Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Bridge On The River Botgirl: Immersion vs. augmentation take two

Try these thought experiments on for size:

Think back to yourself when you were a darling child of five. Is the person you're thinking of the same being as the you who is reading this post?

How can you prove that the you who woke up this morning is the same being who went to sleep the night before, and not just a fresh manifestation of consciousness experiencing a continuity of memory and biology?

If some evil madman strapped you to a chair, sawed off the top of your skull and methodically removed your brain bit-by-bit as he engaged you in conversation, at exactly what stage would you consider yourself gone?

If the same evil madman cut out the section of your brain that stores your memories and replaced it with the memories of another victim, would the being who woke up in your body still be you?

I think it's reasonable to extrapolate that the idea of human personhood is no more or less a fiction than the idea of avatar personhood. Both conceptions are merely convenient labels that take a present-moment experience and hypostatize it forward and backward through imagined time. Doesn't this make the immersion vs. augmentation debate a moot point:
O Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness. They do not appear nor disappear, are not tainted nor pure, do not increase nor decrease. Therefore in emptiness: no form, no feelings, no perceptions, no formations, no consciousness; no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realm of eyes...until no realm of mind-consciousness; no ignorance and also no extinction of it...until no old-age and death and also no extinction of it; no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path, no cognition, also no attainment with nothing to attain. from The Heart Sutra

4 comments:

Mister Crap said...

Is there ever such a thing as a GOOD madman?

Botgirl Questi said...

Jack Black.

Kanomi™ said...

Doesn't that quotation make *everything* moot? That is one of the dismaying things about Buddhism.

I would be curious, would a sentient machine even perceive time as we do? Would it perceive it at all?

Botgirl Questi said...

My wee understanding of the The Heart Sutra is that the perception of "emptiness" actually elicits compassion rather than nihilism. Although it sees all conceptions as ultimately illusory, as a sentient being we know that pain can feel excruciatingly bad, so we act to relieve suffering and promote happiness.

On the time question, I wonder whether all sentient biological beings perceive time in the same way:

http://www.physorg.com/news126460751.html

I think it is likely that the perception of time by sentient machines would also differ based upon their cognitive structure.