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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on HP:MOR and the Radio Fallacy - Less Wrong

22 Post author: RichardChappell 21 July 2012 07:55PM

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Comment author: gjm 21 July 2012 11:04:31PM 49 points [-]

I think what Harry's says here is, or at least ought to be, a kind of shorthand for a closely related and much stronger argument.

It isn't just that brain damage can take away your mental abilities. It's that particular kinds of brain damage can take away particular mental abilities, and there's a consistent correlation between the damage to the brain and the damage to the mind.

Suppose I show you a box, and you talk to it and it talks back. You might indeed hypothesize that what's in the box is a radio, and there's a person somewhere else with whom you're communicating. But now suppose that you open up the box and remove one electronic component, and the person "at the other end" still talks to you but can no longer remember the names of any vegetables. Then you remove another component, and now they t-t-talk w-with a t-t-t-terrible st-st-st-stutter and keep pausing oddly in the middle of sentences. Another, and they punctuate all their sentences with pointless outbursts of profanity.

And I have some more of these boxes, and it turns out that they all respond in similar ways to similar kinds of damage.

How much of this does it take before you regard this as very, very powerful evidence that the mind you're talking with is implemented by the electronics in the box?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 July 2012 10:41:53PM 10 points [-]

I endorse this refinement. What brain damage demonstrates is not dependency of talking on the brain, but that the complex computations of thought can be damaged in internal detail by damaging a specific brain part, whereupon its outputs to other parts of thought are damaged. This is strong evidence that the brain is doing the internal computations of thought; it is part of the inner process producing thoughts. The radio hypothesis, in which the output is produced elsewhere and received, decisively fails at that point.

We could suppose that you had a hundred soul-parts, all of which can only communicate with each other through brain-area radio transceivers which receive a call from one soul-part, and then retransmit it to another. But leaving out the epicycleness of this idea, the degree to which it contradicts the intuitive notion of a soul, and its, if you'll pardon the phrase, sheer stupidity, the end result would still be that destroying the brain leaves the soul incapable of thought. You're not likely to find a remotely reasonable hypothesis, even in the Methodsverse where magic abounds, by which the internal parts of a thinking computation can be damaged by damaging the brain, and yet removing the whole brain leaves the soul capable of internal thinking.

Comment author: HungryHobo 14 December 2015 01:57:11PM 2 points [-]

I kind of liked one of the HPMOR recursive fanfics which played with this since in the Methodsverse wizards continued to be able to think even when their brain was replaced with that of a cat.

If I remember right in that fic the blood-purists maintained that only wizards had souls and that the thing they used to prove it was by feeding polyjuice to a non-wizard who would lose their own personality in favor of the body they were copying for the duration of the potions effects. (not having a magical soul with which to maintain their thought patterns when their physical brain was changed)

Comment author: shminux 24 July 2012 09:00:46PM -1 points [-]

You're not likely to find a remotely reasonable hypothesis, even in the Methodsverse where magic abounds, by which the internal parts of a thinking computation can be damaged by damaging the brain, and yet removing the whole brain leaves the soul capable of internal thinking.

Why not? Letting a brain decompose kills the "thinking computation", while cryonizing it supposedly does not.

Similarly, damaging a living brain may damage the attached soul, while death of a reasonably intact brain could be interpreted as a detachment of a reasonably intact soul.

Comment author: Incorrect 25 July 2012 01:45:44AM -1 points [-]

Taboo death

Comment author: wedrifid 25 July 2012 01:51:03AM 0 points [-]

Taboo death

A perfect taboo. In the literal non lesswrong sense.

Comment author: shminux 25 July 2012 03:01:31AM -1 points [-]

Sure. "Last breath".

Comment author: Incorrect 25 July 2012 03:33:51AM *  -1 points [-]

Are you supposing that oxygenating a human's blood without the use of lungs would result in the loss of their soul?

I think you will find that the only way to exclude such hypothetical possibilities is to define death as sufficient brain damage (although I suppose you could define it as cessation of neural activity if you don't mind the possibility of dead people coming back to life; that would still result in a very large proportion of souls being damaged)

Comment author: wedrifid 25 July 2012 03:39:40AM 2 points [-]

Are you supposing that oxygenating a human's blood without the use of lungs would result in the loss of their soul?

Sure, but they'll get it back (and lose 30 IQ points and a whole bunch of cool) if cursed by gypsies.

Comment author: shminux 25 July 2012 05:05:07AM -1 points [-]

We are not talking about anything real-world, remember. The original setting:

a remotely reasonable hypothesis, even in the Methodsverse where magic abounds

Comment author: Halfwit 26 July 2012 02:34:43AM 0 points [-]

SRI's Shakey would be justified in its dualism.

Comment author: Random832 30 July 2012 04:47:00PM *  -1 points [-]

You're not likely to find a remotely reasonable hypothesis, even in the Methodsverse where magic abounds, by which the internal parts of a thinking computation can be damaged by damaging the brain, and yet removing the whole brain leaves the soul capable of internal thinking.

Has your hypothesis that thought remains possible after the whole brain has been removed, in fact, been tested?

EDIT: I read your post as meaning that the "fact" that thought remains possible after a brain has been removed [to be cryo-frozen, for instance] was evidence against a soul.