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Thread: Ship of theseus

  1. #1

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    Ship of theseus

    I was reading an article on line that is the type there are links in the text if you want to go deeper. One led me to this:

    https://open.library.okstate.edu/int...ip-of-theseus/

    To those that prefer not to go to links here is the gist of it:

    The ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus’ paradox, is a thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object. The paradox is most notably recorded by Plutarch in Life of Theseus from the late first century. Plutarch asked whether a ship that had been restored by replacing every single wooden part remained the same ship.
    I get that it is a paradox and so the debate could go on but here is my take on a personal level (pun intended). With one exception the human body is constantly replacing cells (the ear ossicle - Stapes does not change). So let's say since I was a baby all my cells have been replaced about eight or more times because it’s estimated that your entire body is replaced every 7 years. So I have been "replaced" several times. So Am I still me? I say yes.

    That is different from a ship or something that is conscious but my answer to the paradox is I am still me
    Please remember next time...elections matter!

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Shaggy Hiker's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    I would say that you are not still you. The Tyson who wrote that is not quite the Tyson who is reading this insofar as you couldn't replace the Tyson who is reading this with the Tyson who wrote that and have them understand what happened. The Tyson who started writing that would be utterly baffled by the fact that there was a response when they didn't remember finishing writing, let along posting...because they hadn't.

    Also, I think most brain cells don't get replaced.
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  3. #3
    Angel of Code Niya's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    I'm not sure how I feel about this when applied to inanimate objects but with people it's very simple. I've always considered a person to be the collection of information that makes you uniquely you. Your memories, personality DNA, etc. As long as that information is the same, you are the same no matter what gets replaced.

    Let's put it into IT terms. When I copy a JPEG from my hard disk to a flash drive, is it the same JPEG? Yes. Sure, a completely different set of memory cells are being used to represent the image but the actual information, that is the size of the image, colour of each pixel etc, that remains exactly the same.

    Basically, I think in terms of information, not how the information is represented or what is being used to represent them. By that logic, if I copied all of the information in your brain to silicon circuits that could process the information the same way that the living tissue in your brain does it, then as far as I'm concerned, it's still you, though not completely. A lot of information is still missing, for example, the information in your DNA that is uniquely yours but I think I've made my point.
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  4. #4
    .NUT jmcilhinney's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    I don't think that you were even you to begin with. I think that you have been masquerading as you from the start. Cats can sense these things and your avatar obviously knows that you're shifty.

  5. #5
    .NUT jmcilhinney's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Seriously though, I think that this gets to the human need to group and categorise things in order to make sense of the world. If a ship was deconstructed and all its constituent parts laid out, would it still be a ship? I think that most people would say that it's not. An object is more than just its constituent parts, so replacing those constituent parts doesn't really mean that the object is not still itself. The arrangement of those parts is obviously a critical part of what makes that object what it is so, even if you replace all the parts, they are still equivalent parts in the same arrangement and so we tend to consider it the same object.

    There's also more to it than that though. We also allow for changes to that arrangement, as long as those changes aren't too great over too short a time. You could replace parts of a ship over time with upgraded parts so that, eventually, the ship was basically unrecognisable from the one you started with, but many people would still consider even that to be the same ship. Others would not, but different people would draw the line at different stages of the change. This puts me in mind of evolutionary changes, e.g. you can line up skulls and ask people to indicate where they stop being ape and start being human and you'll get different answers from different people. You might even get different answers from the same person if you start from different ends of the evolutionary chain. The funniest part is that you'll also get different answers from different evolution-denying creationists with different justifications for those answers. Perspective is not objective.

  6. #6
    Angel of Code Niya's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    You guys are going to think I'm legit crazy when I say what I'm about to say but....

    This thread actually brings up something that kind of shook me for lack of a better word. It happened when I was doing this little side project.

    I found myself staring at this piece of code for nearly 20 minutes without really understanding at first why I found it fascinating:-
    Code:
    proc = "VYnl/3UQ/3UM/1UIiexdwgwA"
    I couldn't figure out what about it I found so fascinating. Something very deep was stirring in me while looking at this. Eventually, I realized that I happened upon something very profound about our existence. That everything is information. I mean I always knew it but this time I actually felt like I touch this truth with my own hands.

