livescience.com...

Science cannot show with that test, for instance if an animal notices their changed or altered image and chooses to ignore it as insignificant, as my cat does when I choose to stick bows on his head for my own bestial amusement during the Christmas season. I think the test is poorly constructed, but that is the test they are using, and many agree with it as a great indicator.

I am personally quite certain other animals have self awareness, but that is not accepted by the scientific community at large.

However, to confuse matters even further, when I use the term Consciousness, I am not referring to the thinking mind that can reflect on itself. I am talking to the "watching" or "observing" portion of the mind that precedes thought. I separate the two.

It seems to me that many of the posters do share your opinion that the "thinking mind" is the equivalent to "consciousness," but perhaps not all of them.

One nice, or maddening, thing about philosophy, is that there is little agreement on a lot of issues, and much debate. I personally like that aspect of it, I like having to hear other opinions and try them on for size mentally. Sometimes, it changes my own mind. When it does not, it at the very least helps me understand where my own argument for my point of view is weak and needs improvement.

Edit to add;

Empathy, btw, is not the same as self awareness.

en.wikipedia.org...


Empathy is the capacity to recognize or understand another's state of mind or emotion. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes", or to in some way experience the outlook or emotions of another being within oneself.


It is, in a sense, a step above self awareness. You can not only be aware of your own thoughts and feelings, but also entertain the thoughts and feelings of others.


[edit on 28-8-2008 by Illusionsaregrander]



posted on Aug, 29 2008 @ 04:09 AM
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reply to post by Illusionsaregrander
 





In fact, "self awareness" is NOT a quality the "hard sciences" agree all animals share. In fact, they only attribute self awareness to dolphins, Asian elephants, and a few primates including humans older than 18 months old. Not that I agree with that, but the tests they have decided show self awareness, noticing when ones own image has been altered in a mirror AND making an examination of it, only those few species "pass."


In fact, you are only half right here. This is self-'something', but I won't tell you what that 'something' is because this statement:




I think many of us, as philosophy junkies, have indeed bothered to look at consciousness with an eye to figuring out what it is.


, goes to prove how arrogant a person can be and how much a liar or ignorant person they can be. Had you truly looked into the consciousness issue, you would know why your "In fact" is a half fact.




However, to confuse matters even further, when I use the term Consciousness, I am not referring to the thinking mind that can reflect on itself. I am talking to the "watching" or "observing" portion of the mind that precedes thought. I separate the two.


Can you explain more clearly what the difference is here? As one can not internally 'watch' as thought is all that precedes thought.




It seems to me that many of the posters do share your opinion that the "thinking mind" is the equivalent to "consciousness," but perhaps not all of them.


Ah, but the reason I jumped into this discussion was because of that and the how faulty that line of thought was. I thought I was clear enough about that. Maybe not?




Empathy, btw, is not the same as self awareness.


Thankfully I never mentioned that it was the same! As I stated, self-awareness is a mirror of empathy. Mirror and like are two words with different meanings.



posted on Aug, 29 2008 @ 06:27 AM
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Sirnex, I definitely agree with the need to clarify what it is we mean by consciousness. I was hoping for a more operational definition of consciousness for this discussion, since there are so many presuppositions about the nature of consciousness. (For example, Dennett and his gang of eliminitive materialists would ultimately argue for the illlusory nature of consciousness, or consciousness as a term of folk psychology.) but another thread on delving into the perplexities of consciousness itself would be great.



posted on Aug, 29 2008 @ 11:25 AM
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Originally posted by nine-eyed-eel
reply to post by Toromos
 


....it's still Theseus old boat (yes or no?)

the relevance is, you replace your fragile protein-sac nerves one at a time with rock-candy nanotubes or what-not, preserving the wiring diagram...threw a few fresh ones into the hippocampus, hey I'm still me...until now my brain is a rock, but I've felt like me every step of the way...(or was there a tipping point when something like my spark or soul died but the mechanism left is by definition the part that doesn't notice that and I am dead but there's a stony behemoth who thinks it's me running along on my dead routines)...


I love that - a great image of the separation of brain from mind

if it is possible to have one without the other

I'm with you - I think as an idea - I would go for it - if I could ditch my sentimental attachment to my senses

but not for the potential immortality - when I consider that end of the whole thing - I go back to wondering whether or not there are stages - or options - that we might go through that I would rather not miss out on





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