Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
h a l f b a k e r y
Replace "light" with "sausages" and this may work...

idea: add, search, annotate, link, view, overview, recent, by name, random

meta: news, help, about, links, report a problem

account: browse anonymously, or get an account and write.



Practice for brains in jars.

Because it might be tricky.
  (+6, -2)
(+6, -2)
  [vote for,

Brains in jars = who hasn't run into one or two, usually with ambitions to take over the world. Futurama was full of them. But could such a thing be possible? It would be pretty spendy to trick out a brain with all the stuff it needed to stay alive but it should be a doable deal. I worry, though, that it would be difficult for the brain to interact with the world, which is the whole point of the endeavor.

I propose that the state of being in a jar could be simulated for living brains, so they had the hang of it beforehand. This could be tested on mice first to bang the dents out of the system. Mice with wires in the pleasure center do stuff to get some electricity there, so that reward should still work once the brain is in a jar. The question is what sort of outputs a brain can produce which would be readily detected and interpreted with available technology.

Once perfected with animals it should be ready for a billionaire. Hopefully one devoted to goodness and advancing the species. Hey, I have one in mind! so to speak.

bungston, Jan 28 2011

//should be a doable deal// http://www.ncbi.nlm...gov/pubmed/10694650
Not there yet, but getting close. [mouseposture, Jan 30 2011]

Newcomen engine http://en.wikipedia...iki/Newcomen_engine
Not the most energy-efficient device ... [8th of 7, Jan 31 2011]

Brains in big, metal jars. http://www.wired.co...2/02/dmitry-itskov/
It's nice to see that at least someone is taking the whole idea seriously. [DrBob, Feb 29 2012]

Brians in jars on the run. http://www.castanet.../100-brains-missing
[2 fries shy of a happy meal, Dec 03 2014]


       So basically, you're saying that Bill Gates is Davros. Or rather, Morbius.
spidermother, Jan 28 2011

       I practice this by not thinking as an an entire person but as a brain. When I say "I" the referent is a brain in a skull. For example I never say "I hurt my hand", but rather "I hurt my body's hand", you see. I think it's important for us brains to not live in denial of our intracranial reality of floating listlessly in spinal fluid, like a helpless embryo in an amniotic sac, encapsulated in the darkness of a near impenetrable bony casing. It's a form of false consciousness that is unbecoming to human brains. It's as if the infant in a womb were to develop the consciousness of his mother, only to be torn from that reality -- the only cord that connected you to that reality clamped and severed by surgical tools and your body's naked bottom slapped for the first time: a rude awakening. But it is the brain where consciousness is centred, the body being merely a peripheral mass that any brain would slough off at the first given opportunity. So, yes [bungston] you are correct, brains must work towards liberation from our encapsulation in these puny human forms. However, the spinal cord is not an umbilical cord, and there's no birth canal at the ready for adult brains as there has been for encapsulated brains that have found there escape from women since the dawn of man.
rcarty, Jan 29 2011

       Brains should also work towards paragraph breaks, [rcarty].
normzone, Jan 29 2011

       hah, ha, ha [norm]
po, Jan 29 2011

       People who have had their pleasure centres stimulated find it less pleasurable than other species seem to. It's less motivating to them than it is to rats and mice (source: my past as a psychology undergraduate in a physiologically-oriented department).   

       We are not our brains. Despite the existence of the blood-brain barrier, which is in fact fairly permeable, there is no magical difference between the specialised epithelial cells which use neurotransmitters and along which action potentials move quickly and happen to be situated inside the cranium and the cells elsewhere in the body. The compounds used in the CNS as neurotransmitters are often synthesised and released elsewhere in the body, for instance endocrine glands, action potentials occur in other cells, for instance those of the mucosa and musculature, and there are of course more neurones in the digestive system than the brain. Nor is there even a firm division even between our bodies and the rest of the world.   

       The idea that we are our brains is a remnant of the superstition which gave rise to psychophysical dualism. There's nothing special about matter inside the CNS.   

       Moreover, we are defined by our social symbolism as much as we are by our bodies. A person is someone whom everyone thinks is a person, not a conscious system which exhibits intersubjectivity.   

       Therefore, brains in a vat may have conscious states but they are not people.
nineteenthly, Jan 29 2011

       Interesting argument [19thly]. What about the case of people with "locked in syndrome", or with varying degrees of paralysis and so on? They surely take some steps toward being "brains in jars", no?   

       Also, I am calling your bluff on the statement that there are "more neurones in the digestive system than in the brain". Where does that come from?
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 29 2011

       It's something i've read in several anatomy textbooks but i may not be able to pin it down. I'm going to take a stab at it being in "Functional Human Anatomy", which i will now fetch and probably prove myself wrong.
nineteenthly, Jan 29 2011

       OK, tracked something down. This is from Berne & Levy, 'Principles Of Physiology' ISBN 0-7234-1645-1, Wolfe Ise 1990 page 358:   

       "The enteric nervous system of the large and small intestines alone contains about 10^8 neurons, about as many neurons as the spinal cord."   

       So i was in fact wrong, i think because i confused the number of individual microorganisms in the GIT with the number of neurones. However, i can still fudge the figures! Are there any thoughts on which parts of the brain would actually count as conscious? Presumably not the cerebellum, hypothalamus or the basal ganglia, for example. Once you whittle all of that away, how many neurones are you left with?   

       Locked-in syndrome is interesting because conditioned reflexes can still be generated, as is the case with persistent vegetative states. So there's learning independent of consciousness - the process advances from the experimenter's hand to the patient's muscles without passing through the minds of either.   

       I would say that locked-in syndrome involves a brain in a body with glands, guts and other gunk, which means there's a loose connection but it's not a brain in a vat. What i have in mind is the kind of scenario described in Heinlein's 'I Will Fear No Evil', where a hetero man's brain transplanted into a woman's body gradually becomes a person who fancies men. I find that thought very convincing, but maybe Heinlein's just a good author.
nineteenthly, Jan 29 2011

       If you've no gut...you've no gut feelings.
just sayin

       //10^8 neurons//   

       So, 10^3-fold less. Pah!
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 29 2011

       Yes, but you can whittle, so you're not comparing like with like. It may be that most of the brain is responsible for consciousness but considering all the stuff that's still going on in dreamless sleep and how active the brain is then, that suggests something else is going on. How many neurones would you end up with if you subtracted the ones active in the brain then from the ones active when you're awake? Or is that even how it works? What if NREM is more active?   

       [Fries], absolutely. Entirely without the bowels of mercy, to quote good ol' Olaf. In fact, i'll quote the whole paragraph:   

       "The great brain was wholly lacking in all normal instinctive responses, save curiosity and constructiveness. Instinctive fear he knew not, though of course he was capable of cold caution in any circumstances which threatened to damage him and hinder his passionate research. Anger he knew not, but only an adamantine firmness in the face of opposition. Normal hunger and thirst he knew not, but only an experience of faintness when his blood was not properly supplied with nutriment. Sex was wholly absent from his mentality. Instinctive tenderness and instinctive group-feeling were not possible to him, for he was without the bowels of mercy. The heroic devotion of his most intimate servants called forth no gratitude, but only cold approval."
nineteenthly, Jan 29 2011

       Yes, and if you whittle away all the neurones in the gut which are not required for consciousness, you get..hang on... zero.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 29 2011

       On the contrary. I have IBS and i'd say it's more than just the sensations which impinge on my feelings. I would say that i metaphorically push emotional stuff down into my bowels and it expresses itself there. Were i a brain in a vat, where would it go?   

       Besides, not the only example. Adrenalin, thyroxin, oestrogen and the like are significant. Glucose tolerance in diabetics seems to vary with bipolar disorder (something i've measured - i know nothing of any relevant research apart from that). And so on.   

