Questions: Identity

Some identity questions from Specialist290:

We all know by now the contempt with which a good citizen-shareholder regards the continuity theory of identity,

For new readers not familiar with the Eldraeverse status quo and thus who might not know by now, the dominant theory of identity in the technologically advanced parts of the Worlds is Moravecian pattern identity theory, which the locals would sum up thus:

“‘I’ am the equivalence class of all sufficiently ‘me’-like processes.”

– Fundamentals of Sophotechnology

Continuity identity theory (i.e., that identity depends on continuity of consciousness) is by and large disdained because empiricism kicked it repeatedly in the head as neurology, cognitive science, and eventually noetics and sophotechnology developed. If none of sleep, comas natural and induced, major seizure disorders (which disrupt all electrical activity in the brain, personality and consciousness included), transcranial magnetic suspension of consciousness, or being cryonically frozen down to meatglass half a degree above absolute zero, then thawed out and woken up again break your continuity sufficiently to stop you being you… well, thus they refute it.

but as far as the consensus of those who give serious thought to such matters goes, how does mainstream Imperial philosophy view the other two extreme points on the personal identity triangle:

1. The idea that there is no such thing as a substantive, continuous identity at all, but only a series of momentary perceptions that are constantly destroyed and regenerated moment-to-moment, and that there is no identity that exists in “the present” because the brain can only compute events and perceptions that occurred in its subjective past; and

I suspect the mainstream view there is simply that it’s a category error – the equivalent of looking at a film and saying “there are only individual frames”, or looking at an object and saying “there is no object, all there are are atoms”. Or possibly looking at a drawing of a three-sided figure, and after observing the paper and the graphite marks on it, demanding to be shown which part of it the triangle is.

“Fix your reference frame”, in short.

2. The idea that the only necessary and sufficient cause for a sophont’s identity is the mechanism of sophonce itself, as all other possible determinants of a personality can be reproduced outside of a sophont mind, thus making the statement “There is only one numerically identical person, who is all sophonts in all places and at all times” true?

That one’s harder to refute inasmuch as no-one has yet – despite their best efforts – figured out how logoi (personality organization algorithms) actually work, even if they can grow them from seeds (at which point they tend to be unique). It is rendered even more complicated a question because logoi are non-deterministic algorithms, and executing a mathematically identical logos twice may and probably will produce different results.

(Here’s the really wacky thing. That’s not a property of the substrate. That’s a property of the mathematics. It doesn’t matter how you execute the logos or what you execute it on, certain operations will always produce non-deterministic results. Philosophers there tend to assume this is a product of whatever piece of fractal intricacy spawns volition and paracausality and other interestingly bizarre properties of the sophont mind, and then argue endlessly over the details because it turns out that describing it in noetic math is within delta of infinitely easier than explaining what it actually means.

Whether or not there is an identical mechanism for sophoncy buried inside all of them or not, and for that matter whether or not any of the things currently considered part of the logos can be reduced to conventional deterministic algorithms in the same way that the rest of the mind can, in the absence of Research Not Appearing In This Book, be left as an exercise for the late night dorm bull session of choice.)

That being said, the man on the street would probably point out that just because you can reproduce an alternator outside a car doesn’t mean that the car no longer includes the alternator… and a mind-state stripped all the way down to a logos won’t even run.

Additionally, are (or were) there any notable polities, creeds, or other associations that hold (or held) views close to these extremes in the Associated Worlds?

Not yet, canonically. Although I can see the latter spawning any number of wacky religious movements along the way.

(Continuity identity is probably the second most common – found among more backward civilizations, appealing as it does to pre-sophotech primitives because it matches their intuitions about how things work.)


2 thoughts on “Questions: Identity

  1. That being said, the man on the street would probably point out that just because you can reproduce an alternator outside a car doesn’t mean that the car no longer includes the alternator… and a mind-state stripped all the way down to a logos won’t even run.

    To which I can imagine another amateur philosopher will respond that just because taking the gasoline out of the car means it stops running, does that mean the fuel is also essential for the car to be a car?

    (And then I see our new dynamic duo getting into a discussion that covers such things as the sorites paradox, the Ship of Theseus, Frege’s Puzzle, etc., then concluding that what both of them really agree on is that the discussion has gotten so mind-bendingly convoluted that the only way they can make sense of it is with a nice, strong, stiff drink at the local watering hole. Or maybe ten.)


  2. Your consciousness is only a small part of what makes you, you. How many of your decisions can you fully explain? How many actions do you perform automatically?

    When you sleep your consciousness is on minimal power at many points but your subconscious is working the whole time. It’s like putting a computer on “sleep mode”, it’s still running, just with as little power as possible. Even comatose your brain is still functioning.

    Maybe it might be more appropriate to say that consciousness isn’t an app, it’s the gestalt of everything your body is doing. There’s no separation of Mind and Body.

    Frankly, the idea of “pattern continuity” stinks of Cartesian Dualism. And I thought Descartes’ philosophy sounded like “I can’t accept that the world would be so cruel otherwise, therefore God exists.”


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