Brent Meeker wrote:

>I feel that I am the same person as I was five years ago even though hardly
>any of the atoms in my body are the same now as then. The body and brain of
>the younger me have disintegrated as completely as if I had died and been
>cremated. Certainly, the change has been gradual over time, but the fact
>remains that I am now comprised of different matter, with different
>spacetime coordinates, in a configuration only approximately copying that of
>my younger self. Moreover, my reconstructed brain provides me with only
>approximately the same memories as my younger self, in addition to the newer
>memories. Without resorting to science fiction thought experiments (mind
>uploading, teleportation etc.), I think this demonstrates that consciousness
>and personal identity are malleable and mobile, even if you restrict
>yourself to implementation on brains.

But there is a causal, material chain connecting your brain today and your
younger brain.  If your brain suffers a concussion or anesthesia, do you
suppose your consciousness goes somewhere else?

Brent Meeker

Why should this "causal, material chain" be significant to the final result? Your body slowly disintegrates and is (approximately) reconstructed atom by atom, so you don't notice a discontinuity, and it doesn't hurt. If the timing and order of the process were changed, so that your body is destroyed in one operation and a copy reconstructed at a different place and time in another operation, all you would notice is a period of unconsciousness, like being knocked out and waking up later in hospital.

As for where your consciousness "goes" when you are unconscious, that is my point: it doesn't "go" anywhere. Consciousness (and the associated sense of personal identity) is a process, not a material object. You can still make the point that we have no evidence that human-level consciousness can be implemented outside of a human brain, but I believe the above considerations show that it is not tied to a particular brain.

--Stathis Papaioannou

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