    You see when you look at that, it just looks like a random collection of letters and the fascinating thing is that it actually is. You could literally smash you head into a keyboard and come up with that. You cannot prove that those series of characters mean anything at all. However, if you apply a very specific sequence of actions using that input you get this:-
    Code:
    push ebp                               
    mov ebp, esp                         
    push dword [ebp + 16]                 
    push dword [ebp + 12]                 
    call dword [ebp + 8]                   
    mov esp, ebp
    pop ebp
    ret 12
    That random looking nonsensical sequence actually contains useful information. This is a very fundamental thing in life and perhaps the universe itself. Think about all that you are. Your eyes, your height, the colour of your skin, the sound of your voice, whether you can touch your nose with your tongue, how hairy you are, your baseline intelligence, the length of your fingers, the size of your male member , your finger prints. All of this is very complex information yet all of this is encoded using what amounts to four letters, ATCG.

    What I found fascinating was how so much be be encoded using so little. An entire human being with all of their complexities from the things I listed above to every single detail of every single cell could all be completely described using sequences of only four letters! That is so insane when you think about it.

    I guess what I'm trying to say overall is that information is everything. It doesn't matter if every cell in your body gets replaced, you are still you because those sequences of letters do not change. The information is what describes you, not what it's stored on. Going back to that base 64 String, if I changed it to say a base 32 string, it would look completely different but the information remains exactly the same. It would decode to those exact same instructions.
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    C++ programmers will dismiss you as a cretinous simpleton for your inability to keep track of pointers chained 6 levels deep and Java programmers will pillory you for buying into the evils of Microsoft. Meanwhile C# programmers will get paid just a little bit more than you for writing exactly the same code and VB6 programmers will continue to whitter on about "footprints". - FunkyDexter

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  7. #7
    Angel of Code Niya's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Quote Originally Posted by jmcilhinney View Post
    If a ship was deconstructed and all its constituent parts laid out, would it still be a ship? I think that most people would say that it's not. An object is more than just its constituent parts, so replacing those constituent parts doesn't really mean that the object is not still itself.
    We can apply what I was saying about information to this to. If a ship is broken apart, information is lost. In this case, the information lost is where every component of the ship was in relation to other components. What made the ship a ship and not just a collection of bulkheads and floor plates was this information on where each of these components were in relation to each other.

    If you were to replace every single component on the ship, it would be the same ship because all of the information about how all the components relate to each other is preserved.
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    C++ programmers will dismiss you as a cretinous simpleton for your inability to keep track of pointers chained 6 levels deep and Java programmers will pillory you for buying into the evils of Microsoft. Meanwhile C# programmers will get paid just a little bit more than you for writing exactly the same code and VB6 programmers will continue to whitter on about "footprints". - FunkyDexter

    There's just no reason to use garbage like InputBox. - jmcilhinney

    The threads I start are Niya and Olaf free zones. No arguing about the benefits of VB6 over .NET here please. Happiness must reign. - yereverluvinuncleber

  8. #8
    Angel of Code Niya's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    By the way, I'm not looking to fight about whether I'm right or wrong here. This is just my personal philosophical musings. I know certain people around here have gotten used to giving me a lot of push back because I tend to express my opinions in a very decisive and rigid tone.

    I'm just saying it right now before the "wrong" people find this thread and the drama starts.
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    C++ programmers will dismiss you as a cretinous simpleton for your inability to keep track of pointers chained 6 levels deep and Java programmers will pillory you for buying into the evils of Microsoft. Meanwhile C# programmers will get paid just a little bit more than you for writing exactly the same code and VB6 programmers will continue to whitter on about "footprints". - FunkyDexter

    There's just no reason to use garbage like InputBox. - jmcilhinney

    The threads I start are Niya and Olaf free zones. No arguing about the benefits of VB6 over .NET here please. Happiness must reign. - yereverluvinuncleber

  9. #9
    .NUT jmcilhinney's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Quote Originally Posted by Niya View Post
    I'm just saying it right now before the "wrong" people find this thread and the drama starts.
    There are no wrong people, man. Just wrong information. <sharp inhaling sound>

  10. #10
    Angel of Code Niya's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Quote Originally Posted by jmcilhinney View Post
    There are no wrong people, man. Just wrong information. <sharp inhaling sound>
    Ooo boy ain't this the truth
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    C++ programmers will dismiss you as a cretinous simpleton for your inability to keep track of pointers chained 6 levels deep and Java programmers will pillory you for buying into the evils of Microsoft. Meanwhile C# programmers will get paid just a little bit more than you for writing exactly the same code and VB6 programmers will continue to whitter on about "footprints". - FunkyDexter

    There's just no reason to use garbage like InputBox. - jmcilhinney

    The threads I start are Niya and Olaf free zones. No arguing about the benefits of VB6 over .NET here please. Happiness must reign. - yereverluvinuncleber

  11. #11

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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Quote Originally Posted by jmcilhinney View Post
    I don't think that you were even you to begin with. I think that you have been masquerading as you from the start. Cats can sense these things and your avatar obviously knows that you're shifty.
    Well they do say you are who you think you are, who other people think you are, and who you really are
    Please remember next time...elections matter!

