The Hidden B.I.A.S.

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.