Dear aet.radal ssg,
I think you missed my point about the amnesic and psychotic patients, which is not that they are clear thinkers, but that they are conscious despite a disability which impairs their perception of time. Your post raises an interesting question in that you seem to assume that normally functioning human minds have a correct model of reality, as opposed to the "broken" minds of the mentally ill. This is really very far from the truth. Human brains evolved in a specific environment, often identified as the African savannah, so the model of the world constructed by the human mind need only match "reality" to the extent that this promoted survival in that environment. As a result, we humans are only able to directly perceive and grasp a tiny, tiny slice of physical reality. Furthermore, although we are proud of our thinking abilities, the theories about physical reality that humans have come up with over the centuries have in general been ridiculously bad. I have spent the last ten years treating patients with schizophrenia, and I can assure you that however bizarre the delusional beliefs these people come up with, there are multiple historical examples of apparently "sane" people holding even more bizarre beliefs, and often insisting on pain of death or torture that everyone else agree with them.
You might point out that despite the above, science has made great progress. This is true, but it has taken the cumulative efforts of millions of people over thousands of years to get to our current level of knowledge, which in any case is still very far from complete in any field. Scientific progress of our species as a whole is mirrored in the efforts of a psychotic patient who gradually develops insight into his illness, recognising that there is a difference between real voices and auditory hallucinations, and learning to reason through delusional beliefs despite the visceral conviction that "they really are out to get me".
From: "aet.radal ssg" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Many worlds theory of immortality Date: Sat, 07 May 2005 10:44:25 -0500
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From: "Stathis Papaioannou" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Subject: Re: Many worlds theory of immortality
Date: Wed, 04 May 2005 22:40:46 +1000
> I don't see how you could get anywhere if you disregard the
> relationship between observer moments. It is this relationship
> which allows grouping of different observer moments to give the
> effect of a continuous stream of consciousness. The human brain is
> a machine which produces just such a sequence of observer moments,
> which bear a temporal relationship with each other consistent with
> your TIME postulate. But I would still say that these related
> observer moments are independent of each other in that they are not
> necessarily physically or causally connected. I base this on real
> life experience (the fact that I feel I am the same person as I wa! s
> 10 years ago even though I am now made up of different atoms, in an
> only approximately similar configuration, giving rise to only
> approximately similar memories and other mental properties),
I would question whether you really "feel" that you are the same person you were 10 years ago. 10 years ago you were 10 years younger. Do you "feel" like you are that age now? 10 years ago there were things that you had no knowledge of, that you do now. Just as you are made up of different atoms, etc now, you also have different experiences, and expanded knowledge base, etc. In other words, you are not the same person and you really don't "feel" like you're the same person. However, you are the sentient human entity that was born however many years ago and have accumulated the sum total of knowledge, experience, etc, that you have so far. That said, the observer moments that you have are connected because they're your observer moments and are compared against your base of past experience, etc. They are casually connected if they are moments that are observed in the first place. You're at bat in a ball game and the pitcher throws the ball and you swing and miss and th! e ball hits you. Each moment in that sequence is related casually and temporally with the other. The moments can be recalled separately but there is still a casual link.
> thought experiments where continuity of identity persists despite
> disruption of the physical and causal link between the earlier and
> the later set of observer moments (teleportation etc.).
We don't have teleportation yet, especially the demat/remat type (which IMHO is impossible), so I don't see how invoking that is reasonable. Taking a chance to interpret your intent otherwise, I would say that disruption of so-called physical and casual links can happen anytime consciousness is lost, ie sleep, blow to the head, anesthesia, etc. It doesn't support your argument about observer moments being separate in any case.
> Another question: what are the implications for the TIME postulate
> raised by certain mental illnesses, such as cerebral lesions
> leading to total loss of short term memory, so that each observer
> moment does indeed seem to be unrelated to the previous ones from
> the patient's point of view?
The implication is obvious: the "machine" is broken. Therefore the conclusions based on the information that it gathers and processes is defective.
>Or, in psychotic illnesses the patient
> can display what is known as "formal thought disorder", which in
> the most extreme cases can present as total fragmentation of all
> cognitive processes, so that the patient speaks gibberish ("word
> salad" is actually the technical term), cannot reason at all,
> appears unable to learn from the past or anticipate the future, and
> reacts to internal stimuli which seem to vary randomly from moment
> to moment. In both these cases, the normal subjective sense of time
> is severely disrupted, but the patient is still fully conscious,
> and often bewildered and distressed.
Exactly. Broken. No more capable of accurate determination of what is casual, temporal or anything else than a computer is capable of accurate functioning after its been damaged by a virus or some other disruptive event. I had a pocket calculator get wet once and all I could get out of it when I attempted calculations were wrong numbers and sometimes abstract partial digital displays. I no more considered what I was getting from the calculator as valid than I do the perceptions of a patient with "formal thought disorder". The point is their perceptions are wrong, not just different, they're inaccurate and can be demonstrated to be so. It's not good science to base ideas of temporal reality, and other related issues, on someone who's mentally deficient.
> --Stathis Papaioannou
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