Brain scans vs. physical brains

Brain scans vs. physical brains

Joined: May 17th, 2009, 5:13 pm

June 23rd, 2009, 2:22 am #1

What are the theoretical limits to brain-scanning today?

Would it be possible to take an MRI and use that to accurately reconstruct someone's memories and personality one day?

If so, would it be just as well to simply scan someone's brain and let them be buried the normal way, rather than being cryopreserved?


IBM Develops MRI With 100 Million Times More Detail

http://www.informationweek.com/news/sho ... =212900162

MRI Magic

http://www.physicscentral.org/explore/action/mri-1.cfm
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Joined: October 11th, 2006, 4:20 am

June 23rd, 2009, 3:41 am #2

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Joined: October 2nd, 2004, 8:27 pm

June 23rd, 2009, 5:44 am #3

What are the theoretical limits to brain-scanning today?

Would it be possible to take an MRI and use that to accurately reconstruct someone's memories and personality one day?

If so, would it be just as well to simply scan someone's brain and let them be buried the normal way, rather than being cryopreserved?


IBM Develops MRI With 100 Million Times More Detail

http://www.informationweek.com/news/sho ... =212900162

MRI Magic

http://www.physicscentral.org/explore/action/mri-1.cfm
... would you rather have the real you, or a MRI picture of it?

Cheers,

FD
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Joined: October 11th, 2005, 9:18 pm

June 23rd, 2009, 4:44 pm #4

What are the theoretical limits to brain-scanning today?

Would it be possible to take an MRI and use that to accurately reconstruct someone's memories and personality one day?

If so, would it be just as well to simply scan someone's brain and let them be buried the normal way, rather than being cryopreserved?


IBM Develops MRI With 100 Million Times More Detail

http://www.informationweek.com/news/sho ... =212900162

MRI Magic

http://www.physicscentral.org/explore/action/mri-1.cfm
MRI is many many orders of magnitude from the necessary resolution. You would be getting very close to zero useful information about the wiring of the brain. You would need an imaging technology that could tell you about the very delicate an complex shapes of individual neurons. There are 100,000,000,000 neurons, each with 2000 lacey connections with other neurons. It is is very common for people to severely underestimate the level of complexity that this represents.

I appreciate someone who thinks outside the box, but that question is simply very unrealistic.
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Joined: October 2nd, 2004, 8:27 pm

June 24th, 2009, 7:03 am #5

... you would still have only an imaging of your brain, not the real brain or the real you. Even if a machine were later built that could upload that data and make it operable in some medium (a borg box, a humanlike robot, a brain transplant to a cloned body, whatnot), would that be the "real you"? What if they made 42 of them, would all of them be the "real you"?

Pandora's box/can of worms here, I am sure.

Happy Hump Day,

FD

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Joined: October 11th, 2005, 9:18 pm

June 24th, 2009, 6:23 pm #6

Yes, that would be the real you. You are information. Yes, all 42 of them would be the real you. There's nothing mystical about this process. Neurons fire, allowing a thinking machine to be aware of its surroundings and of itself. If you exactly duplicate this pattern of firing neurons, regardless of the actual substrate that it's running on, the duplicate will be just as aware of its surrounding and of itself. Your sense of "self" is highly exaggerated if you think it's anything more special than that. One reason why we all tend to give our "self" more importance is simply because we do not yet have any alternate substrate. We have no backup mechanism, and we have to repair mechanism. We can't even temporarily shut down if we need to for some reason. So naturally, we protect our physical brain very carefully. We think our physical brain is our "self" and that it's very important. It is right now, but it won't always be that way. Remove all the emotional and mystical baggage, and the scientific answer to that question is crystal clear. All copies are indeed the real you.
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Joined: April 30th, 2006, 1:38 am

June 24th, 2009, 10:36 pm #7

Jordan: "Remove all the emotional and mystical baggage, and the scientific answer to that question is crystal clear. All copies are indeed the real you."

Remove all the "emotional and mystical baggage," and I believe you become just another computer. Without emotion, we would have no joy, no laughter, no tears, no tenderness, no anger, no fear, etc...all the things that make us "human."
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Joined: October 2nd, 2004, 8:27 pm

June 24th, 2009, 10:45 pm #8

Yes, that would be the real you. You are information. Yes, all 42 of them would be the real you. There's nothing mystical about this process. Neurons fire, allowing a thinking machine to be aware of its surroundings and of itself. If you exactly duplicate this pattern of firing neurons, regardless of the actual substrate that it's running on, the duplicate will be just as aware of its surrounding and of itself. Your sense of "self" is highly exaggerated if you think it's anything more special than that. One reason why we all tend to give our "self" more importance is simply because we do not yet have any alternate substrate. We have no backup mechanism, and we have to repair mechanism. We can't even temporarily shut down if we need to for some reason. So naturally, we protect our physical brain very carefully. We think our physical brain is our "self" and that it's very important. It is right now, but it won't always be that way. Remove all the emotional and mystical baggage, and the scientific answer to that question is crystal clear. All copies are indeed the real you.
Enquiring minds want to know! Good thoughts, Jordan, but most do not have a level of certainty on which we can rely.

