Posted by: zyxo | October 30, 2009

Where is your soul ?

Where is your soul located ?

(my working synonyms of soul : self, consciousness, spirit, identity).

First, and obvious answer : in your head.
According to Douglas Hofstadter in “I’m a strange loop” this is not entirely true.

Explanation :
1. what is my soul : a whole bunch of patterns in my brain (linked, hierarchical “thoughts”, patterns representing concepts). One of these patterns is special, because it groups everything that relates to “me”.
2. not every brain pattern that relates to me is in my own head. A whole lot is in the heads of my friends, my family. Although not so vast as the one in my own head.
If the sum of everything that relates to me is my soul, then I am distributed over the heads of a lot of people.

Does this sound a bit crazy ?
After all, I only have one mind, and everything about me that is in the mind of somebody else is not “me” but is what that other person thinks and knows about me.
So that is what I thought before I read the book.

But let us do a hypothetical experiment. (Douglas Hofstadter describes some experiments like that in his book, but this one here is my own).

Imagine one brain to start with, with twice the number of neurons of a normal brain.
Imagine we can manipulate physically each neuron as we like.
Imagine we take at random every second neuron and put it in a second (empty) head. When we finish, half of the neurons will be where they originally were, namely in the first head. The other half will be in the second head.
Imagine we left the original neuron-neuron connections intact, meaning that we replaced every “broken” connection by an artificial equivalent wireless connection.

The result :
fysically (or rather “locally”) we have two brains, each in it’s own head. Let us call them Adam and Eve.
functionally, they are still the same original superbrain because all neurons and connections are unchanged. In fact, we now have one brain with two bodies. What would this be like ? I assume that brain will control the two bodies, just like you and me control our two hands. Consequently there will be only one “me” (named AdamEve).

Now assume that some of the wireless connections are broken, or of lousy capacity, so that only part of the info is passed on from Adam’s neurons to Eve’s neurons and vice versa.
This means that all thoughts, concepts etc. formed by only Adam’s neurons will be stronger, and clearer in Adam’s head thatn in Eve’s and vice versa.
Result : the “shared” identity AdamEve will be weaker. In the same time two separate identities will probably develop : Adam and Eve.

Now suppose all wireless connections are replaced by words, sounds, expressions, gestures, emails, writings or whatever people in our real world use to communicate.
Result : the shared identity is very, very weak whereas the separated identities are very strong.
We all know such shared identities : a married couple, a football team, an army, a religion

But this is not what Hofstadter writes ! In stead of talking about shared identities, he speaks of pieces of identities that are scattered over the minds of many people. Or if we only consider two people : the two separated identities live in the two heads.

Let us recapitulate :
if there is no connection there are two completely separated identities.
If the “between-people” connection is equally strong as the “intra-people” connection (as in my split-brain thought experiment), according to Hofstadter we have two separate identities, living equally strong in both heads. According to me, we have only one shared identity and no separate identities.
If the “between-people” connection is weaker than the “intra-people” connection, according to Hofstadter we have two separated identities each living in two heads, but the one living in its own head is stronger than the one living in the others head. According to me we have two separated identities plus one, weaker, shared identity.

Enjoyed this post ? Then you might be interested in the following :
– Web 5.0: The telepathic web
– Robotic insects or cyber-insects ?
Psychons : elementary particles of the mind
– Human brain copy protection by AnyMind Inc.
– Humans 2.0

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