  12. #12

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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Quote Originally Posted by Niya View Post
    We can apply what I was saying about information to this to. If a ship is broken apart, information is lost. In this case, the information lost is where every component of the ship was in relation to other components. What made the ship a ship and not just a collection of bulkheads and floor plates was this information on where each of these components were in relation to each other.

    If you were to replace every single component on the ship, it would be the same ship because all of the information about how all the components relate to each other is preserved.
    Well along those lines if you use the same plans more than once are they all the same ship. The Titanic, Olympic, Britannic were are built from the same plans. Are they the same ship?
    Please remember next time...elections matter!

  13. #13
    Angel of Code Niya's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Quote Originally Posted by TysonLPrice View Post
    Well along those lines if you use the same plans more than once are they all the same ship. The Titanic, Olympic, Britannic were are built from the same plans. Are they the same ship?
    Their names are different. That is part of their information too.
    Last edited by Niya; Sep 24th, 2021 at 04:05 AM.
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    C++ programmers will dismiss you as a cretinous simpleton for your inability to keep track of pointers chained 6 levels deep and Java programmers will pillory you for buying into the evils of Microsoft. Meanwhile C# programmers will get paid just a little bit more than you for writing exactly the same code and VB6 programmers will continue to whitter on about "footprints". - FunkyDexter

    There's just no reason to use garbage like InputBox. - jmcilhinney

    The threads I start are Niya and Olaf free zones. No arguing about the benefits of VB6 over .NET here please. Happiness must reign. - yereverluvinuncleber

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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Another line of thought might be, regarding people and cells being replaced, might be we are just one big chemical reaction. For example a fire. It is different every step of the way but we call it the same fire. You might say our personality, memories, etc. make us the same but that is just because we constantly reinforce those things. Much like a fire we are different every second. Maybe that is what jmc meant in his first post.
    Please remember next time...elections matter!

  15. #15
    Angel of Code Niya's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Quote Originally Posted by TysonLPrice View Post
    Another line of thought might be, regarding people and cells being replaced, might be we are just one big chemical reaction. For example a fire. It is different every step of the way but we call it the same fire. You might say our personality, memories, etc. make us the same but that is just because we constantly reinforce those things. Much like a fire we are different every second. Maybe that is what jmc meant in his first post.
    This is a very good point and also a very valid one. We can take it even deeper than that. All we are, are evolving states of entropy. Every single thing that moves both living and non living can be viewed this way.

    There is really no wrong or right here. I think we are all just trying to find order in this chaos we call existence.
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    C++ programmers will dismiss you as a cretinous simpleton for your inability to keep track of pointers chained 6 levels deep and Java programmers will pillory you for buying into the evils of Microsoft. Meanwhile C# programmers will get paid just a little bit more than you for writing exactly the same code and VB6 programmers will continue to whitter on about "footprints". - FunkyDexter

    There's just no reason to use garbage like InputBox. - jmcilhinney

    The threads I start are Niya and Olaf free zones. No arguing about the benefits of VB6 over .NET here please. Happiness must reign. - yereverluvinuncleber

  16. #16
    PowerPoster Zvoni's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Chipping in:
    1) Physical objects (as in the example of a ship):
    I'd say no, it's not the same anymore, because once taken apart there is an astronomically small chance to put it back together "exactly" as it was, and this is with the original components.
    If you use replacement parts, then it's definitely not the same object anymore.
    I could argue, that this specific carbon atom in that original wooden plank was created by a star in the Andromeda-Galaxy 7 Billion years ago, while that specific atom in the replacement wooden plank was created in the Milky Way some 5 Billion years ago.
    Nevermind Entropy and/or passing of time, which is an undeniable part of the "information-package" which defines something on the lowest level
    Bottom Line: The information contained within that object has changed.
    Interesting enough: Loss of Information-Paradox


    2) Personal Level: The age old question: What makes you "you"? I think what makes me "me" is not bound to my physical representation (I'm still an a**hole, irrespective if i have long, short or dyed blonde hair).
    What made me reach this conclusion is this "Transgender"-Discussion (No offense to anyone intended): If someone in a male body feels himself female, he(she) will feel female irrespective that his(her) DNA says "You have XY".
    So, the information contained within our bodies do not make me "me"
    So, in a way i agree (and disagree at the same time) with Niya: Yes, if we could copy the "content" of my brain to silicon circuits, it would still be me (agree), but the information of my DNA does not make me "me" (disagree)
    Remember: There can be an exact copy of your DNA somewhere else (mathematically speaking. The probability for it to happen is astronomically small but it is still >0 for that random sequence to be put together again).

