Category Archives: Survival

The self-hood stance

Let us expand upon the self-hood stance a bit and contrast it to Dennet’s Stances. From the all-knowing wiki

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  • The most concrete is the physical stance, which is the domain of physics and chemistry. At this level, we are concerned with such things as mass, energy, velocity, and chemical composition. When we predict where a ball is going to land based on its current trajectory, we are taking the physical stance. Another example of this stance comes when we look at a strip made up of two types of metal bonded together and predict how it will bend as the temperature changes, based on the physical properties of the two metals.
  • Somewhat more abstract is the design stance, which is the domain of biology and engineering. At this level, we are concerned with such things as purpose, function and design. When we predict that a bird will fly when it flaps its wings on the basis that wings are made for flying, we are taking the design stance. Likewise, we can understand the bimetallic strip as a particular type of thermometer, not concerning ourselves with the details of how this type of thermometer happens to work. We can also recognize the purpose that this thermometer serves inside a thermostat and even generalize to other kinds of thermostats that might use a different sort of thermometer. We can even explain the thermostat in terms of what it’s good for, saying that it keeps track of the temperature and turns on the heater whenever it gets below a minimum, turning it off once it reaches a maximum.
  • Most abstract is the intentional stance, which is the domain of software and minds. At this level, we are concerned with such things as belief, thinking and intent. When we predict that the bird will fly away because it knows the cat is coming and is afraid of getting eaten, we are taking the intentional stance. Another example would be when we predict that Mary will leave the theater and drive to the restaurant because she sees that the movie is over and is hungry.

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The self-hood stance nestles between the design and the intentional stances. It is a entity whose parts all seem designed at least somewhat for the preservation of that entity. So part of the entity is injured we might expect another part of it to repair it. When a part of an entity is running low on a resource to perform functions that help other bits of the entity we might expect that resource to be transferred from another part of an entity. Parts might clean other parts. The self is in general homoeostatic and is  what it make sense to consider preserved by autonomic systems.

We get surprised when bits of an entity don’t help out itself. When an ant’s brain and legs conspire to sacrifice it attacking a predator. At least until we make sense of it as part of a larger self, the gene’s that make it up.

Omohondro’s drives suggest that any AI will develop a self-hood.

Now it is late. I shall come back to this another day


Origin of Identity

I think I have to back it up a little. I’ve jumped halfway into my argument about identity and not given a firm basis. So let us go back to the beginning, the origin of identity.

Where does it come from?  It is not obvious.  So let us ask our friends the sciences what they think of identity.

Particle Physics: I’ve no idea what you are talking about. There are no objects, no people. There are simply atoms, the things you describe might be made of atoms, but I just don’t care about them. They may as well not exist for all I care. I can predict everything without having to reference these things, ockhams razor suggests I get rid of these things.

Well not a good start. But we mere mortals cannot predict everything with particle physics, so we have to go up the scale.

Engineering : We we have bodies so that is a good start. However they aren’t really associated with people per se. We can cut them in half and get two bodies. And then predict Or join them two bodies together to get one, like the beast with two backs.

Beasts, eh. Maybe biology will be more helpful.

Biology : I know all about the self. One of my most important tenets is self-replication!

Finally! So how do you determine what is a self? Everything in a continuous body? Everything with the same genome?

Biology: Not so easy. You might have viruses in your body. They may even insert themselves in your genome and then preferentially self-replicate themselves. Cancer cells start off as normal cells part of your self, working towards normal goals then slowly get their genetic code subverted. Ants/Bees in a colony aren’t 100% identical DNA but all tend to work as one entity

So we have to do adopt something similar to the intentional stance, something is a self if it helps us to think of it as a self. By a self, I mean something with a coherent identity and goal. Including ourselves! Evolution will tend to produce things that are have an identity of self-hood, a thing that is replicated. It may even come to know itself and recognize what is itself vs what is other, so it can then protect itself.

Personal Identity

I’m loosely associating this with survival, but I am really just going back to some philosophy that I’ve looked at before. It is also somewhat playful. I take an idea and run with it for a while. I’m not sure if I am going to keep it with me forever.

There are various interesting ideas about the future such as emulated humans and AIs that copy themselves. Emulated humans are people that have had their brains scanned and then computers run an emulation (one of the biggest proponents of the idea is Robin Hanson, his scenario may be found here). Emulated humans are also implicit in some peoples thoughts on cryonics. People contend that if the emulation has the same responses to the same stimuli, or output to input, they are the same person. It doesn’t matter if they have a body or are a brain-in-a-vat they are still the same. It is a functional/computational view of self-hood.

So what happens if you copy someone? Lets assume they are atomically identical, just in a different space. By this view you have two of the same person. Both have the same function, both are the same person! What do you do with their bank account? What would their lovers do (this would depend a lot upon the people involved!)?

My view is more pragmatic. Self-hood is fragment-able and pragmatic. You are the same person when it helps to think of yourself as the same person as you were. That you still prefer certain foods, other people have certain dispositions to you,  you have skills at certain video games or the way you handle your money are moderately stable and help you predict yourself and your world. If these things stay the same, then you are the same person. The sum of the way you think about yourself defines your personal identity. Creating another exact copy of you won’t change things too much, except how the rest of the world relates to you.

It will vastly change the social aspect of your pragmatic identity. As well as personal identities, we all have identities in other peoples minds that they use to predict us. Part of the identity of other people is the number of bodies they have! So copying me would change a very large aspect of peoples conception of me.  Due to the way fact that they interact with me is part of my identity, so my self-identity would have to change. I would now have to be whpearson1 or whpearson2 so that other people could relate to the mes.

Another aspect that might change is your relation to the physical world. If you own only one pre-copying you suddenly find yourself having to share or steal a car. If you found it useful to define yourself by your possessions before hand, then you would lose that ability to predict yourself.

People grieve about lost possessions and relationships, so I don’t think it too much of stretch to say they represent small parts of your personal death. Grieving being a period of reconfiguration of what it means to be you.

So ironically copying me functionally would in some ways make me cease to exist. It depends how much of my identity was wrapped up in social or physical interactions.

By the pragmatic view