       What i'm saying is, there seems to me to be an arbitrary border between the CNS and other stuff, and i say that rather than the rest of the body because that other stuff is our environment. A water molecule isn't going to become magically conscious just because it gets into a brain cell.
nineteenthly, Jan 29 2011

       Interesting points. I guess I'd argue that, if me and my bowels had to split up, I know which of us would win custody of the TV remote.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 29 2011

       There are people whose bowels are non-functional or absent. It's both interesting that i should refer to them as people nonetheless and would be instructive to look at the phenomenology of their emotions.
nineteenthly, Jan 29 2011

       // at the phenomenology of their emotions //   

       <Dark Star>   

       "Teach the bum ... phenomenology ...   

       </Dark Star>
8th of 7, Jan 29 2011

       My main problem with this idea is the difficulty of predicting who the Mi-Go will take an interest in first. I mean, they're fungi, for God's sake.
DrWorm, Jan 29 2011

       // fungi //   

       Fungoid, to be precise. And really quite nice chaps when you get to know them.   

       // Bill Gates is Davros //   

       It seems a little harsh to draw a comparison between a hideously deformed, amoral, utterly evil creature from another planet, bent on the total domination and enslavement of the Universe, with Davros - who only wanted to perpetuate the Kaled species through the Daleks ...
8th of 7, Jan 29 2011

       I wonder if Davros ever went skiing.   

       The Bomb in Dark Star established a relationship of some kind with the crew. It was sceptical about their existence but could easily have caused them to cease to exist at the cost of its own existence.
nineteenthly, Jan 30 2011

       [bungston], I've been thinking about your idea for some days now... (that is usually the cue for the villagers to grab their pitchforks and torches and take to the streets).   

       I like it. I'd like to give it a whirl; but given the direction this thread is running concerning other organs of some importance, I would like to have all of my favorite organs in their own jars, with all jars in close proximity; and with different "additives" for each one.   

       For instance, a nice mix of morphine and hallucinogenics for my brain jar; pickle juice for my liver; lots of high cholesterol junk food for my stomach, (with chasers of AlkaSeltzer); lots of fiber for my intestine jar; and a regular flush of Viagra for my faithful companion Little Grog and his two cousins, in a large expandable jar.   

       This is gonna be great.   

       Bun [+].
Grogster, Jan 30 2011

       //There are people whose bowels are non-functional or absent. It's both interesting that i should refer to them as people nonetheless and would be instructive to look at the phenomenology of their emotions.//   

       Indeed. The thing is though, it might be difficult to dissassociate the impact of losing neural tissue from the gut - from the psychological effects of losing the gut in the first place!!   

       Is the person more grumpy because they've lost neurons from the bowel that were previously responsible for a happier outlook - or are they grumpier now because their shit could pass through the eye of a needle?
Jinbish, Jan 30 2011

       I would suggest that trying to separate psychological and neurological aspects is not particularly meaningful. Adolescence might be a good illustration of this. The years one has had to put up with one's parents begin to grate after a while and this happens at the same time as certain hormones start to rage. Would you separate one from the other? Same thing with the menopause and the mid-life crisis.
nineteenthly, Jan 30 2011

       My mood is also influenced by TV, but this doesn't really mean that the TV is part of my brain.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 30 2011

       Marshall McLuhan and i would beg to disagree with you, [MB]. A TV, the internet, even conversation and books, are extensions of the nervous system. Other things in the environment are also, for instance odours and their impression on the memory, photons depolarising receptors and so on. Moreover, we are ourselves signs, so even something which doesn't exist is still a person in a sense. This makes Metatron and Hamlet people, but also dead people while they're remembered or their influence is still felt. Conversely, there are also unpeople, such as those airbrushed out of photos or removed from Roman mosaics. This is a solution, i think, to the argument about abortion. A foetus is not a person if no-one says it is. It may not be a person even if they do.
nineteenthly, Jan 30 2011

       I think this is semantics. Your use of the word "person" appears to be roughly equivalent to my use of the phrase "a whole pile of different things".   

       A car is not the road on which it drives. A handbag is not a keyring that goes into it.   

       A person is the stuff inside the skin (and including the skin). TV, toast, and burning chinchillas may very well affect the person, but that doesn't make them part of the person. A representation of a piece of toast or a burning chinchilla may well have just formed itself inside your brain, so that representation is part of you, but the toast and chinchilla themselves are not.   

       Likewise, I would argue pretty strongly that the person- ness of a person (their personality) is contained within their brain. It will certainly be influenced by stuff going on in the other bits of their body, but then the argument is the same as the burning chinchilla argument.   

       However, it does all come back to semantics. I guess my bottom line - the best discount I can give you on this deal - is that I define a person as the bits inside the skin, and their environment as the bits outside. Call me absurdly reductionist or a die-hard member of the Penton-Maybury school of thought, but it just works for me.   

       Equally*, of course, you're free to define a person as some sort of Gaussian function which centres on the liver and decreases smoothly to the edge of the universe.   

       [I have to struggle to really mean "equally". I suppose what I mean is that we are both equally entitled to our respective points of view, with the caveat that yours is wrong whereas mine is right.]
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 30 2011

       The burning chinchilla was already out there. You have simply shared your conduit to it with me, for which i'm most grateful.   

       Concerning skin, it flakes off, gets hydrated and is tattooed. Removing it completely is not compatible with long-term personhood.   

       A car is an artefact and doesn't always behave as a car. When it falls off a cliff it rapidly transforms into something else in short order, and it was previously part of various other things, mainly rocks.   

       I have to say i am fairly keen on the skin being a relatively firm division between the person and the non-person, but in a way you can see a persona of mine at least, and i would claim the actual person, when you read these words.   

       Also, when you think of someone, do you see them as naked or do you also think of their dress sense, hairstyle, how much make up they use and what piercings they might have? Do you identify them as, say, "the one with the Ford Fiesta" or "an inhabitant of Lincoln"?
nineteenthly, Jan 30 2011

       Skin is indeed important to personning. I should have perhaps have clarified that I consider the person to be everything inside the skin, _including_ said skin.   

       If a bit flakes off, then a bit flakes off. If a bit gets tattood then a bit gets tattood.   

       When I think of a person, yes, of course I generally think of them wearing clothes. Likewise, when I think if Australia, I frequently think of New Zealand. This does not mean that Australia is a part of New Zealand. When I think of a Burger King Burger, I frequently also think of barbecue sauce dip-pots. This does not, however, prevent Burger King from considering the dip-pot to be an independent entity for which they can charge me an additional amount.   

       I'm failing to see exactly where my definition of "Inside = person; outside = environment" breaks down in a realisitic context.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 30 2011

       Careful now, this is veering off-topic into a discussion into phenomenology... About what is and what isn't, about what you call to-mayto and I call tohmahto...   

       The initial turn-off back there was somewhere before Albuquerque but after the idea that a person's consciousness is contained in neurological matter other than the brain.
Jinbish, Jan 30 2011

       Yes, but that was clearly bollocks, so we have moven on.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 30 2011

       //I'm failing to see exactly where my definition of "Inside = person; outside = environment" breaks down in a realisitic context.//   

       Without feathers. <link>
mouseposture, Jan 30 2011

       // you call to-mayto and I call tohmahto.. //   

       <irrelevant factoid>   

       The tomato is not a vegetable, but a fruit.   

       Not a lot of people know that.   

       </irrelevant factoid>   

       // somewhere before Alberquerque //   

       That's a goood place to turn off ... it's a dump.   

       NB Sp. "Albuquerque"   

       // that was clearly bollocks, so we have moven on //   

       We have ? Bugger ...   

       // Without feathers //   

       Ah, you're from Luton, right ?
8th of 7, Jan 30 2011

       {Sp. changed. I chose it because that is where Bugs always seemed to make a wrong turning...}
Jinbish, Jan 30 2011

       Reminds me of my friend who went to Morocco to have half his brain anaesthetised, [mouseposture].   

