Tag Archives: future

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


Configurable computing

Fitting in with RINA is the idea of configurable computing TM (working title). A future of computing where people can link together computer components in a visual programming model. These links may be local or span networks.

In the beginning was the command line, where programs can be combined together to do complex and varied task.

Next came the Application where apps are generally islands of their own perhaps sharing some libraries.

A brief trip to mobile app land (at least the android country) where programs can ask other programs to do things for them.

Now what next? Let us look go in to the stark utilitarian world of servers for some hints. Here programs setup long term communications channels between each other. Different programs can communicate in the same way and be swapped out. Most websites are built this way of components, the so called technology stack.

Can each person have their own stack? Controlling flows of information between multiple computers, devices and systems like digital wizards?

Apps are okay for the moment, so what will drive this future? It will be the personal capture of information and annotation of visual feeds. If people start life-logging, they will want and need to control what information goes where, what information is processed and how. Let us say there is a new component that processes video and extracts the text around you to be searchable, would you trust it with your video feed? To collect all your  personal moments? If you could give it a doctored feed, one that detected faces and removed them? If you could see what other information flowed out from this component you may then trust it. Or this may be the comments of a very private man.

If nothing else it will be needed for efficiency. Different Augmented Reality apps need different information flows, however they share some pre-processing steps.  They need to be able to merge these information flows so that more can be done with the processing power. Ideally doing such things in next generation fpgas for ultimate power/performance ratio. 

A few design ideas

  • Configuration should be separate from programming – This will align the operation of the computers with the users needs.
  • Configuration should be visual
  • Operation should be inspectable – You should be able to look inside any connection between component and see something
  • Configuration should be copyable
  • Configuration should be partially copyable (diffs and patching in programming)
  • Configuration should be revertible (some form of git?)
  • Configuration should be parameterised. You shouldn’t have to repeat yourself.

This post will be a work in progress. But I doubt anyone will read this for a while.