Are we all the same person?

Discussion of the nature of Ultimate Reality and the path to Enlightenment.
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Are we all the same person?

Post by stofzuiger » Mon Aug 21, 2017 8:05 am

I’m a 26 year old guy from Belgium and couple of years ago I discovered an incredible theory concerning death and the afterlife.
I know this will probably sound insane, but I believe there is a significant chance that everybody is the same ‘person’.

Two reasons why I’m not crazy saying this:

1: Throughout history there are a lot of people who independently discovered this theory, which means it is based on logical deduction rather than some fantasy like most afterlife theories.

Also, if you have enough time on your hands, you can google "the egg" written by Andy Weir. It is a story about the theory.

2: The theory has been positively critiqued by scientists. Robert Lanza and physicist Bob Berman wrote a book called biocentrism. A major claim in this book is that everybody is the same person.

I’ll quickly give two responses to the book:

“Like “A Brief History of Time” it is indeed stimulating and brings biology into the whole. Any short statement does not do justice to such a scholarly work”- Nobel Prize Winner E. Donnall Thomas

“Robert Lanza, a world-renowned scientist who has spanned many fields from drug delivery to stem cells to preventing animal extinction, and clearly one of the most brilliant minds of our times, has done it again. ‘A New Theory of the Universe’ takes into account all the knowledge we have gained over the last few centuries … placing in perspective our biologic limitations that have impeded our understanding of greater truths surrounding our existence and the universe around us.” —Anthony Atala, scientist and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

I have written out the the theory bellow as best as I can bellow and look forward to see what you guys think of it.


1.The Premises

I will start with the two premises that this theory is based on:

Premise 1: The body or brain does not contain a soul/ there are no souls in the universe.

Premise 2:
This isn’t how conscious experience and death works:

Conscious experience follows continuous streams, and when a stream ends or is cut a ‘person’ dies.

To give an example; Cryonics wouldn’t be possible. This is the practice of freezing a human and reviving them at a later time. The ‘person’ getting revived at a later time would be a different. In this case there is also a significant chance that the ‘person’ changes after coma, narcosis or even sleep.

2.three questions

I want you to quickly think about the following three questions:

1: Teleportation:

This is an old question, if you teleport a human, will the same ‘person’ experience the experiences created by the brain before and after teleportation?

2: Worm butterdly:

I don't know how many people know this, but in the cocoon, a caterpillar doesn’t “grow wings onto its body”, but rather dissolves its whole body into a mush of cells which then reform into a butterfly

Are the butterfly and the worm the same person? In other words, are the experiences of the butterfly and the worm experienced by the same ‘experiencer’?

3: Conscious robot.

It’s the far future and humans are capable to create conscious robots. We have a robot which is conscious just like you and me. It has a bunch of sensors as input signals and multiple mechanic arms and tripod like legs as output possibility’s. Its central ‘brain’/‘computer’ logically processes the input signals and creates a proper output to guide it through the world. Much the same way our brain logically processes its incoming signals (our senses) to generates a proper output (to our muscles etc.) to guide its biological robot though the world.
Off course the scientists want to make sure that throughout time, all the conscious experiences are experienced by the same ‘experiencer’ or ‘person’ but at which point do we kill one? Are we allowed to alter our robot? And in which ways?

3. The self/person /experiencer.

The following is a quote from Sam Harris:

“I’m not arguing that consciousness is a reality beyond science or beyond the brain or that it floats free of the brain at death. I’m not making any spooky claims about It’s metaphysics . What I am saying however is that the self is an illusion. The sense of being an ego, an I, a thinker of thoughts in addition to the thoughts. An experiencer in addition to the experience. The sense that we all have of riding around inside our heads as a kind of a passenger in the vehicle of the body. That’s where most people start when they think about any of these questions. Most people don’t feel identical to their bodies. They feel like they have bodies. They feel like there inside the body. And most people feel they are inside their heads. Now that sense of being a subject, a locus of consciousness inside the head is an illusion. It makes no neuro-anatomical sense. There’s no place in the brain for your ego to be hiding. We know that everything that you experience – your conscious emotions and thoughts and moods and the impulses that initiate behavior – all of these things are delivered by a myriad of different processes in the brain that are spread over the whole of the brain. They can be independently erupted. We have a changing system. We are a process and there’s not one unitary self that’s carried trough from one moment to the next unchanging. And yet we feel that we have this self that’s just this center of experience.” – Sam Harris- Neuroscientist

Probably the first historical figure who discovered and mentions the illusion of the self is Buddha

“In Buddhism, the term anattā (Pali) or anātman (Sanskrit) refers to the doctrine of "non-self", that there is no unchanging, permanent self, soul or essence in living beings.[1][2]” - wikipedia

This concept of no-self is the foundation of rebirth and the theory of all being the same 'person'.