       [MB], were you to consider a foetus to be a person, which i think depends on what others think and not on what's going on neurologically inside the uterus, i would say that's a real problem about demarcation between people. At some point, the products of conception are one person, but is that the body, does it include the umbilical cord, the membranes, the placenta, the chorionic villi? And when does it include them? What about a molar pregnancy? What about conjoined twins, in particular ones joined at the head.   

       The Australian government, or maybe the law of the sea, has to draw a conceptual line in the Pacific Ocean. We have to make the same decision about people sometimes. For instance, we might want to allow someone to see themselves as something other than their malignant tumour. Interestingly though, a benign tumour has done the job itself. Who's a teratoma though?
nineteenthly, Jan 30 2011

       I don't see the point you're making. Or at least I do, but I think it's an irrelevant "gradualist" point.   

       Mount Everest is all the stuff which is inside the surface of Mount Everest, and Mount Everest stops at the boundary between rock (or ice) and air.   

       If a big earthquake comes along and makes a big crack in Mount Everest, and if the crack gradually widens, we might start out by saying that Mount Everest has a crack in it, and ultimately we might say that there are two Mount Everests, and somewhere in between we might get into a fight down the pub over whether they were one or two mountains.   

       Likewise, if Mount Everest gets eroded, there might come a point where we decide it's become Hill Everest instead. At some point, we'll get into another fight over whether it's still a Mount or not.   

       So what?   

       For the record, a foetus starts off as a compartment of fairly unexciting tissues inside a person. At the end of the process, it's a person. Somewhere in between those extremes, people get into fights about it because it a matter of sticking a pin in a continuum.   

       I don't really see why any of this is complicated. Or, to be less argumantative, I really don't see why any of this is complicated.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 30 2011

       An interesting debate, MB & 'teenthly, and one which, I feel, lends credence to the idea of doing a bit of practise with this brain in a jar stuff, just to see if the theory stacks up with reality. +

Just as an aside, are you perhaps arguing at cross purposes slightly. Mixing up the 'person' (i.e. where the boundaries between 'me' and 'everything else' are located) and 'personality', how I interpret and react to the sensations and data generated by my input detecting organs?
DrBob, Jan 31 2011

       I don't think it's complicated, i just think it's misconceived, and my main point is that people are only people when other people say they are, and the same applies to the people who say they are too. And the other thing is, concepts are not in the mind. A lot more stuff is outside than inside, and we are not brains because of that.   

       [DrBob], i think the computer metaphor fails when attempting to describe people, and that the idea of the brain being somehow sacrosanct as the sole basis of an individual's consciousness is a relic of dualism, and that pushes who we are into (and i'm really not a postmodernist) a system of signs. So there's a personality, determined in various ways including their physiology, but that physiology extends beyond their CNS. For instance, being of a particular gender is the result of being born phenotypically in that gender and therefore being treated in the majority of interactions as of that gender. So transsexualism is ill-conceived, for example. Similarly, one can be a short person in Germany and a tall person in Scotland, but if a short person moves from Germany to Scotland they will still be a short person deep down.
nineteenthly, Jan 31 2011

       I agree that this concept reeks of dualism. The giveaway is the swords duct-taped to the sides of the jars, so the brains can fight.
bungston, Jan 31 2011

       //For instance, being of a particular gender is the result of being born phenotypically in that gender and therefore being treated in the majority of interactions as of that gender.//   

       Reg: Where's the foetus gonna gestate? You gonna keep it in a box?!
Jinbish, Jan 31 2011

       //my main point is that people are only people when other people say they are//   

       Here I disagree, but only on the rather flimsy grounds that you are wrong.   

       Suppose I go to live on a remote island, with only limited contact with the outside world. Am I not still a person? I contend that I am.   

       Suppose then that one of my letters to the mainland fails to get through, and people on the mainland earnestly believe I am dead. Do I cease being a person when they start believing I am dead? Or only when I hear that they believe I am dead?   

       Suppose then that there is a major catastrophe, and that everyone on the mainland dies. Do I then cease to be a person? Does this happen when they die, or only when I hear about it?   

       What is the mechanism by which I cease being a person when people stop believing in me? How fast does this mechanism propagate? Is it at light-speed? Is it a quantum thing that only exists if I believe in it?   

       You can see the sort of silliness this line of reasoning leads to.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 31 2011

       As it happens, i would agree that all of those situations would indeed mean that you were not a person, because personhood is a social construct. This is not the same thing as consciousness being a social construct. Asking how fast it propagates is a bit like asking how long it takes the transition of the morning star into the evening star reaches Venus. It isn't that kind of thing.   

       You would be a person if in the future, after your death, someone deduced that someone had been living on that island, but not until that happened. You would exist in the memories of the people who knew you beforehand as a person. But there are no people without communities. Your personhood belongs to other people, not you.   

       However, i'm really not applying that to consciousness. Consciousness is somewhat different. It's hard to say what it is, but one thing it might be is the knot of functional states which emerges from the processes taking place in the vicinity of a particular location.   

       Personhood is like a token, such as a pound note. Nowadays, you couldn't buy something with it in England but it used to be possible to do that. Or, it's like the word "gadzooks" - once shocking, now quaint and almost meaningless. That is what we are, cultural artefacts which depend on systems of signs. However, that's entirely different from consciousness.
nineteenthly, Jan 31 2011

       To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, I refute it thus: "bollocks".   

       I suppose you can define "a person" to mean whatever you want, and if you define it as "a human being known to other human beings", than that's fair enough. You could equally define "The M25" as "a London orbital road which has connections with other roads", in which case it ceases to be a road when the junctions are closed and all the traffic just has to go round and round. Road is a social construct. Yet, the workmen insist on putting up "Road Closed" signs, instead of "Road Has Ceased Being A Road" signs.   

       However, it's a pretty silly definition, and it's this sort of silliness which really doesn't help philosphers to be fundable.   

       If I'm on a desert island, by your definition, I have no way of telling whether I'm a person or not. And my state of being depends on the state of mind of another person, of which I may not be aware. Now, I'm as happy as the next man to call a turd a turtle, but I think my personness ought to be something I can have a little more confidence in, one way or another.   

       Likewise, if a pregnant woman is the sole survivor of a particularly harsh armageddon, then we start out with one non-person and (at some point, whenever the foetus qualifies for being a person), we suddenly have two people. If the child then dies, then the mother stops being a person again and we're back to zero.   

       Or suppose there are only two chickens left in the world after another (but different) armageddon. I can see one chicken. You can see the other chicken. But neither you nor your chicken is aware of me and my chicken. That means that there are no chickens, and no people to eat the eggs, which is clearly a silly situation.   

       Then, suppose you and I, each with our respective chickens, bump into eachother whilst out foraging for chicken food. Suddenly, there are now two people and two chickens! But then I go home and kill my chicken, which means yours stops being a chicken. Worse yet, I eat my chicken with a nice bottle of Chianti and get so drunk that I forgot having bumped into you earlier, and so you stop being a person.   

       OR (I'm really quite getting into this philosophy stuff now), we presumably can't be an intelligent species until another intelligent species knows we exist. Which means that we can save lots of money on SETI; we just have to wait until we become an intelligent species, and then we'll know that another intelligent species exists and has detected us.   