    Oh, and Niya: I actually welcome people speaking their mind in a precise manner (which might sound "aggressive" to the "weak-hearted"), because i'm pretty much the same.
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    .NUT jmcilhinney's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Quote Originally Posted by Zvoni View Post
    What made me reach this conclusion is this "Transgender"-Discussion (No offense to anyone intended): If someone in a male body feels himself female, he(she) will feel female irrespective that his(her) DNA says "You have XY".
    So, the information contained within our bodies do not make me "me"
    I'm going to have to disagree with you there. There's more to the information in our bodies than whether we have XX or XY chromosomes. A transgender person's gender identity is still being generated in their mind, by their brain. There are obviously influences from external factors during foetal development and through their life but those influencers are affecting their physical body and brain so that their mind generates a transgender identity. Unless you believe in a soul or the like, which I do not, everything that makes me "me" is still a product of our physical being. I can't necessarily explain exactly how and we may never be able to be able to, but doesn't mean that it isn't so.

  18. #18
    Angel of Code Niya's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Quote Originally Posted by Zvoni View Post
    So, in a way i agree (and disagree at the same time) with Niya: Yes, if we could copy the "content" of my brain to silicon circuits, it would still be me (agree), but the information of my DNA does not make me "me" (disagree)
    In other words, what you consider to be a person is only the information necessary to constitute what we call consciousness. In this sense, all we are is that information, regardless of how that information is stored. This is a very interesting point and a stable way to look at it. It's very hard to get lost in the weeds with this perspective. Science Fiction often treats it that way too. I don't know how many of you have ever seen Stargate SG-1 but in that show, this has come up multiple times. The writers of that show would probably agree with your view.

    However, I'm not sure sure we should be so casual about excluding our bodies as part of who we are. There is point to be made about why I think so but I just can't find the words to aptly describe what it is I'm thinking. It's there just gnawing at me, like a splinter in my foot that I know is there but can't find.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zvoni View Post
    Oh, and Niya: I actually welcome people speaking their mind in a precise manner (which might sound "aggressive" to the "weak-hearted"), because i'm pretty much the same.
    Yea, too many people are quick to get up in their feelings and never really listen to what the "other" side is saying and analyze it objectively. I can never understand this. This could rub some people the wrong way giving how PC Americans tend to be but I was brought up by and around men. Real men that tell you like it is, damn your feelings. I don't know how to be wishy-washy, diplomatic or what some people might call feminine. I find that I can offend Americans very easily because I don't have that "soft touch".
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  19. #19
    PowerPoster Zvoni's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Quote Originally Posted by Niya View Post
    However, I'm not sure sure we should be so casual about excluding our bodies as part of who we are. There is point to be made about why I think so but I just can't find the words to aptly describe what it is I'm thinking. It's there just gnawing at me, like a splinter in my foot that I know is there but can't find.
    To put it this way: If you lost a (or some) Limb(s) would it change "you"?
    Did ALS change Stephen Hawking?
    Yes, of course it would change someone, but, IMO, only in the "interaction" with the world.
    If my favorite color is red, it would still be red,
    if my favorite music is Heavy Metal (which it is ), it would still be Heavy Metal,
    irrespective of the condition of my body.

    What happened to me two months ago: i came back from my vacation (duh! I nearly wrote "vaccination"....) and i noticed problems with my left ear.
    Went to the doc, he did a test, his answer: "Go Home, grab some clothes, and off with you to the hospital"
    I was some 95% deaf on my left ear!
    BUT, my favorite color was still red, and my favorite music Heavy Metal.
    Did it change me? Yes, but only in the way i interacted with the "outside" world.
    Did it change what makes me "me"? No
    This is my personal opinion!

    btw: Everything OK again with my left ear.
    Got Cortison IV for 4 days, and week after as pills.

    EDIT: Here is a thought the other way round:
    I think everyone knows of someone (or a story of someone) being a completely normal person.
    And then this person goes of to war.
    How many of you know the phrase "He came back a changed person"?
    His body is still the same, but he came back with a changed "me".

