More Questions: Security, Reputation Economy, Pattern Identity

Clearing the backlog a little again…

On “Securing Security“:

Specialist290: ‘I’m guessing, though, that in their own courts of law, the Imperials would view the refusal to voluntarily provide access to such a device as an aggravating circumstance in itself?’

Tony Harris: ‘If I’m reading Alastair’s posts right, Imperial society considers ones “stuff,” including one’s personal data, to be as much a part of one’s person as their own limbs.

The right to be to “secure in one’s own person and papers” (including data) is taken VASTLY more seriously in the Empire than anywhere on this planet.’

The latter, in a word.

Specifically, you retain that right unless they can actually indict you for something. A Curial court addressing a criminal matter can subpoena your data after arraignment, but then, it can also subpoena the contents of your brain, so that’s a relatively minor consideration. But you have to be indicted first on the basis of an actual case to answer – law enforcement does not get to go on fishing expeditions through your person, papers, and personalty in the course of an investigation if they can’t muster up the necessary burden of proof to indict you.

But even post-indictment or post-conviction: ordering third parties to create circumvention tools, as uncompensated takings of labor, even? That would violate their contractual obligations? That would weaken everyone‘s security and thereby punish the innocent for the crimes of the guilty? No, no, no, a thousand times, NO.

(Legally speaking, though, the investigators can ask you for access to data, etc., and you can refuse to permit it. The law takes into account that people may have many reasons not to provide such access, and enjoins the courts that they may not consider such evidence, even circumstantial evidence, in favor of guilt, and the courts do so.

…that said, if it turns out later that the reason you refused to provide such access was to cover up someone else’s criminal act, then that’s sufficient to have just got yourself charged with misprision of felony, which in Imperial praxis covers the responsibility of everyone to report any crimes of which they are aware. But that’s a somewhat different issue.)

Also from Specialist290:

Given that the eldrae place immense importance on both everything having a quantifiable exchange value and every sophont having a strong reputation, have there been any groups that have tried to combine the two into a single mechanism (a la Cory Doctorow’s “whuffie”)?

A few undoubtedly have, but so far no-one’s solved the fundamental problem that reputational capital ain’t quite like financial capital: when you spend it, you still have it, or ought to, because obtaining something in exchange for niceness doesn’t make you a worse person while obtaining something in exchange for money does make you poorer. Since the economy isn’t actually post-scarcity, that so far being impossible, this makes those attempts prone to distressing outbreaks of volatility and “reputation runs”. Leaving aside the problem that reputation in different areas isn’t really comparable and may be assessed differently by different people when computing metascores, hence the proliferation of rep-nets and meta-rep-nets with different emphases.

The two are highly intertwingled, of course, with discounts and freebies and exclusive access, etc., offered to people with high appropriate rep , and even the odd case of the opposite (say, the Ephemeral Contract rep-net, used to penalize bad customers as well as bad customer service), but there’s not yet a pure reputation economy out of the experimental phase.

Less of a question and more just some thoughts on a comment, from Zarpaulus:

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.”

I’m going to come right out and say it: The problem I have with dualism is pretty much matched by the problem I have with what I might call anti-dualism, except that alliteration is fun, so I’m going to call dualism-denial.

I mean, sure, there’s no Cartesian dualism. We’ve refuted that. There is no magical mindstuff, no nonphysical soul plugged into the pineal gland, none of that. The brain is not an antenna sticking into the cognitive realm. So far so good.

The problem is when people then assume that refutes all kinds of dualism, like property dualism or what I would call metalevel dualism, or informational dualism.

Which is to say: there is such a thing as a triangle, not just graphite marks on paper. The Pythagorean Theorem exists in a sense distinct from the molecular vibrations caused by someone expressing it. There are definable things called Microsoft Windows, or Word 2016, or ThatAwesomeNovel.docx that are distinguishable from the pattern of magnetic domains storing them. Likewise, there is a thing called a mind which is distinguishable from three pounds of neuron soup, even though – like all the others – it is expressed in the structure of the neuron soup. (Or of the magnetic domains, or of molecular vibrations, or of graphite marks.)

Specifically, it’s the abstract information encoded in them. Which can’t exist without a substrate, certainly, acknowledging physicalism this far, but is no more identical to that substrate than the concept of arithmetic is identical to a copy of Elements of Arithmetic, Second Edition, 1992.

tl;dr Minds are concepts, information entities. I am my mind, a complex algorithm giving detailed instructions how to meMy brain is the physical instantiation/substrate of that algorithm. The rest of me is that brain’s vehicle, manipulators, and support system.

And pattern identity is no more than saying – well, if you image the hard drive of a computer, extracting all the encoded information, and copy that image onto new hardware (or even into a virtual machine) and then boot it up, and it behaves in exactly the same way and has the same stored data and is in all relevant ways indistinguishable from the original, then in every fundamental sense, it’s the same computer, innit?

Likewise, all copies of the same mind-algorithm are the same mind, ergo the same person. Selah.

(As for the consciousness argument: I’ve seen that a lot, mostly from people claiming that the studies showing that we initiate actions before our narrative thread of consciousness becomes aware of it somehow refutes free will. Which has always struck me as obvious nonsense, unless we’re assuming that the mind constitutes only those bits of it we can look at (from an internal point of view).

…which is to say, my spreadsheet solves mathematical problems. It isn’t not solving problems simply because it only shows me the final results. Likewise my mind – which is to say, I – am not not exercising volition simply because I only output the final result to the narrative-thread-of-consciousness display device.

It’s only a problem if you define “the mind” as “the conscious, self-reflective self and that alone“, but all that proves is that you can get nonsensical results if you pick a suitably silly definition to start with – which is why, to draw this lengthy digression back on topic, is why they reject continuity identity theory. Placing special emphasis on that one subroutine, the narrative thread of consciousness, is mistaking a part for the whole.)