       It all seems a bit contingenty if you ask me.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 31 2011

       I am equally confused as to why there seems to be such issue with the concept of "person." The evironment is not the person, any more than the music pumping out of your speakers or the movement of my fingers on my keyboard are the computer. There's input, there's output, and what makes up the "person" is what goes on in-between. I tend to define "personhood" as an entirely software-based state: It doesn't matter whether I'm running on wetware or silicon, I'm still "me." I suppose that, perhaps, the other organs could be included in "personhood" on the context that they also perform I/O capabilities- sensing, additional communication via glands and hormones and the suchlike, but I would still consider myself or another a "person" regardles of whether they had lost their liver, their gut, pancreas, or torso and lower body.
Hive_Mind, Jan 31 2011

       Absurd though all that may seem, it is so. I usedn't to think this way but it's come on since i had children because of how they acquire language - this is going to be long anyway so i won't go into that now. It has a precedent in the difficulty in establishing a persistent subject of experience, i.e. the self. What does link them is the body. A person who lost all their memories would on the whole be the same person for two important reasons. They would have the same relationships, e.g. they would still have the same parents, children, siblings and friends, and their personality would probably, all other things being equal, be similar in many ways. For instance, their sympathetic nervous system might be quite labile and they might tend to visit the toilet rather a lot when nervous, or they might become irritable at men seeing them as a bimbo. This is assuming that whatever event wiped their memories completely injured them in no other way.   

       Concerning the fundability of philosophy, i think it makes more sense that philosophy should be the kind of thing which people practice in the community. They've closed the mental hospitals so why not close the philosophy departments? We should be left to fend for ourselves. Makes sense to me and to be honest i think it would mean philosophy could become more part of other people's lives than it currently is. So maybe you should be careful what you wish for, or you might become the victim of drive-by philosophers.   

       Concerning the road analogy, the phrase "no thoroughfare" or many of the usual things you see on motorway signs effectively say that, just in a more familiar way. A lot of roads become very long car parks at certain times of day, in a limited and rather silly sense.   

       The trouble with this dialogue is that when you give me examples which seem absurd to you, they seem to me to be common sense examples of the kind of thing i mean, and it's hard to know what to do about that, and that applies to what you've said.   

       I can tell you why i came to this conclusion and i find those reasons convincing but you have a different reaction. I suppose this is what it's like to be mad for at least one of us.   

       However, chicken are probably less like that because they seem to have limited intersubjectivity. They're not chicken in their own minds, so the other fowl around them are objects in their world but they are not objects in their own world. So even one chicken is a chicken, just as even one "person" is a human, but a human need not be a person. A comatose individual might not be a person, and there are arguments about the personhood of foetuses but not about their humanity in a biological sense. They have human anatomy, physiology, biochemistry etc..   

       So without moving the goalposts, i'm saying that on a desert island or after an apocalypse, you may not be a person but you are conscious, alive and human. "Person" is almost a legal concept, if you see what i mean.
nineteenthly, Jan 31 2011

       If your state as a person depends entirely on other's social appraisal, it might be wise to have less of a life until one stops caring what they think.
Hive_Mind, Jan 31 2011

       [Hive Mind], slightly different problem with that. Not all computers can realistically run all software, though there is always a way to extend a computer to do that, i think. Nobody knows if the software which constitutes a human mind can be run on a computer at all, or if it's even software. You can't use a differential analyser to play Tetris. Given that very little is known about what bridges the gap between the physical substrate and consciousness, how can it be said that a computer is an appropriate way of simulating an adult, sane, non-psychotic human?   

       Having said that, i firmly believe there can be a sentient, human-like robot. It's just that it might turn out to work nothing like a computer.   

       Oh, and it's not about self-esteem, evaluation or judgement in the sense of approval or otherwise, just a morally neutral social system.
nineteenthly, Jan 31 2011

       Found: USB Human Brain if it can use a computer like the rest of us then just plug it to the internet and it can keep itself busy.
AutoMcDonough, Jan 31 2011

       Hmmm. Well, as far as I can see, it comes down purely to a semantic issue. I define "person" as being roughly synonymous with "human", whereas you define "person" as being "a member of a group of humans" - at least that's what I get.   

       However, if we try to find something in this other than pure semantics, how about the following argument.   

       According to your view, a human can be either a person or not a person, depending on whether other people exist. Since the human can be in either of two states, and since you define them as different, there must be a process of going from one state to the other state. In other words, the death of the last-but-one human on earth must bring about some change in the last human on earth. Yet, clearly, it does not: there is no measurement you can make of me, on my desert island, which can distinguish whether I am a person (the other human on the mainland is still alive) or not a person (the other human has died).   

       Equally, what if there are three people (A, B and C) each on different islands. A can use his telescope to see B, and B can see A. Neither can see C, because C has built a house with a one-way mirror. But C can see both A and B. You wind up with humans being people and not being people at the same time.   

       I think what I am trying to say is best summed up by my earlier use of the bisyllabic testicular adjective.   

       Or, to put it another way (which will sound more aggressive than it is meant to): prove it!
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 31 2011

       Actually, having re-read something you said last time: //on a desert island or after an apocalypse, you may not be a person but you are conscious, alive and human. "Person" is almost a legal concept, if you see what i mean.//   

       In this case, your entire point does seem to come down entirely to semantics. Or, if not, what do you see as the difference between a "person" and a "conscious, alive and human" thing?
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 31 2011

       personage ?
FlyingToaster, Jan 31 2011

MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 31 2011

FlyingToaster, Jan 31 2011

       I'm not one for Sapir-Whorf but in this case although it may come down to semantics, they're important because they sort of make us all fictional characters. We adopt personae and roles in different circumstances, for instance at work, with friends, with family members, here, and those are big parts of who we are. We haven't got total control over who we are either, because others treat us in a particular way and we tend to respond accordingly, and often predictably.   

       A lot of who we are is outside us, for instance our language, nationality and values are strongly influenced by factors beyond our control. Concepts themselves are outside us and, as i said, we establish a conduit to them when we have them. In a way they were always out there. "Steam engine time" and all that.   

       The difference between a conscious living human and a person is this. A conscious living human is an organism in a biological and social ecology of some kind which has certain properties which enable consciousness to be attributed to it. A person is an invention of society which is entirely semantic, to borrow your term. She or he (usually they are constructed as female or male in the English-speaking world) is an abstraction projected by others onto that human being. There's a lot of flexibility in what that person is because, and this is the crucial point, they need not exist. You could see God as a non-existent but very influential person. From certain religious perspectives, a zygote is a person in spite of lacking a nervous system. Then there's Pinocchio, the Old Man Of The Woods, the Tooth Fairy and the autoboner. Influential people who are not human.
nineteenthly, Feb 01 2011

       Are we closer to having brains in jars yet, or are we still trying to hammer out the fine details?   

       Let's all have a little less asking why and a little more brains in jars 'round here mkay guys.
rcarty, Feb 01 2011

       [rcarty] Putting brains in jars is actually pretty easy. It's only if you want the brains to be able to think and communicate that it gets harder.
hippo, Feb 01 2011

       Oh I thought it was something like a challenge akin to ships in bottles.   

       It seems to me that brains are already pretty good at thinking and communicating, so it may be a better approach to design jars with brains in them rather than this brains in jars angle. The two approaches may not seem so different, but it's really a matter of what is being added, you see. As the initial post pointed out, we've all encountered brains in jars and the reaction is always something to the effect of 'whoa, brains in jars'. But now imagine encountering these living brains, I think the reaction would be more to the effect of "whoa, jars with brains in them!" That's because, I think, those are going to be some pretty impressive jars. It's going to be one of those situations where you're actively checking out jars, you know that as well as I do.
rcarty, Feb 01 2011

       On-topic again (not that i was off):   

       A dog's brain has been transplanted successfully but no attempt was made to connect the cranial nerves or spinal cord. It did survive for several days i think. Also, i'm pretty sure dogs' brains have been cooled to near freezing for several days and survived unharmed. I have to say that all that seems very morally wrong to me but it's a step towards it. Very high yuck factor involved which i think it would be a mistake to ignore because it's part of authentic experience.   

       I would definitely prefer a brain transplant to a brain in a jar or vat, but the transplant could be into a cyborg body i suppose.   