When we use names like Bob or Lisa, we use them to identify groups of cells (body’s) or the evolution thereof, however this body doesn’t contain an effective ‘person’, ‘soul’ or “thinker of thoughts”

The feeling of the self

Although an effective ‘experiencer’ or ‘self’ is invisible, we can logically deduct at which point the feeling of the self will emerge.

1: Information:

When ‘Bob’ has an experience (A) in which he thinks about what he ate yesterday (B)
This experience (A) is an experience that exists. In it is visual and other information encoded recorded by (B).
(A) also knows that the recording of this information was coupled with experience.
Naturally (A) will think it also experienced (B) and the feeling of a self emerges.

If we would teleport a human, then naturally the experiences that are created after teleportation will have the feeling of a ‘self’, with the experiences before teleportation, given the information encoded in the experiences.

Simply put: Conscious experience which share information will naturally have the feeling of a common ‘Self’ or ’I’

I quickly want to make a definition, in the next chapter I will talk about “information chains of experience”. I’ll explain this with an example: If we would teleport a human every day from earth to mars and back, then overtime the laws of physics create an information chains of conscious experience.
In other words, conscious experience which share information and follow each other up in time are what I call information chains of experience.

2.The body:

The most logical place for consciousness to be created in a law based universe is in the form of life.
Because of this, conscious experience that share information are (basically) always found in the same body or evolution thereof. We are therefore inclined to identify with our body’s.

Take the worm-butterfly example. If butterflies had any decent thinking ability. Then it wouldn’t be unnatural for it to have the feeling, or the inclination to think that ‘he’ was also the worm, because we are talking about the same group of cells or evolution thereof.
The same probably counts for you, sure ‘you’ were also the baby your mother gave birth to all these years ago, ‘you’ experienced it’s experiences.

Simply put: Conscious experience which are found in the same group of cells /body or evolution thereof, will naturally have the feeling of a common ‘Self’

4. All being the same person

I will try to explain the theory using two different (thought) experiments.

Experiment 1:

We have scientists who create 10 conscious robots. They let them live for a while, and then from time to time they destroy some of the robots, and from time to time they create new ones.

I’ll describe this experiment different; The laws of physics starts off creating, over time, ten information chains of experience, and then, from time to time information chains will end, and from time to time new information chains will start. However there are no literal souls, selves or experiencers who experience the different experiences.

Experiment 2: The apartments thought experiment.

The following experiment visualizes the theory:

We have a drug which is capable to regulate to which part of the brain memory is written/read.
We put Bob in the following building; It consists of a central room with a bed, and surrounding it are 10 different apartments which Bob can access from the central room.

Each of these 10 apartments are different, and has different things to do in them.

We will label the apartments with numbers 1,2,3 etc.
Bob will live a day in apartment 1, then goes to sleep in the central room, after which he spends a day in apartment 2 and again sleeps in the central room.
He does this with all the apartments after which he starts again with apartment 1 and continuous this loop during the experiment.
Depending in which apartment Bob will live in the next day, he will be given the correct drug so that he can read/write the memories of that specific apartment. Memories of different apartments are not saved in the same part of the brain.
Because of this when Bob participates with the experiment, he appears to be experiencing the life of only one apartment.
When he lives a day in apartment 1, and goes to sleep, the next thing he knows is that he once again needs to go to apartment 1.
When Bob experiences apartment 5, it seems to him that he only experiences apartment 5. When apartment 5 is boring or has bad living conditions he can say it was just bad luck that ‘he’ ended up in apartment 5.

