Identity: Does it exist?
Our recent questions, directly or indirectly, have implied that animals in some sense share our human identity. Animals may have rights–to live, not to be eaten, not to suffer. If animals have rights within human society, does that imply that they are “part human,” or that animals and humans share a common philosophical identity? Have individual minds?
What happens once we upload our individual minds? Contrary to arguments against the Singularity, I believe mind upload is inevitable. We’ve already made mental bacteria, and arguably a cockroach. Humans aren’t far behind.
The British philosopher Derek Parfit argues that already, individual humans have no individual identity as such; that identity or “selfhood” is not a unitary thing, but a continuum that can exist by degrees. For example, suppose the right and left halves of your brain are separated–we know what happens, it’s as if two conscious beings inhabit the same body. But now suppose that each brain (half) could be transplanted into the brainless body of another person. Each thinks of itself as “I,” sharing the same memories and history of self. Yet there are now two physical persons, each departing from the other on a separate path through time. What happens? Are they both “you”? Or neither? Has the original dual-brained “you” ceased to exist? Or are there two of “you”?
Parfit’s point precisely is that there is not answer–that each of the new entities, and the original, have something of “you-ness.” And even that some “you-ness” continue to exist after your death. The mind uploaders think this will all somehow be ok, so long as “we can let go of Boolean logic.” Do you agree?