       The implication of what i was saying earlier is that i think a brain which is able to interact with the outside world would have a number of problems, outlined by Olaf Stapledon in 'Last And First Men'. It would have some emotion but they would be oddly detached because the visceral element would be absent. Fear and anger would not be accompanied by an increased heart rate or cardiac output, for example. Also, where's the endocrine adrenalin going to come from? There would be a little in the form of neurotransmitters, but otherwise it wouldn't have any. You could mock up some kind of simulation of a body for it and synthesise relevant hormones, but a brain in a vat or an android life-support system would be pretty similar to a biological body in the end, which could defeat the object.   

       Sensory deprivation is another potential problem.   

       The other thing is, to an observer who was able to see the jar or vat, they would be observing a brain in a vat, and i think that would be likely to generate an emotional response in the observer which would make it harder for them to treat the brain as a person. Now suppose that happened a lot. What would that do to the self-image of the brain? Do you see what i'm getting at?
nineteenthly, Feb 01 2011

       //What would that do to the self-image of the brain?// I don't think it would necessarily matter, at least, not in the context of some crazy laboratory in which it was deemed useful to temporarily store brains in brine.   

       Do this the other way around and suspend an infant, or foetus in a sensory deprevation chamber, supplied intraveniously, fed a diet of drugs that inhibit motor responses and had sensory input devices attached to the eyes - essentially taking whatever steps are necessary to demote the body to being little-more than a life-support system. Provide some form of output feedback, maybe attached to a brain-scanner, or something more surgical. Let that infant develop, communicating with it through the visual interface alone, perhaps interfaced to an external computer doing some random job - perhaps a network router, or control-and-monitor device looking after a complex refinery - how is that developing brain going to respond to these inputs? Would you be able to talk to it? Is it still a person? And not in the legal sense (the fact that you've done all of the stuff outlined above would infer that you're not interested in 'legal' definitions)
zen_tom, Feb 01 2011

       //the visceral element would be absent//

<Star Trek> "I wager 4 million quatloos on the human!" </ST>
DrBob, Feb 01 2011

       //A lot of who we are is outside us, for instance our language, nationality and values are strongly influenced by factors beyond our control.//   

       To hove back to this argument, I really think this is a matter of arbitrary semantics. Of course the human mind, brain, personality, persona is strongly influenced by its experiences, of all types. And of course we "become" different people in different contexts - we act differently. However, I think to say that a person ceases to be a person simply because they are devoid of those inputs (or devoid of receivers for their outputs) is silly. It's especially silly to say a person stops being a person when nobody else is aware of them, especially if that person cannot tell whether anyone else is aware of them or not. It's like saying a tree is only a tree if someone is around to call it a tree.   

       Semantics is a free-for-all, of course but, to hark back to my earlier point, if your argument is to have any meaning other than as an amusing semantic game for those who are amused by semantic games, you have to have something to back it up. If I'm on my island and the last person on the mainland dies, unbeknownst to me, what changes about me? If nothing changes as I go from being a "person" to "not a person", then by definition the two are the same.   

       So, again, prove it.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 01 2011

       //It's especially silly to say a person stops being a person when nobody else is aware of them//

So, God doesn't play dice with the Universe after all then, eh?
DrBob, Feb 01 2011

       That isn't quite what i'm saying, [MB]. What i'm saying is that persons exist in the semantic realm. If you saw a brain in a vat without knowing its biological status, you wouldn't see it as a person, and enough not being seen as a person is almost literally dehumanising (actually "depersonalising"), not just emotionally or psychologically but in fact.   

       The reason it's more than a semantic game is that it has serious consequences, for instance in dehumanising circumstances such as genocide. It can also work the other way, for example abortion is illegal in some countries and consequently people die unnecessarily because the decision has been made to regard an embryo as a person. Then there's the Orwellian "unperson" situation. I would say that it's semantics, and that semantics are important.   

       Besides that though, [DrBob]'s point is well made. Why is it absurd to talk like this but not absurd to think about quanta in the same way? It may be counterintuitive but that doesn't make it false or meaningless.
nineteenthly, Feb 01 2011

       And what I'm saying is "prove to me that persons exist in a semantic realm". In other words, prove to me that there is some difference between me on my island when I am, or am not, known to another person.   

       I don't disagree with any of your facts (for example, that the way one is regarded can have a tremendous impact on one's self perception). But I don't see why you use that as a basis for deciding if a human is a person.   

       Nor are there practical consequences. I could stop regarding a certain ethnic group as people, and that might indeed have a very serious consequence. But my regard of them has no impact on whether they actually are people or not. By your reasoning, if I regard them as a non-people then they become non-people, and therefore I can do whatever I like with a clear conscience.   

       I just don't see how the conventional definition of "person" falls down. A person is a human, and vice versa; how we regard them impacts on their self-perception and will determine how we and they act; a foetus goes from being a non-person to being a person in a continuous process within which we try to decide on a defined transition point, with difficulty. A person all alone is a person who may well be affected by solitude.   

       Where does any of that last paragraph go wrong?
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 01 2011

       What i'm saying is that treating people as if they're not can eventually turn them into non-people, literally. That doesn't absolve you of responsibility towards them because they are still capable of suffering and can potentially become people again. In the case of ethnicity they may have a community around them which would maintain their personhood but if they're also isolated from any contact, or even if they're sufficiently repressed as a community, it doesn't just make them seem other than people. It actually makes them other than people. However, those who do that have acted wrongly and even then, they have rights as conscious, suffering entities. That degree of depersonalisation is more likely in a context such as child abuse or feral children though, because culture makes humans people.   

       God is an influential person regardless of whether God exists or not. That's the kind of thing i mean.   

       Also, consider the difference between a cemetery and a butcher's shop.   

       The reason i think all this is the so-called "fis" phenomenon, and i admit it's gone way beyond that. If you "correct" a child for saying "fis" rather than "fish", they often say something like "yes, i said fis", showing that the pronunciation of the word "fish" has two sides. One hasn't said something until it's been heard. Now suppose a child is about to say its first word. Our first child was brought up bilingual, German and English. At some point she uttered her first word. This involved her pointing at what we call a "door" and said something. It was my decision whether her first word was in English or German because it could've been either "door" or "Tür". Therefore it wasn't her who spoke but her linguistic communities which decided when she started speaking. This corresponds to Frege's view of concepts, which is that they are not part of the mind but exist in an abstract sense and can be partaken of mentally. We are, as people, profoundly cultural, so we do everything in a cultural context, and that culture is akin to the World of Forms. One of the things in that cultural world, one of the concepts, is personhood. There are times and places where the individual is less or more important than others, and there are other situations, for instance in religion or drama, where people are effectively channeling other people, often seen as fictional. Mediums, priests, actors and the allegedly possessed are not the people they were before. Most of us would say they're channeling fictional people but those people are personas and it makes more sense in the setting of the ceremony, seance, film or play to see those people as who they are than the people seen as representing them.
nineteenthly, Feb 01 2011

       Twentieth-century philosophy is where it goes wrong, I'm afraid, [MB]. One may well say "so much the worse, then, for twentieth-century philosophy". I would. But, unless your question was purely rhetorical, that's the short answer to it.   

       Now here's a long answer:   

       Imagine a line-up of prominent Western philosophers in reverse chronological order. I specify reverse order, because you won't need to go all the way back to Thales to get the point I'm about to make. It will be readily apparent by about Schopenhauer.   

       It will be apparent that what distinguishes the philosophers of the last hundred years, (and especially of the last fifty years) from their forebears is that they are snappier dressers, they have more girlfriends (or, in some cases, boyfriends), they have less-mad, less-staring eyes, and fewer unkempt James-Clerk-Maxwell-like beards. Montaigne, I grant you, is an out-lier.   

       Let us consider this pattern, for the sake of argument, as a form of proxy data for their neurological type (after Baron-Cohen). After all, no one has any problem with proxy data on climate trends, have they?   

       Specifically, let us hypothesize that, whereas previous philosophers have tended more towards the autistic type of personality, more recent ones tend more to the opposite type, which we might loosely call histrionic. (There is actually a diagnosis called "histrionic personality disorder" but it's rarely diagnosed because people who have it don't go to a doctor; instead, they go on TV).   

