A short story about Open Individualist resurrection by Andy Weir, author of The Martian

Andy Weir, the author of The Martian (soon to become a movie), also wrote a delightful short story about Open Individualist resurrection. Highly recommended.

The Martian is a science fiction novel by Andy Weir, which follows an American astronaut stranded on Mars. The novel was first self-published in digital format and then published in print by Crown in February 2014. A film based on the novel, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, will be released in October.

After reading the first reviews I wasn’t too inclined to read The Martian because I tend to find a mere trip to Mars too pedestrian – I want to read about advanced aliens roaming the stars as uploads on a computronium substrate, superintelligent AIs maybe just a bit evil, intelligent life at the Omega Point and that sort of things.

But when I started reading I couldn’t put the book down – it’s a real page turner. Astronaut Mark Watney is thought dead in a sandstorm and marooned on Mars by his crew-mates, and must find ways to survive years until the next mission comes. The story alternates between the points of view of Mark, his fellow crew members still en-route to Earth, and the NASA scientists and admins back on Earth. The other main character of the story is Murphy’s Law, which strikes whenever it gets a chance.

Searching for Weir I found a very short, delightful story about resurrection from an Open Individualist perspective.

In his book “I Am You: The Metaphysical Foundations for Global Ethics,” Daniel Kolak proposes the metaphysics (and practical philosophy) of Open Individualism: every consciousness is fundamentally the same, and we are all the same person. For more on Open Individualism read my essay “You Am Us” on The Transfigurist, the shorter version here, and of course Kolak’s book .

Andy Weir’s short story is titled “The Egg.” The story is so short that a summary would be longer than the story, so please just read it here. The page has links to translations in many languages, provided by enthusiastic volunteers.

Open Individualism is a way of thinking that grows on you, and after some practice you may find that it’s trivially true. Open Individualism as a practical philosophy can make an important positive difference in our lives. If you think that other people are you, you will not harm them, because you would be harming yourself. On the contrary, you will be kind and compassionate to them – to all other instances of you. God says that, in Weir’s story.

Since I started to practice Open Individualist thinking I find Martine Rothblatt’s ideas on “soft uploading” via mindfiles more plausible.

According to Martine Rothblatt and William Sims Bainbridge, we can build a “mindfile” with diaries, blogs, pictures, videos, answers to personality tests, etc. in such a way as to create over the years a large database of personal information, hoping that future “mindware” technology may be able to bring the information in the database to life as a valid continuation (from both objective and subjective points of view) of the original person.

My main objection used to be that building a mindfile sufficiently rich to capture a human personality, memories, thoughts, feelings, dreams, hopes, fears etc. would take more than a lifetime.

Then I realized that incomplete mindfiles can be completed with information available in the cloud.

Now I realize that, if Kolak is right (and I find it almost difficult to see how he could be wrong), everyone is a parallel you and every future person will be a future you, so that a future AI / soft upload powered by your mindfile will be a future version of you (everyone is) able to recall your memories, and that is a totally acceptable form of personal resurrection.

Image from Pixabay.

  • magnus

    In 1984 George Orwell has a similar idea. As Winston is tortured in the ministry of love, O ‘Brian is talking about the greatest failure in life, death. But if a person could supress his own identity and become the Party, he willbe allmighty and immortal.
    A similar thought, but in a very different context…

    • Giulio Prisco

      It seems to me that there is a hierarchy of degrees of selfness (who/what you identify with). Open Individualism comes at the bottom (you identify with everyone). Identifying with an idea (with the subset of people who hold that idea as a central defining factor of their identity) comes just above that. In Greg Egan’s Permutation City, Peer realizes that he is defined by his (artificially induced) happiness and concludes that all happy persons will be him.

      • magnus

        I use to think about open individualism as a sort of secondary solution to the problem of death, but still better than nothing.
        Maybe one could improve it if identifying with some general character that will have increased probable future existence.
        It s like a “fuzzy equivalenz relation’ .
        It might be, that a consious decision and ‘hard work’ with identification might improve the result. I don’t only consider mindfiles, but the mind itself. If one bends it in a specific direction, like a kind of good brainwashing, it might be a closer continuer to someone in the future. Bringing onticity into the thoughts and the mwi from Perrys book will possibly strenghten the importance of the selfness degrees.

        • magnus

          Of course, I didn’t use the words open individualism as I entered this thoughts about equivalent minds.
          I think that this perspective has a great social potential. Different partial states of our minds are instantiated over and over again, spread out in time and space on our planet. Like you wrote, hurting someone is then like hurting yourself.
          It s also fascinating when one really experience a certain athmosphere and add the thought, that someone might have experienced exactly the same maybe a very long time ago. Then I try to take the responcibility to imagine a person, realistic but not with concrete details outside the historical record, who s state of mind is here again.
          Yes, it s a perspective that could help, independent from prefered model of our world.

          Another interpretation is, that if one put to much love for ‘material stuff’, that changes a lot over time, except gold:-), there will probably not be an instantiation of this concrete experience, unless you abstract away from the concrete items.

          Time to work.
          Regards from rainy sweden.

          • Giulio Prisco

            Regards from rainy Hungary! If someone in the present / past / future experiences _exactly_ the same thoughts that I am experiencing now, I think for a few seconds we are exactly the same person. In other words, consciousness is not a property of thinkers, but a property of thoughts.

            Of course, the correspondence will never be _exact_, but I am willing to include “very similar.” If a moment of your thought stream is very similar to a moment of mine, then we are the same person for a moment, with a high degree of sameness. Something like that, these things are difficult to put in words.