Robin Hanson found a skeptical Bryan Caplan when the former explained his positions on cryonics to the latter. (“The more I furrowed my brow, the more earnestly he spoke.”) Caplan said:
What disturbed me was when I realized how low he set his threshold for [cryonics] success. Robin didnâ€™t care about biological survival. He didnâ€™t need his brain implanted in a cloned body. He just wanted his neurons preserved well enough to â€œupload himselfâ€ into a computer. To my mind, it was ridiculously easy to prove that â€œuploading yourselfâ€ isnâ€™t life extension. â€œAn upload is merely a simulation. It wouldnâ€™t be you,â€ I remarked. â€¦
â€œSuppose we uploaded you while you were still alive. Are you saying that if someone blew your biological head off with a shotgun, youâ€™d still be alive?!â€ Robin didnâ€™t even blink: â€œIâ€™d say that I just got smaller.â€ â€¦ Iâ€™d like to think that Robinâ€™s an outlier among cryonics advocates, but in my experience, heâ€™s perfectly typical. Fascination with technology crowds out not just philosophy of mind, but common sense.
Hanson responded with an articulate explanation of causal functionalism and the illusory quality of the mind/matter distinction:
Bryan, you are the sum of your parts and their relations. We know where you are and what you are made of; you are in your head, and you are made out of the signals that your brain cells send each other. Humans evolved to think differently about minds versus other stuff, and while that is a useful category of thought, really we can see that minds are made out of the same parts, just arranged differently. Yes, you â€œfeel,â€ but that just tells you that stuff feels, it doesnâ€™t say you are made of anything besides the stuff you see around and inside you.
Although the argument may seem to be about cryonics on the surface, it is really about the viability of uploading.