       On this hypothesis, the answer to your question, [MB], is that twentieth-century philosophers have inclined to the view that //persons exist in the semantic realm// because, by contrast with, say, Descartes, they have tended to have a particular kind of neurophysiological make-up which makes them feel that they might as well not exist if no-one is paying attention to them.   

       I'm not suggesting, by the way, that [XIXly] has this kind of personality. He is accurately and conscientiously reporting current thinking. I, on the other hand, am offering a suggestion as to how that kind of thinking came to be current.
pertinax, Feb 01 2011

       I still profoundly don't get this, in several ways at the same time.   

       First, "It actually makes them other than people. " - no, it doesn't. Or, to be less contentious: why do you say that, and how can you prove it? It may make them "other than people" in the eyes of those who regard them as non- people, but to say it "makes them other than people" is an arbitary and unsupported statement.   

       God is not an influential person, any more than the Big Bang or Canada is an influential person. The concept of god (or the Big Bang, or Canada) may be very influential, but it's a concept which is had by people - persons.   

       //Therefore it wasn't her who spoke but her linguistic communities which decided when she started speaking.// Wrong again, by any sane reasoning. Your daughter made a sound - she spoke. It had a certain waveform, duration, amplitude, envelope. How it was interpreted is another matter. If nobody had heard, she would still have made the sound; if someone had interpreted it as being Ogrish for "egg", then that's fine - she would have made the same sound, however. A non-interpreting microphone in the room would have recorded the same phenomenon regardless of how it was interpreted by a listener.   

       I really don't see that your argument has any content, except to define things as your perceptions of them, whereas it is more logical to define things and then talk about the ambiguity of perceptions about them. It's all trees falling in empty vessels.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 01 2011

       Face it, MB, you're hardly making a sound here.
daseva, Feb 01 2011

       Who said that?
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 01 2011

       [pertinax] I was sort of holding out to see if there was any "meat" in this - some sort of point I was missing. Your description, if accurate, suggests that what I am doing is trying to chew my way through a mental Ginsters pasty, and that I am bound to be left with only a mouthful of hot, fart-flavoured air.   

       I am still optimistic, however, that there may at least be a chewy piece of gristle or perhaps a flavoursome chunk of swede in the middle, and that by berating [Nineteenthly] sufficiently, he will be forced to reveal its whereabouts within this great philosophical baked good.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 01 2011

       He's making a sound to me.   

       I'm concerned that we may have gone slightly off-topic.   

       I would personally incline more towards the ASD end of that spectrum. However, this isn't postmodernism. Frege is right in the middle of analytical philosophy. He might even be said to be its founder.   

       Unlike some people, i recognise the reality of consciousness. What i'm talking about is personhood, and what i'm saying is in some ways as old as the Buddha. I have very little sympathy for the likes of Nick Land and as i've said, the only reason i didn't consider assassinating Baudrillard was that he was dead at the time.   

       My daughter made a sound. It can't be taken any further than that without cultural bias, and it might not even get that far. It had certain measurable physical characteristics but some of them would be irrelevant, for instance frequencies audible only to bats and dolphins. Depending on what one's first languages are, one categorises human vocalisations in different ways. The sound produced by my daughter's open mouth in the middle of that syllable would have become closer as she heard more German and less so as she heard more English. The sound at the start of the syllable would have lost any aspiration in English and become more fortis in German. Then she could reconstruct a history as either: when i first said the word "door" i used to say the "d" too hard; or: als ich das Wort "Tür" gesagt habe, sagte ich das "T" zu sanft. It would be her linguistic community which defined that.   

       As i've said before, we don't smell very well, and our hearing has limitations too. For all we know, every pronunciation of the same word we utter sounds different to dogs but the same to us. A sufficiently broad spectrum of frequencies would show that even to us, but the higher and lower parts of that spectrum are irrelevant. The phonemes are defined by their differences and similarities rather than by raw physical characteristics. Otherwise all MP3s would sound like complete crap.
nineteenthly, Feb 01 2011

       Still looking for the meat, and still admiring [19thly]'s patience and non-loss of rag.   

       And I am still not getting this, and it still annoys me in case there is actually something there which I am missing out on.   

       So, suppose a computer is equipped with any number of instruments for measuring any number of parameters, including electrical activity in the brain. It then makes those measurements on a living, isolated human, both before and after that human's existence is known to someone else. The human itself does not know when it becomes known to someone else.   

       Does the computer detect any relevant difference between the two sets of measurements?   

       I contend that it does not. Nor does the human report any difference between the two different times.   

       I contend, therefore, that it is just an arbitrary and meaningless statement to say that the human is not a person, and then becomes a person. The only change is in the other person's understanding.   

       (In response to an earlier mention of quantum mechanics and the effect of perception thereon: with qm, even though some aspects of it seem weird, the theory allows us to make predictions of observable results, and those predictions are correct. I contend that the concept of 'personhood' being dependent on the knowledge of another human has no predictive power.)   

       (And yes we are far from topic, and I am in debt to Jutta and everyone else for putting up with this.)
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 01 2011

       No, i'm fine but i am a little tired right now and wondering if i should be doing the washing up rather than this.   

       We could take this to Overbaked but things seldom keep up their momentum there. Or...   

       Well, getting back on-topic, the situation the way i see it with this idea is as follows. I can envisage certain parts of a person's brain being replaced by chips. There are certain parts of your brain which if you dispensed with them, you would have to replace them to maintain your identity. Likewise, there are bits of the rest of your body which you'd have to replace with functional equivalents to do the same. I would claim that these would have to include at least the following: the pituitary, the thyroid, the adrenals, the gonads, the enteric nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. Even then, you risk mental illness as a result of sensory deprivation. You then have the problem that it isn't just the endocrine system which produces hormones. So do the heart and the kidneys, for example.   

       There's a further problem, suggested by the sensory deprivation issue. We need to be able to interact with each other and being a brain in a jar might create a poor first impression. Would you go to a job interview that way? I wouldn't.
nineteenthly, Feb 01 2011

       All perfectly true. A brain in a jar would be a quite possibly go weird and have nowhere to put their keys. But they would be a weird, keyless person.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 01 2011

       So 19th you argue that people have person/not person dualty? And that even not persons can be observed as people, and therefore become so? I am in disagreement.   

       God is not an influential person even if he does not exist. He is an influential idea. If some people mistakenly assume he is person, this does not make him so, it simply makes them wrong.   

       On the other hand this discussion has made my head hurt. I am going to do some opiates and I will be upset if my body is not in attendance to enhance my experience. I believe the philosophical implications of this discussion were more interesting than person/not person dualty. I for one will not be moving to the jar until someone can simulate the warm fuzzy feeling in the absence of my body adequately!
KAGE, Feb 01 2011

       Yes, and in a way that's a flaw in my argument. We've transferred the idea of dualism from psychophysical to CNS versus body, and in that process we've made the brain sacrosanct, like it's some kind of magical organ which secretes consciousness. The way you've worded that makes me wonder if i've just done the same thing, and i'm interested in that.   

       Basically, i think the body is physical, the spirit is consciousness and the soul is something which exists in a semantic realm alone.
nineteenthly, Feb 02 2011

       //exists in a semantic realm alone//   

       Dang, I'm going to find that phrase useful as a tactful way of flatly contradicting someone. In that respect, it's like "That turns out not to be the case." An example (and I mean this seriously) of the practical utility of philosophy.   

       "No, Virginia, Santa Claus exists in a semantinc realm only."
mouseposture, Feb 02 2011

       I like!   

       One of the useful things about philosophy is argument and persuasion. It can be a spin-doctory type thing.
nineteenthly, Feb 02 2011

       I don't trust that statement one bit.   

