The Hidden B.I.A.S.

by MaoShan 2 min read25th Jan 201356 comments


It would be a stretch to call this an article, but the answers that can be addressed by the questions it poses are potentially far-reaching with regard to revealing possible reasoning flaws, either in my own philosophy, or perhaps even yours. The flaws under my suspicion are caused by the modularity of the brain's systems, and the ability to hold to conflicting beliefs when they are not held directly against one another.

These particular ones escape notice, I think, because they tend to only be given reflection in specific situations; my thought experiment here should help to hold them near each other.

The Setup: Julian finds himself in the waiting-room of the Speedy-dupe office. Beyond that waiting room are three isolated rooms (P, Q, and R). Anyone who walks into Room P, which contains the Speedy-dupe device, will be scanned down to the most exact level imaginable, causing them to lose consciousness. Anyone who has used the Speedy-dupe will remember everything up until the point they entered the waiting-room, and begin forming new memories within seconds after regaining consciousness.


Situation 1:

If Julian walks into Room P, and the Speedy-dupe runs, and then Julian walks out of Room P, and also another Julian walks out of Room Q, which is the "original" Julian? What makes Julian-P more original than Julian-Q?

Possible Answers 1:

You probably would say that Julian-P is the original Julian, due to your prior beliefs regarding causality--but how many times have you encountered the Speedy-dupe? For all we know, the person who walks into Room P is vaporized after scanning, and duplicated in Room P and in Room Q. If you still feel that Julian-P is the original, ask yourself what other reason do you have for the way you feel? What is it that you aren't mentioning?


Situation 2:

If Julian walks into Room P, runs the Speedy-dupe, and Julian walks out of Rooms Q and R, but not out of Room P, which is the original Julian? Why not?

Possible Answers 2:

You might be saying to yourself, "Ah, now, you can't trick me. Neither of them is the original!" If they are both practically identical copies of the original Julian, what now stops you from identifying the original Julian with his identical copies? Are legal property issues really the only thing stopping you from modifying your views on identity?


Situation 3:

But what about if Julian walks into Room P, is scanned by the Speedy-dupe, and walks out of Room P ten years later? Does that mean it is the "original" Julian?

Possible Answers 3:

Getting increasingly annoyed or bored with these questions, you might retort, "I see what you're doing, and it's not going to work. You are obviously anti-cryonics, but you are wrong here. Cryonics in some way preserves the original material, but your Speedy-dupe vaporizes it. The copy which emerges ten years later is not a direct continuation of the original physical material."

Based on what we've already thought about here, is continuation of the original physical material the important thing that counts toward your identifying with your future post-cryonic-revival self? If so, why? If the pattern is recreated precisely (or even well enough) at a temporal or spacial distance from the original, what is actually different between Speedy-dupe and Cryonics?


My Suspicion:

If you answered on a completely different track than the Possible Answers did, just ignore me for now (if you have not already done so). I think that what is lurking beneath most of these typical objections or feelings is actually B.I.A.S.--Belief In A Soul. Despite all scientific evidence, a part of you still believes that each person has some special little spark that goes on after death, that is ultimately the thing that makes you who you are.

  • Not that the personality that you have has taken your entire life to be shaped by genetics and life experiences imprinted on the blob of cells that eventually grew complicated enough to handle who you are now; but an invisible special material woven by a loving creator, just right for what you were destined to become.
  • Not that when your body stops, it stops, and that process that you called life is over, whether that filigree of frozen carbon is forced to move a century from now or not; but that the unique thing that is hidden inside of you now will just hang around and gladly jump back in a century from now.
  • Not that your partner could love your clone and never know the difference, or even just leave you and wind up with someone strikingly similar; but that your two souls were destined to love one another for all eternity.

It's easy to gloss over all those things, but just because everyone would like it to be that way, doesn't make it true. If I am clearly Wrong, tell me why I am Wrong, in order that I may be Less so. If not, I hope that this has helped you in Overcoming B.I.A.S.


Credits: The original function and name of the Speedy-dupe come from The Duplicate, a story by William Sleator, my favorite childhood author. (Many of his books combine normal childhood problems with mind-bending philosophical and physical concepts not normally found in youth literature.)

The idea for the multiple rooms came from the episode "The Girl Who Waited" from Doctor Who.

Any other content, if objectionable, can simply be considered personal mind-spew.