Also when Bob participates with the experiment, there isn’t a chance that he is going to die doing it. It is not that because there could’ve been 11 apartments, 10/11 of him will survive, and there is a 1/11 chance that Bob will die and be in some sort of ‘eternal nothingness’ because apartment 11 does not exist. In essence Bob can’t end up or ‘collapse’ with a non-existing apartment.

We can also expand the experiment:
Bob can communicate with the different apartments via email and we could give each apartment a different job, for example Bob from apartment 1 is a mailman, apartment 2 is a cashier, apartment 3 a taxi driver etc. Each will have different salaries, coworkers and friends. In essence each apartment will have their own live.

As a last addition, the scientist who run the experiment will let the original ten apartments live for a while, after which from time to time they end some apartments from existing, and from time to time they create new apartments.
It is very important to take your time with this experiment, and most importantly that you visualize it from a first person perspective.

For example, imagine you live in apartment 10, During the day you work at a local bakery and in the evening you eat and relax in your apartment. You also regularly mail with the other apartments to see how they’re doing.

Bob from apartment 5 mails you and explains how boring his apartment is; It doesn’t contain a TV, computer, radio, any books, etc. Maybe you can help out? Your apartment is filled with those goodies; You could leave some of your stuff in the central room for Bob from apartment 5 to take. Also best to notify the other apartments so they don’t take it.

It’s a couple of months later and apartment 5 mails you. The scientists who run the experiment have notified him that they will stop apartment 5 from existing next week (the apartment 5 drug won’t be given anymore, we are talking 70 days in reality).
During those last seven days you mail every evenining. You also quickly arrange some practical stuff, he gives you back all the stuff you once gave him and on the 6th or 7th day you say a final goodbye. The 8th day you mail again, but no responds this time.

Some weeks pass bye and now the scientists contact you. They will stop apartment 10 from existing. What do you imagine?

I’ll describe this experiment once again different; The laws of physics starts off creating, over time, ten information chains of experience, and then, from time to time information chains will end, and from time to time new information chains will start. However there are no literal souls, selves or experiencers who experience the different experiences. Bob the locus of consciousness/ soul/ self/ experiencer also does not exist.

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Diebert van Rhijn
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Re: Are we all the same person?

Post by Diebert van Rhijn » Wed Aug 23, 2017 6:20 am

Hey Stofzuiger. Welcome.

The theory is not that wild. Would that disappoint you? It doesn't sound insane but you could improve coherency here and there. Some of the references I'm familiar with. There's also relation with the Swampman.

Lets start at the beginning, where the eyebrows raise the most because of the logical pre-conditions you're arguing for.
Two reasons why I’m not crazy saying this:

1: Throughout history there are a lot of people who independently discovered this theory, which means it is based on logical deduction rather than some fantasy like most afterlife theories.
The first observation "there are a lot of people" coming up with this, cannot be used to prove "logical deduction". Throughout history people have come up independently with the same fantasy or dreams too. Insanity also appears in very similar patterns. So we've really have to dismiss #1 on common sense and a few logical grounds.
2: The theory has been positively critiqued by scientists
Which is still no argument for your sanity! In the end, sanity has a lot to do with how you apply ideas. Not just having them. For example, one can believe with some body of evidence that aliens are there influencing our behavior but only the insane wants to extract them from other people's skulls with all the authoritative books in hand. If you get my drift.

Ergo, we cannot know for now anything about your sanity. The only thing we know is your ability to write this post :-)
Robert Lanza and physicist Bob Berman wrote a book called biocentrism. A major claim in this book is that everybody is the same person.
A lot of this hinges on how "person" is being defined. You touch upon that later. It's an age-old spiritual idea that "we are all One/God" etc. Certainly causality itself argues for near infinite levels of connections between anything we'd call "existences".

It's hard to critique the rest as it seems to revisit many familiar Zennish ideas as your text already refers to. Heraclitus and his not stepping twice into the same river, the Buddhist aggregate self, the concept of no-self and so on. In the end it really depends on how we'd define exactly person-hood to begin with. And the situation of experiencing a "self", even when finding it to be illusionary in terms of what it's telling to itself about values, what is important and not or what is "out there" and not, remains difficult. For myself, to speak of "all the same person" conflicts with how I normally define "person", as exactly that isolated "idios kosmos" which would dissolve rather quick in the face of its ultimate truth.

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