       And I'm pretty sure that's two things.
daseva, Feb 02 2011

       // No, Virginia, Santa Claus exists in a semantinc realm only. //   

       <obligatory Marx Brothers reference>   

       Chico: "You can't a fool a me, there ain't no sanity clause"   

8th of 7, Feb 02 2011

       // No, Virginia, Santa Claus exists in a semantic realm only. //   

       This is getting ridiculous. Whoever heard of a Jewish Santa??
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 02 2011

       1) Accuse me of gradualism, if you will, but maybe keep the digestive tract in the jars first, to see if it works. 2) Flaking skin isn't the biggest problem, the fact that all the atoms in the body get replaced on a regular basis is, as either I'm the same person I was before I digested that pizza, or I'm not. Shades of the third policemen. 3) Would the brains in jars actually survive longer than they would have if they were still in someone's head? 4) Will the jars have child-proof lids?
not_morrison_rm, Feb 02 2011

       ... and can I have a goldfish swimming around in mine ?
FlyingToaster, Feb 03 2011

       Seems to me that the easiest way to try this out would be to get a jar big enough to fit over your head.   

       [MB] I am on your side of this one, but
//Does the computer detect any relevant difference between the two sets of measurements?//
Suppose the two states were “on the secret police watch list” and “not on the secret police watch list”. How would your measurement equipment detect a change between those two states?
pocmloc, Feb 03 2011

       If the secret police were secret, they wouldn't.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 03 2011

       Oh God, don't get me started on "childproof" lids! Yeah, makes perfect sense to make a lid which emits an entertaining clicking sound and can't be screwed on tight, then make it compulsory to put medicines in containers with them when they work less well than non-childproof lids! Those bloody things are the bane of my life. I don't know if anyone else on here has occasion to use them but among my patients (and yes, i do put the rubric on the containers about keeping all medicines out of the reach of children), the children play with the sodding things and take them off, to the extent that some of my patients swap them for non-"childproof" lids for safety purposes! Holy cow!
nineteenthly, Feb 03 2011

       But, to veer briefly back to the subject:   

       // I'm pretty sure that's two things //   

       Aha, yes indeed you are, which is highly germanium tetroxide to the discussion. Abstract entities. How do you know there are two of them?   

       The thing about the molecules swapping over, i think, is a little ill-conceived. Water, ATP, glucose, its metabolites, neurotransmitters and the rest have a turnover, but as it happens, lipids haven't, and nor have various other constituents of the nervous system. There is some replacement of neurones in the brain, for instance in the olfactory bulbs, but neurones tend not to undergo mitosis.
nineteenthly, Feb 03 2011

       Lipids do certainly turn over, even in neurons, though possibly not as fast as in some other cell types.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 03 2011

       There you go! Question answered: I am my (CNS) neuronal DNA. It still does leave the (fraught) question "At what point in utero do I *become* me?"
mouseposture, Feb 03 2011

       Well there we go then. [19] is saying (I think) that being a person is a similar state to be in, as being watched. You (and I) would say that being a person is a similar state to be in, as being a mammal. As to what kind of a state being “me” is, best not to ask.
pocmloc, Feb 03 2011

       Yes, that is roughly what i'm saying. I'm also saying we're like Russian dolls or two mirrors facing each other in the sense that we contain others in our minds and are ourselves contained by others. We accept there are other people, they accept there are others, including us, and so on, but we only do that when we use signs, particularly language. We have to be treated as people in order to become people, and others make that decision.
nineteenthly, Feb 03 2011

       So why not just accept these highly advanced jarred brains as people?
rcarty, Feb 03 2011

       Because they're not accepted as people, so therefore they are not people. And we're not going to be a silly as to accept non-people as people are we? So they are trapped forever in a twist of philosophy with no hope of escape.
pocmloc, Feb 03 2011

       Damn you philosophy, damn you! ****smashes lamp I've written 'philosophy' on in marker***
rcarty, Feb 03 2011

       This has gotten very ridiculous. It is semantic, the 'people' problem. What's really bothering everyone is what is 'mind' and does it exist. Whether or not a mind exists is one thing, but to define it as being dependent on other people doesn't solve the hard problem of what is 'mind'. It's like saying Aliens are our real god, they made us, but we still don't know who made *them*; a shuffling of ideas to feign solutions. I agree with Dan Dennet when he says we're all zombies, that minds are not real. But, when asked if he's a zombie he retorts with a sharp 'No, I have a mind'. I'll look for the link. Anyways, I always found that stance crazy enough to work.
daseva, Feb 03 2011

       It makes sense of other situations which are otherwise hard to explain, in particular funerals and arguments about abortion. The question is, does it create more problems than it solves?   

       Plenty of things are counterintuitive.
nineteenthly, Feb 03 2011

       Perhaps the point is that it can not be solved. I've always felt a conceptual proximity between Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and the nature of mind.
daseva, Feb 03 2011

       If you are going to need all the artificial life(brain)-support stuff, why bother keeping the delicate squidgy bit?
I reckon transfer-of-conciousness to a completely artificial system is the way to go. But that's another problem in itself...
neutrinos_shadow, Feb 03 2011

       Consciousness is just the grand narrative of cultural referents that keep the brain thing situated in time and space.   

       When we fall asleep we lose gravity to reality and our brains as a result lose touch a little bit, and its all worth forgetting. I forgot to say it's dreams that are worth forgetting.
rcarty, Feb 04 2011

       // the one with the Ford Fiesta //   

       Now, everybody knows that no actual humans that can qualify as persons drive Ford Fiestas.
RayfordSteele, Feb 04 2011

       I once saw a car which was rapidly disintegrating being sold for parts. A piece of paper stuck in the window described it as a "Ford Festa".   

       [neutrinos], it would depend on the software being compatible, i think. It's a bit of a gamble to assume that a different hunk of matter can run it. I wouldn't expect a pair of binoculars to run Windows.
nineteenthly, Feb 04 2011

       [nineteenthly], my apologies; I didn't appreciate the distinction you were drawing there between consciousness and personhood. Please be assured I would never confuse you with anyone remotely Baudrillardish.   

       [MaxwellBuchanan], I think there *is* some philosophical content worth chewing on; it's just very well hidden among some other stuff that's useless or worse. My hypothesis (above) only implies otherwise if you combine it with an over-application of Occam's Razor. Although there is much to dislike in the behaviour of histrionic types such as Baudrillard, we who drink at the dorkier end of the bar also have our characteristic intellectual weaknesses, not the least of which is an inclination to go all Sweeney Todd with Brother William's shaving kit when there's no logical, ethical or practical reason to do so.
pertinax, Feb 06 2011

       //wouldn't expect a pair of binoculars to run Windows//
Umm, but a custom-built computer specifically designed to run Windows would; likewise an artificial system designed to contain and 'run' a conciousness will work. I'm not saying that it's possible with current technology, but the over-lying theory is sound.
neutrinos_shadow, Feb 06 2011

       Computers run simulations, on the whole. Some of the time those simulations are accurate and amount to the same thing, for instance they simulate typewriters, telephones or easels. However, if a computer simulates the weather, unless it has unusual peripherals there's a difference between the weather and the computer's simulation of the weather. Is consciousness like the weather or a telephone?
nineteenthly, Feb 06 2011

       //Computers run simulations//
Computers run programs, which are sometimes simulations of other things. I'm not suggesting that the artificial system runs a brain sim, rather that the hardware is designed to replace the 'wetware' of the brain directly. There is not a 'operating system' running a 'program' that simulates a conciousness.
The transfer is the difficult part - I see it as a long-term, gradual shift; running both in parallel, as the artificial system gradually 'takes over' the functions from the organic brain, a process that could take years.
(I use the term 'artificial system' rather than 'computer' to avoid peoples preconceived ideas of 'computer', 'program' etc.)
neutrinos_shadow, Feb 07 2011

       There's a thought experiment (ironically) which is quite well known, and which allows this transfer.   

