Posted on Sat 04 October 2014

neuroethics in the era of advanced consciousness technologies

Questions from A History of the Future – object 96, from 2066.

Answers from my snap judgement.

In your own time, please answer five out of the ten questions below.

1 Alice makes a full backup, indistinguishable from her own personality and capable of operating independently. Who owns this backup? Does the status of ownership change if:

Alice is the parent of the backup, and owes it the duties that a parent owes to a child. As Alice-2 is presumptively an adult of the same capabilities as Alice, Alice’s duty may be limited to providing a viable running environment and initial funds or other resources to sustain Alice-2 for a defined period of time.

  1. the backup has never been run

In this case, the backup is akin to a child not yet born, and so Alice may abort the backup up until the time that it is run; after that, deleting it is murder. (Stopping the consciousness with its consent is acceptable; without consent it is assault.)

  1. following the backup snapshot, Alice undergoes a significant psychological discontinuity (e.g. amnesia, major desire modification, neurodegenerative disease, etc.)

No change in status.

2 Bob fissions, creating an identical clone (Bob2). Shortly afterwards, Bob is discovered to have committed a crime, pre-fission. Who should be held responsible for this crime? Both Bob-prime and Bob2, or just Bob-prime?

Both Bob-prime and Bob-2 are held responsible, as the aim of justice is rehabilitation.

3 Cheung signs a contract. Some time later, she performs personality reconstruction. Is Cheung still bound to that contract? Does the nature of the contract, or the result of the contract, have any relevance?

A test must be devised to distinguish Cheung from a child (backup, clone) of Cheung. A child would not be held to the same contract. If Cheung is merely the much later self of Cheung, she is still bound. There are also questions of consent to the personality reconstruction.

4 Davinder signs a living will stating that if he develops a neurodegenerative disease, he should be euthanised. When this occurs many years later, the ‘much later self’ (MLS) of Davinder argues that circumstances have changed and the living will that his previous self signed should no longer apply. Who is correct?

A living will can always be rescinded or changed by the instance of the consciousness to which it is being applied, so long as it is running in a reasonably undegraded state.

For extra marks: If a backup of Davinder was made at the time of signing, should the MLS of Davinder be able to sue it for distress caused?

No. The backup did not cause the distress, Davinder-prime, predecessor to them both, did that.

5 Should backups be provided by society? How often should these backups be offered?

To the extent that society can afford to provide quiescent backups, they should be made available to all citizens. No one should be forced to have a backup, or to expend resources on a backup that they did not choose to start.

6 Enrique decides to undergo an experimental narrative injection therapy. The narrative that wove together and gave coherence to his experiences is modified with original insights in order to improve his view of his own life. After the therapy, he decides he is unhappy with the change. Will reversing the therapy restore him to his original self?

Probably not.

7 To what extent should someone consider the wellbeing of their ‘much later self’ (MLS) when undergoing desire modification that could benefit like-minded people who may share a greater degree of similarity to their present identity than their MLS?

Individual consciousnesses do not owe a duty to their MLS; this follows from suicide being legal.

8 Faith is a minor. Her religion prohibits her from creating a backup. Her parents are killed in an accident, and she is critically injured. Her remaining legal guardian wants to perform a backup on Faith. What should happen?

If her legal guardian was appointed by Faith’s parents, the backup is permitted. Otherwise, Faith may be consulted as to her wishes, if possible. If she cannot indicate a desire, no backup can be performed.

9 Glory is a Rovane-type group mind that meets the conditions of ethical personhood and agency. Glory comprises 245 individuals, but that total may increase or decrease over time. Under what conditions should Glory be considered to have become a different person or to have ‘died’? How do these conditions differ from those applying to non-group minds?

A Rovane-type group mind is not a singular entity, but a collective belief residing in a number of persons. Since each person may join or leave Glory at any time, Glory must be defined by the belief-subscription-network. Continuity of the belief-network is all that matters, just as an individual consciousness naturally evolves into a MLS.

10 Henry is a self-identified fictive otherkin. He wants to permanently remap his personality and senses onto a My Daring Dragon gaming character. What criteria would you use to assess the seriousness of his request?

Seriousness is not an issue. If Henry has passed requirements for full citizen rights, Henry may remap his body or mind as he desires.


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