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.)


The S Words: Sentience, Sapience, and Sophonce

Based off a comment here, some quick definitions for you as they’re used in the Eldraeverse:

(Note, of course, that I’m using a considerable amount of Minovsky cognitive science here; your mileage may vary if you try and apply any of it elsewhere.)

sentience: the property of having sense perception; the capability of experiencing sensation, without necessarily associating mental symbology with sensation.  Includes not only sophonts, but animals, plants, single-celled organisms, and a variety of simple devices (even something as simple as a thermostat can reasonably be described as sentient, if minimally so).  Quantized, for technical purposes, as sensory bandwidth in bits per unit time.

sapience: the capacity for rational thought and creativity; not necessarily associated with either sentience or volition.  Again, includes many non-sophonts, primarily animals, but also various types of computer program.

autosentience: self-perception and self-reflection, metacognition; self-awareness (“I-ness”); the possession of qualia (mental symbology associated with sensation), which for the purposes of Eldraeverse cogsci is a corollary of metacognition.  Most animals (but not the plants, single-celled organisms – this is from an Earth perspective, and such odd plantimal life forms as the mezuar and the selyéva aren’t counted among these plants – and devices) qualify as autosentient to some degree, as does thinker-grade or above AI software (although not simple AI expert systems, which are sapient but not autosentient; they have no qualia, merely data).

In civilized societies, certain civil rights are associated with autosentience, principally concerned with the right not to be subjected to arbitrary suffering since, with autosentience, one attains the ability to experience suffering.

threshold autosentience: the minimal degree of autosentience required to meaningfully describe oneself as “I”; the possession of a meaningful self-associated self-symbol in one’s mental architecture.  (In many sentients, it is associated with the presence of a consciousness loop organizing cognitive processing into a narrative thread, but this isn’t a requisite of these mental architectures; the case of non self-associated self-symbols is odd, but does seem to be permitted – see Stross, here, although this isn’t the path their AI development took.) It is often, but is not necessarily associated with a high level of sapience; many animals qualify as sapients without possessing threshold autosentience, and obviously many programs, including much alife, possess very impressive problem-solving abilities while being entirely devoid of autosentience.  Thinker-grade AI possesses this, too, but does not have volition.

volition: the capacity for nondeterministic choice; in sophonts, associated with possession of one of a class of nondeterministic algorithms known as logoi.  (However, known/constructable sophont mental architectures utilize primarily deterministic choice with only occasional logotic input.)

sophonce: possessing all of threshold autosentience, sapience, and volition; i.e., being “a self-aware, self-defining entity capable of independent reason and volition”.  Biological sophonts and digisapiences, the highest grade of AI entity.

Have all the natural rights of people, because they’re the definition of “people”.

Oh, and:

pro-sophonce: the almost-but-not-quites, the creatures almost reaching the requirements for sapience/threshold autosentience to be counted among the sophonts, but not quite.  The dolphins, dogs, octopi, (on Earth) apes, etc.  Again, generally receive some civil rights in civilized societies due to this status (and, by the same metric, generally considered prime candidates for uplift work), but not considered actual people unless uplifted.