So talking about computer games, I have just finished playing the game Soma and thought I would discuss some of the issues it raises. [Warning: spoilers ahead!] In the game you begin as Simon, a man afflicted with some kind of brain tumour. He agrees to take part in some advanced imagining of his brain and then the end (hardly, though it is the end of Simon 1.0). We awake in a post-apocalyptic future as Simon 2.0, an artificial intelligence imprinted with the brain scan of Simon 1.0. First philosophical dilemma then. The original Simon died 100 years ago. Though I have his identity I am not him. So what to do? Do you just sit there in the world, refusing to accept the obvious falsity of this transplanted identity? Well that’s certainly an option, and as with Patient 42: the text adventure one of the …
Continuing this series of posts examining identity fluidity, I was chatting with Jacob Isler, who runs a YouTube channel devoted to tulpamancy (he's also a psychology undergrad). I was interested in his experiences of multiplicity (or plurality) of consciousness. Anyway, Jacob kinda criticised my model, so I thought I would clarify it.
So this is the original diagram. Consciousness sits between two aspects that argue to be us. Soma (which includes our biological heritage and evolved predispositions) and identity (which includes our psychological heritage, our personality, our autobiography). In the last post I said that all identity is essentially fictionalised. What I meant by that in simplified form: The past cannot dictate to the future. The self is not a contract out of which we cannot escape. Arguing that we are trapped in the valley of the self does not make it so.
Let's return to a topic I've been pondering quite a lot recently. So in some of the previous posts, I have been examining what it is to be a human being. Let us refer back to a diagram I drew for one of those earlier posts. Here consciousness sits like bubbles in a boiling saucepan of water, atop the two aspects that appear to determine being (using the analogy of the water, they are the hydrogen and the oxygen). We have soma (the body) and identity (psychological heritage).
Now, let's assume that gender fluidity is a phenomenon that reflects a loosening of the importance of the biological aspect of human being. Just because our biology argues that we "are" something, doesn't mean we have to abide by it. Evolution can set up the chess board, but I think it is evident that evolution cannot compel us to play the game …
Well it took a lot longer than expected and I'm not wholly satisfied with it, but here is a very short text adventure based on the earlier post Patient-42. When I was a kid I loved the old Infocom text adventures (especially The Leather Goddesses of Phobos) and I have always harboured a secret ambition to make my own. Now that I've had a go, I can honestly say that it's not something I intend to pursue further. But it was a fun project, if nothing else. Basically the same plot as the earlier post, but in interactive mode. One thing I do prefer about this version (over the passive narrative), is that you have the freedom to stop progressing the story. Of course you can stop reading the story version, but here the flashing cursor is continuously asking "what do you want to do?" and like life, the choice …
You wake up. You are in a bed. From your vantage you see a door not far from the foot of the bed. Beside you is a small table, upon which appears to be a book. You do not know who you are, or what you are doing there.
You get out of bed, and move to the door. There doesnt appear to be a handle of any kind. You push your fingers into the small gap between the wall and the door. No good though. You cannot get a purchase. You press an ear to the door. You think you can hear mumbles and bangs, but nothing more.
You suddenly remember the book. Nothing on the cover suggests its contents. You open it up. Inside is writing. You can read the words. Perhaps that is something to be thankful for. Inside the book is text, written in second person …
Okay. I feel a little bit like I'm flogging a dead horse with these "you are an illusory being" posts. Of course the nature of what it is to be a human is important, but is also irrelevant to the wider conclusions as to everything being pointless! (Everything is pointless whether you are a human or not.) Bear in mind this post is going to be a lot more comprehensible if you've read some of the recent posts. I'm in a diagram and aphorism mood. So. #1: Always bear in mind Clive Wearing!
Let us look at the first diagram. This is a model of what you are/are not. Here consciousness is the process by which you look out of your eyes and you ask: Who am I? Where am I? (Think of Clive.) Then we have soma (aka the body). This is the evolved, biological part of you …
Continuing my thoughts on the illusory nature of self. Let's consider a pretty stock science fiction scenario: I am a neuroscientist. I have
developed a silicone replacement for the neuron. I am now initiating human trials and my first test-subject is before me. Prior to this experimental procedure, the subject was given extensive psychological testing. We have a wide range of validated measures on which to
compare their post-surgery scores. And so we begin...
There are approximately 100 billion neurons in the human brain. I remove one neuron from the brain of the subject, replacing it with my
silicone version, let's call it a brain-chip. Not unsurprisingly, the test-subject reports no change in how they feel (it's a bit early to do any psychological testing). As the process is automated, we set the computer to replace 25% of the organic neurons with the brain-chips.
The precision surgery proceeds quickly and …
Following on from the discussion in Misery in the Brain of the Earth Ape, consider Clive Wearing. Here is a creature that like few others truly shows us
what the naked human is. Where we wear our past identity like a life preserver,
Clive lacks that particular luxury. We are all of us Clive. But instead of
nothingness, we reach into our mind and answer the question: who are we, what are
we? Ha. If only it were not so easy. If only we were not so easily sold. Note to
self (hehe): don't fall for the quick sell. The past is a foreign land, and our
past selves are the autobiography of a stranger left behind in a room. We can
choose to continue to play the character as written. But that is a choice. Or we
can play the character anew. Equally valid. At least until that character …
I'm still reading through Harry Thompson's excellent fictionalised account of the voyage of the
I've been particularly struck by the fate of one of the characters,
known as Jemmy Button.
Jemmy was a native from the islands around Tierra del
Fuego and was
captured by the captain of the HMS
Beagle - Robert
FitzRoy, who took Jemmy
(and three other Fuegians) from their stone-age lives and transported
them back to England, for a good christian education. The picture shows
two sketches of Jemmy, the left hand picture depicting Jemmy before his
education and the right hand showing the transformation of Jemmy into a
more modern human being.
At the heart of Jemmy Button's story is an empirical test. At the time
of Jemmy's capture, human slavery was still very much a
fact of life and the prevailing opinion was that the native and slave
people that the Europeans …
Another thought experiment. Bob has developed an artificial
brain cell. It works
exactly like a real,human braincell and can be
transplanted into the
brain, to replace any lost cells. The other cells around it, do not
'know' that the cell is artificial, and to all intents and purposes, it
is a real brain cell (albeit, made by Bob).
I volunteer to be Bob's first guinea
pig. We are going to
conduct a couple of interesting experiments. Bob is first going to
replace my brain cells, with his artificial cells, one at a time. At
what point am I going to feel differently, if at all? Bob begins the
procedure and takes one of my brain cells and replaces it with his exact
duplicate cell (importantly the cell is able to mimic the real cell
exactly). No information is lost in the transplantation process. Do I
feel differently after …