In fact, if a clone (and maybe 41 other copies) were ever made from the information uploaded from a human brain, philosophers would still be arguing over whether it constitutes the "real you" in the complete sense of self-awareness (and over what that even is), and whether all 42 entities are similarly equivalent. Most would likely agree they would no longer be, even seconds away from their creations, due to going their separate ways acquiring new inputs to their brains.

This all, though, is the stuff great sci-fi is made of.

Personally, I think I'll minimize the risks, and arrange to have my original brain preserved as well as possible with the view of its components and structure becoming the resuscitated substrate for my "information".

FD
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Joined: April 30th, 2006, 1:38 am

June 25th, 2009, 12:14 am #9

Yes, that would be the real you. You are information. Yes, all 42 of them would be the real you. There's nothing mystical about this process. Neurons fire, allowing a thinking machine to be aware of its surroundings and of itself. If you exactly duplicate this pattern of firing neurons, regardless of the actual substrate that it's running on, the duplicate will be just as aware of its surrounding and of itself. Your sense of "self" is highly exaggerated if you think it's anything more special than that. One reason why we all tend to give our "self" more importance is simply because we do not yet have any alternate substrate. We have no backup mechanism, and we have to repair mechanism. We can't even temporarily shut down if we need to for some reason. So naturally, we protect our physical brain very carefully. We think our physical brain is our "self" and that it's very important. It is right now, but it won't always be that way. Remove all the emotional and mystical baggage, and the scientific answer to that question is crystal clear. All copies are indeed the real you.
Jordan: "You are information. Yes, all 42 of them would be the real you."

The more I think about this, the more Jordan's thought process perplexes me. There cannot be 42 "me's." If there were 42 COPIES of "me" made, today, they would go out into the world, and each become their own person. One might learn French and how to play the oboe, another might learn German and how to play the harp. Unfortunately, "I" would not know these same things.

Back to ridding ourselves of "emotional and mental" baggage, I've been under the impression the goal of cryonicists was to preserve themselves, memories AND personality, intact. A person devoid of emotion wouldn't have much of a personality, would they?

Just thinking in print.
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Joined: September 30th, 2006, 9:44 pm

June 25th, 2009, 5:05 am #10


First, you make the mistake of thinking that a computing device is inherently emotionless. There is no reason to believe this, particularly in the case of human "uploads", where the exact physical structure is "run" on another substrate. You are right, your emotions are as much a part of you as your "rational" mind and your episodic and declarative memories. But there is nothing particularly mysterious about emotions; they seem to be what results from the function of your limbic system, endocrine system, and various neurotransmitters, all of which can be "run" as well. It is easy to fall into the belief that neurons are just fancy transistors, but they are far more complex than that. It would take far more than "simulating" (a word I dislike in this context) a simple network of switches, but would also have to take into account all the biochemistry, neurochemistry, and perception of the human brain and body. To do this, the computing machines that may be used for uploading would have to be much more complex and likely very different from what we have today. The computing machine is likely to bear as little (or considerably less) resemblance to a laptop as that laptop does to an abacus. Beware of false analogies.

As for the hypothetical 42 copies, they both are and aren't "you". They are "you" in exactly the same way as you are what you will be when you wake up tomorrow. You aren't "experiencing" the you of tomorrow in the way you experience the you of this moment, nevertheless most people prefer not to die in their sleep. All of those "copies" are you of this moment in exactly the same way (i.e. "you" but time shifted into the future), and likewise will be just as much "you" in a year or 20 years, in just they same way that the "uncopied" you will be the same person in a year or 20. But then, we really aren't the same person we were 20 years ago, are we, but we do have a real sense of continuity with that person, a sense of continuity that all the "copies" will share. Despite this shared sense of continuity, they will all be their own persons as well, beginning to diverge from each other immediately and likely to become very different from each other over the decades. You could not argue it would be acceptable to murder one because there were 41 other copies, like you would shred surplus documents. It would not be incorrect to think, from the point of view of the you of this moment, of them as 42 alternate possible future yous, but you nonetheless.

So to the question of whether a copy is "you", the answer is, like many answers in life, "yes and no".
Last edited by CF_Moderator on June 26th, 2009, 1:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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