    I think this goes way deep into psychology, and i doubt anyone of us is really qualified to "judge" who is right or wrong (i'm definitely not qualified).
    We can only express our own opinions.
    Last edited by Zvoni; Sep 24th, 2021 at 05:51 AM.
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  20. #20
    Angel of Code Niya's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Well I was thinking more along the lines of who you are as a person is also influenced by the type of input you receive from the world. Your body is what captures that input, without it, would you have become the same person you are. Would you be the same if you were born blind? There is something along that line of thinking that is gnawing at me.
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    There's just no reason to use garbage like InputBox. - jmcilhinney

    The threads I start are Niya and Olaf free zones. No arguing about the benefits of VB6 over .NET here please. Happiness must reign. - yereverluvinuncleber

  21. #21

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    Re: Ship of theseus

    This is out of the link:

    Heraclitus
    The Greek philosopher Heraclitus attempted to solve the paradox by introducing the idea of a river where water replenishes it. Arius Didymus quoted him as saying “upon those who step into the same rivers, different and again different waters flow”. Plutarch disputed Heraclitus’ claim about stepping twice into the same river, citing that it cannot be done because “it scatters and again comes together, and approaches and recedes”.
    I think it follows along the lines of fire. You can say many people have traveled the Mississippi but none of them traveled the same river. I'm not sure it that can be related to physical objects in the same way (maybe at the most basic atomic level). Another piece of the paradox was approached as if as Theseus ship was being replaced and you took the original boards to rebuild another which is really the ship of Theseus.
    Please remember next time...elections matter!

  22. #22
    PowerPoster Zvoni's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Quote Originally Posted by Niya View Post
    Well I was thinking more along the lines of who you are as a person is also influenced by the type of input you receive from the world. Your body is what captures that input, without it, would you have become the same person you are. Would you be the same if you were born blind? There is something along that line of thinking that is gnawing at me.
    OK, i can see where you're coming from. But since you were born blind, you never had the concept of colors.
    It's different, if you get blind later in life (Accident, cataract in your eyes , whatever).

    Yes, your bodily functions capture that input, your brain translates it to colors, sound, taste, smell, touch, but it's your "essence" that interprets and assigns values to it

    Listening to "Run To the Hills" by Iron Maiden is the same information reaching both our ears, both our brains translate it the same way, but it's our "essence" which assigns the value "Like it!" (or Not!)

    Just had another thought:
    according to this site:
    (i have no idea how reliable this information is)
    Human DNA is 99.9% identical from person to person. Although 0.1% difference doesn’t sound like a lot, it actually represents millions of different locations within the genome where variation can occur, equating to a breathtakingly large number of potentially unique DNA sequences.
    To translate that into "programming":
    99.9% of humanity have the same "business logic" in a file called "dna.dll"
    the last 0.1% is the (random!) GUI in a file "me.exe" with a file in AppData\Local called "preferences.js"

    So this bears the question: Where do the bugs come from?
    Why does person A get lung-cancer, while Person B doesn't, despite both being smokers?

    EDIT: Yes, i know, that i'm simplifying it to the extreme, since i know that there are external factors changing the dna which can cause cancer in one person.
    Last edited by Zvoni; Sep 24th, 2021 at 06:32 AM.
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  23. #23
    Super Moderator Shaggy Hiker's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    While DNA consists of four nucleotides, the fact that it can code for all the diversity of life shouldn't really surprise anybody here. After all, we work on computers, and they only have two states per bit, so four is a clear abundance of information. We combine 8 bits to a byte in computers, DNA combines three nucleotides for a code. A byte can hold 256 different values (2^8), a triplet of nucleotides can hold 64, which is already quite a bit more than the number of amino acids we use in our proteins, which leaves several code combinations left over to provide instructions for transcription, such as stop instructions, and the like (I seem to remember that there is more than one stop command).

    Also, once you include epigenetics, our DNA is not the sole coding we have, as epigenetics can alter how the DNA is transcribed.
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  24. #24
    Hyperactive Member Peter Porter's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    I had a friend who I haven't seen in a few years who I thought was normal, until he joined Facebook, showing us now he's far from it. He might have been this person his whole life, but I believe something changed him along the way that turned him into a nut.

    Maybe he fell on his head, or experienced some other traumatic event. He's just not the same person I remember years ago!

    Certain things I've done in the past, I wouldn't do it today. I'm not the same person.

    With a ship, if all the parts were replaced over time and had a name change, I would say it's the same ship since I used it between it's multiple restorations. I wouldn't think differently unless all the old parts were used to rebuild the original ship.
    Last edited by Peter Porter; Sep 24th, 2021 at 03:28 PM.

  25. #25
    Super Moderator FunkyDexter's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    "Ship of Theseus" paradox, my Aunt Fanny. It's the "Trigger's Broom" paradox and anyone who says otherwise is a right plonker.
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  26. #26
    Super Moderator Shaggy Hiker's Avatar
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    Re: Ship of theseus

    Yeah, that was a good clip.
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