- You are in an operating room. A robot brain surgeon is in attendance. By your side is a potentially human equivalent computer, dormant for lack of a program to run. Your skull, but not your brain, is anesthetized. You are fully conscious. The surgeon opens your brain case and peers inside. Its attention is directed at a small clump of about 100 neurons somewhere near the surface. It determines the three dimensional structure and chemical makeup of that clump nondestructively with high resolution 3D NMR holography, phased array radio encephalography, and ultrasonic radar. It writes a program that models the behavior of the clump, and starts it running on a small portion of the computer next to you. Fine connections are run from the edges of the neuron assembly to the computer, providing the simulation with the same inputs as the neurons. You and the surgeon check the accuracy of the simulation. After you are satisfied, tiny relays are inserted between the edges of the clump and the rest of the brain. Initially these leave the brain unchanged, but on command they can connect the simulation in place of the clump. A button which activates the relays when pressed is placed in your hand. You press it, release it and press it again. There should be no difference. As soon as you are satisfied, the simulation connection is established firmly, and the now unconnected clump of neurons is removed. The process is repeated over and over for adjoining clumps, until the entire brain has been dealt with. Occasionally several clump simulations are combined into a single equivalent but more efficient program. Though you have not lost consciousness, or even your train of thought, your mind (some would say soul) has been removed from the brain and transferred to a machine. In a final step your old body is disconnected. The computer is installed in a shiny new one, in the style, color and material of your choice. You are no longer a cyborg halfbreed, your metamorphosis is complete.
Body identity assumes that a person is defined by the stuff of which a human body is made. Only by maintaining continuity of body stuff can we preserve an individual person. Pattern identity, on the other hand, defines the essence of a person, say myself, as the pattern and the process going on in my head and body, not the machinery supporting that process. If the process is preserved, I am preserved. The rest is mere jelly.
Consider the message "I am not jelly". As I type it , it goes from my brain, into the keyboard of my computer, through myriads of electronic circuits and over great amounts of wire, and after countless adventures shows up in bunches of books like the one you're holding. How many messages were there? I claim it is most useful to think there is only one, despite its massive replication. If I repeat it here: "I am not jelly", there is still only one message. Only if I change it in a significant manner: "I am not peanut butter" do we have a second message. And the message is not destroyed until the last written version is lost, and until it fades sufficiently in everybody's memory to be unreconstructable. The message is the information conveyed, not the particular encoding. The "pattern and process" that I claim is the real me has the same properties as the message above.
Keeping in mind that I do not share his opinion, nor am I a reductionist, what flaw do you see in his reasoning - if you see any?
Now, since the "pattern", or ego-identity, is a phenomenon, whether or not it exists is beside the point. Why? Because its only existence is as conceived, i.e., it doesn't exist from its own side (as we all know). It's a concept. The point is, since the argument itself is based on samsaric principles, we need not be concerned with its actual "truthfulness". We only need to be concerned with whether it holds up as an argument, in the same way that we are concerned about a book of fiction or a movie, and how they hold up logically. In this sense Truth is beside the point.
I decided to not bump the old thread, for the simple reason that it had already died a natural cause, and the interest had reached zero.