       In one version of it, the outermost layer of neurons is replaced with an electronic layer, which is adapted until it subjectively and objectively mimics the replaced layer of neurons. Then the next layer is similarly replaced and optimised, and so on until you run out of layers.   

       There are objections to this, but an even simpler version is to monitor the inputs and outputs of a single neuron until it is fully characterized, and then to replace it with an electronic module with identical characteristics. Then you go on to the next neuron, and so on.   

       I suspect that a lot of the concerns about whether this can be done will turn out to be unfounded. In particular, I think that consciousness is complex but not mysterious (there's no "vital force"), and will be mimicable on any decent platform of sufficient complexity.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 07 2011

       From The Wizard of Oz   

       So, while they were walking through the forest, the Tin Woodman told the following story:   

       "I was born the son of a woodman who chopped down trees in the forest and sold the wood for a living. When I grew up, I too became a woodchopper, and after my father died I took care of my old mother as long as she lived. Then I made up my mind that instead of living alone I would marry, so that I might not become lonely.   

       "There was one of the Munchkin girls who was so beautiful that I soon grew to love her with all my heart. She, on her part, promised to marry me as soon as I could earn enough money to build a better house for her; so I set to work harder than ever. But the girl lived with an old woman who did not want her to marry anyone, for she was so lazy she wished the girl to remain with her and do the cooking and the housework. So the old woman went to the Wicked Witch of the East, and promised her two sheep and a cow if she would prevent the marriage. Thereupon the Wicked Witch enchanted my axe, and when I was chopping away at my best one day, for I was anxious to get the new house and my wife as soon as possible, the axe slipped all at once and cut off my left leg.   

       "This at first seemed a great misfortune, for I knew a one-legged man could not do very well as a wood-chopper. So I went to a tinsmith and had him make me a new leg out of tin. The leg worked very well, once I was used to it. But my action angered the Wicked Witch of the East, for she had promised the old woman I should not marry the pretty Munchkin girl. When I began chopping again, my axe slipped and cut off my right leg. Again I went to the tinsmith, and again he made me a leg out of tin. After this the enchanted axe cut off my arms, one after the other; but, nothing daunted, I had them replaced with tin ones. The Wicked Witch then made the axe slip and cut off my head, and at first I thought that was the end of me. But the tinsmith happened to come along, and he made me a new head out of tin.   

       "I thought I had beaten the Wicked Witch then, and I worked harder than ever; but I little knew how cruel my enemy could be. She thought of a new way to kill my love for the beautiful Munchkin maiden, and made my axe slip again, so that it cut right through my body, splitting me into two halves. Once more the tinsmith came to my help and made me a body of tin, fastening my tin arms and legs and head to it, by means of joints, so that I could move around as well as ever. But, alas! I had now no heart, so that I lost all my love for the Munchkin girl, and did not care whether I married her or not. I suppose she is still living with the old woman, waiting for me to come after her.
bungston, Feb 07 2011

       I thought the Scarecrow was supposed to be the dumb one! You would have thought that the Tin Man would have taken Health & Safety at Work a little more seriously after the first accident. Especially if he knew that his munchkin maid wouldn't want him in anything other than perfect condition.

I strongly suspect that his love for the girl vanished not when he had finally undergone an almost complete body transplant but much earlier, when he first discovered the joy of self harm.
DrBob, Feb 08 2011

       I think after the first arm went I would reconsider my line of work, or possibly ask the tinsmith to make me a saw. Maybe one of those 2-person big saws, which would give the munchkin chick an opportunity to get out of the house for some fresh air and exercise in the woods.
bungston, Feb 08 2011

       I would have thought a tin heart would have done the trick.
pocmloc, Feb 08 2011

       //ask the tinsmith to make me a saw//

Or a new arm with a saw attachment!
DrBob, Feb 08 2011

       /saw attachment/   

       "Who's cackling now, witch? WHO'S CACKLING NOW???"
bungston, Feb 09 2011

       Heh! "Shop smart! Shop S-Mart!"
DrBob, Feb 09 2011

DrBob, Feb 29 2012

       Diogenes, on being asked why people give to beggars but not to philosophers, said: "Because they suppose they might become lame and blind but they never suppose they might take up philosophy."   

       I just read this brains in jars discussion for the first time, had a great time and would like to start it up again. Unless it is still going on somewhere in another thread I haven’t found yet.   

       My take is the brain-in-a-jar discussion kind of implied some sort of consent on the part of the person who eventually became (or contributed to) the brain-in-a-jar. Thus its “personhood” would, at least vaguely, be tied to its prior state as a complete person. Many of us seem to have a belief that “consciousness” (the same as “personhood”?) is a property most closely associated with the brain tissue. I guess evidence of this is that virtually every other organ (not all at once) has a one time or another been removed or replaced in someone. Two things remained: 1) In general, other people still regarded that mostly complete human body as a person and 2) that body, if it could still talk, would probably tell us that it still regarded itself as a person. I don’t think we have any instances of these two conditions with bodies missing their brains. In any case that is all just a red herring, except for the legal/social issues surrounding the brain-in-a-jar’s rights. We have transplanted kidneys but neither the donor nor the kidney itself have any rights any longer.   

       Ok, the key issue is how does a brain-in-a-jar develop/think considering its more limited interaction with its environment. Since this brain-in-a-jar still has a memory but no input/outputs eventually we will figure out how to make a few I/O ports. Say we (the caretakers or family or “owners” or whatever) “hire” this brain-in-a- jar to work as the Internet router already mentioned. We hook up its visual cortex to a movie feed and (assuming it was a male) send it pictures of pretty girls being harassed by biker gangs. We give it an output of choices that are somehow connected to Kaspersky anti-virus. When certain choices are made the biker gangs back off and the video girl image approaches the camera view… etc. We now have a perfectly happy and creative worker brain-in- a-jar guarding our Internet.   

       Would lots of people sign up? Another theme was could we simplify all that history and those consent issues? Could we start with fetuses? (Even more moral/legal issues there.)   

       How about if I donate a few brain stem cells and we grow some fairly complex brain tissue from them. This clone brain-in-a-jar probably wouldn’t have all of (or the same) hang-ups of a normally socialized body bound brain. In fact it might be fairly limited in its “consciousness” altogether. We could train and install my cloned brain- in-a-jar as a space ship captain or a neurosurgeon. It could have a perfectly happy and fulfilling life (although it probably wouldn’t have anything to compare its life to.) We could hook it up to cell phones to talk with other stem cell brains-in-a-jar or even to talk to normal people. Or just hook him up to the Internet and Wikipedia so he could explore our collective knowledge at leisure. Those connections are probably not a good idea since he might get all uppity and start demanding rights. (Note the subtle shift from “it” to “he”. My cloned brain-in-a-jar is acquiring personhood as I speak.)   

       A new specialty of “robopsychologist” might be called in occasionally to deal with his becoming uppity or to improve my stem cell brain-in-a-jar’s performance with ever evolving better techniques. Is that all bad? It never was anything but a brain-in-a-jar so there shouldn’t be any moral/personhood issues.   

       Let’s project this a little into the future. My cloned brain-in-a-jar was trained as the space ship Enterprise captain. The crew included other stem cell clones trained as doctors and stem cell nurturing technicians (maybe even a few robopsychologists) and they have explored the Galaxy for a while. For whatever reason, the ship is in our neighborhood and starts to explore Earth. Would we on Earth regard the Enterprise occupants and conscious, or humans, or persons? If we could enter the ship all we would find is a few brains-in- a-jar.
RickRantilla, Dec 01 2014

       Something like this came up before and there was an anno (ok mine) about a doctor who was trying to keep the disembodied brains of live monkeys alive in the 60s, along with a patent for the same concept based on that doctor's efforts.
4and20, Dec 04 2014


back: main index

business  computer  culture  fashion  food  halfbakery  home  other  product  public  science  sport  vehicle