Identity, Immortality, Happiness: Pick Two

Shimon Edelman
Cornell University
To the extent that the performance of embodied and situated cognitive agents is predicated on fore- thought;such agents must remember; and learn from; the past to predict the future. In complex; non-stationaryenvironments; such learning is facilitated by an intrinsic motivation to seek novelty. A significant part of anagent’s identity is thus constituted by its remembered distilled cumulative life experience; which the agent isdriven to constantly expand. The combination of the drive to novelty with practical limits on memorycapacity posits a problem. On the one hand; because novelty seekers are unhappy when bored; merelyreliving past positive experiences soon loses its appeal: happiness can only be attained sporadically; via anopen-ended pursuit of new experience. On the other hand; because the experiencer’s memory is finite;longevity and continued novelty; taken together; imply eventual loss of at least some of the stored content;and with it a disruption of the constructed identity. In this essay; I examine the biobehavioral and cognitive-computational circumstances that give rise to this problem and explore its implications for the humancondition.
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References found in this work BETA

Ways of Worldmaking.Nelson Goodman - 1978 - Harvester Press.
Freedom Evolves.Daniel C. Dennett - 2003 - Viking Press.
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