Physics Guy wrote: ↑
Thu Sep 22, 2022 8:52 pm
As a matter of fact our information does persist past death, as Carroll must know—it's an undergraduate point. Deterministic causality means that every detail of the present and past is always encoded, in a one-to-one way, in the future. Sufficiently advanced aliens could in principle reconstruct my personality, centuries in the future, by disentangling it from fantastically precise measurements of everything within a few light-centuries of Earth. They could probably get a close-enough representation of my life, in fact, from measuring in a much smaller volume of space.
What is preserved is only a record of my life, however, not my ongoing pattern having new experiences. Even if those curious aliens did reconstruct my whole life after my death, down to all the thoughts and feelings I ever had, the story that they reconstruct would still have ended at my death. Past that point, no new consciousness events in my brain would be recorded anywhere in this universe, because they never happened in this universe.
On the other hand, conceivably those quixotic aliens could then edit and process their data a bit more, in order to resolve the counterfactual historical question of what I would have gone on to do, and think, and feel, and see, and so on—if I had not died at that point. Working out what my experiences would have been, if I hadn't died like that, would itself be a kind of afterlife for me.
It's not clear that there would be a unique way of pushing me on past death like that. The aliens might have to make choices about exactly how I went on after death, and these choices might affect who exactly I actually was in this delayed afterlife. If the aliens distorted my soul when they continued my pattern like that, though, it might not be anything so new for me. Little random events have influenced me all my life, after all.
So aliens could in principle give me a simulated afterlife. Since consciousness is a matter of software, not hardware, the issue of simulation is moot. I would be living again after death, making new choices, having new experiences.
Perhaps there are some UFO cults somewhere that do hope for something like that. Most believers in life after death do not look to aliens for it. Instead they generally propose that it is something outside the universe—God or karma or whatever—that is keeping a copy of all our data, and will boot us up again in a whole new world (new to us, anyway).
The point about the aliens only shows that an informational soul can in principle have eternal life no matter what happens to whatever hardware hosts it in this world. Carroll's point is strong about disproving spirit as substance, and also about life not persisting naturally within this world after death, barring spectacular interventions by aliens. To suppose that this disproves life after death in most traditionally imagined forms is only begging the question, however. If there is a Heaven, it is not a zone of space just beyond Saturn's orbit (sorry, Dante), and "going to Heaven" is not a matter of ensuring that any "fine matter" drifts out to there.