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What was I thinking?

Disclaimer: Inane ramblings on the nature of identity ahead! Reader assumes all risk of boredom and "WTF?".

Ever look in the mirror in the morning and find that the face staring back at you looks familiar? Not "looks like you", but just looks familiar, as in "yeah, I know that's [insert your name here], but how'd that get to be my face? Is this normal, or is it just me?

What defines me? Not in the "you're that meatbag who was late to work yesterday, you angsty dork!" sense, but in the sense of anima and animus. As near as I can tell, the critical elements that make up my identity are my memories, neural pathways (along with biases introduced by hormones and other physiological factors), and my running thoughts.

My thoughts. That's where identity starts to get fuzzy for me. Ever forget what you were thinking in mid-thought or mid-conversation? Aside from the sensation of being unable to find something (It's tactile for me. Is this normal?) it's just about the most disquieting sensation I can imagine. I can feel it when I lose a thought. It's like a little tiny bit of me dies, and I hate it! Unfortunately, my brain is a lump of swiss cheese, so this happens to me all time. (I long ago developed the habit of always keeping a pen and notepad with me to help work around this.)

This LJ post is a record of my thoughts. Does that mean that the server upon which it resides is a part of me? From the perspective of you reading it right now I'd say no, because it's just a record of thoughts that I had rather than the actual running thoughts themselves. But for me, right now, sitting here in front of Gir composing this post, these are my actual, running thoughts, implemented partly in my head and partly in silicon. Having them on the computer allows me to think in a parallel manner despite my "onboard" stack only being able to juggle one or two ideas at a time. This is why I'm able to think more clearly and more abstractly in writing than in conversation. Does this make Gir a part of me? When I have thoughts in progress cached on him to allow my brain to attend to other tasks and come back to them later I'd say yes. The same would apply to the notepad.

For the most part, Gir is much better able to retain my thoughts than my head is, so I lean on him for that task a lot. A lot. What was I thinking? I was thinking about this web page I was reading. I was thinking about these 24 other web pages I was reading. I was thinking about these 2 LJ comments I've been composing for the last couple of months or so. Having a crutch like a laptop to lean on allows me to put innumerable thoughts "into the stack" and finish them later. It's an enormous boon to my clarity of thought and overall mental health.

Until I fuck it up, that is. (I won't get into the details of how, other than to say that it was entirely my stupidity.) Then the little death of losing a thought becomes the gut punch of losing up to 2 months of work.

(As an aside, my apologies to both serolynne and redheadlass for not replying to your "please post a fake memory of me" meme. Janet, my memory of you was of a balloon trip followed by a picnic at the landing site. Cherie, my memory of you was a lengthy story about the summer that we spent stealing cars together, and of one in particular where we ended up being pursued by the cops, escaping only because of your driving skills. :-) )

So am I weird for getting nauseous when I forget what I was thinking in mid though? Are these questions of identity valid? Are they even important?

Launching off on a tangent...

As femetal has mentioned several times lately, Gir's current hardware (867MHz G4 w/640MB RAM) is getting a bit long in the tooth. After 3 years he still does his job adequately (HD space issues aside), but he'd do it better with a faster processor, more memory (he's maxed right now) USB 2.0, and a bigger hard drive (also possibly maxed). So I've been strongly pondering an upgrade.

The current top of the line 12" PowerBook would be a considerable performance boost, as well as allowing me to utilize my new iPod at full speed (USB 2.0 vs 1.1) and circumventing the problem with one of Gir's speakers being non-functional (grrrrr...). It would also be a simple matter to transfer the data directly from his current chassis to the new one.

Funny thing. A couple of times when I've mentioned this to people the response I've gotten has been along the lines of "You're going to get rid of GIR?!!? How can you bring yourself to do that??" Well, it's easy. By my way of thinking I wouldn't be getting rid of him at all- just uploading him to a new body. Same data. Even the same form factor. Same Gir. I've done hardware upgrades and replacements to him before- this would just be a more radical version of the same thing. In transhumanist circles it would be a non-destructive upload.

Now, of course, Apple has come out with the Intel-based MacBook and iMac lines. This changes things. Different form factor (GAH! Rumor has it that they'll be dropping the 12" machines as they complete the Intel migration. Heresy!). Would moving Gir to a 15" machine make him "not Gir" (understanding that the question is almost entirely subjective)? More importantly, it's a different hardware architecture. Since it's a different compile of the OS I could still use Migration Assistant to copy over user data, settings, and apps, but I couldn't just do a straight image from Gir's current hard drive to the new one. *Now* would it still be Gir? These questions are largely trivial minutiae now, but portend the much deeper issues that we as a species will have to address.

For now though, I have a more immediate question. Stick with the older architecture (and the backward compatibility that goes with it) and keep the form factor with which I've fallen so very in love, or accept a larger size as a tradeoff for a much more powerful machine with greater forward compatibility?

I was going somewhere with all of this mental masturbation, but I really don't remember now what the point was. (Yes, really. I'm not trying to be ironic here.) :-(


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 15th, 2006 08:39 pm (UTC)
There's also the stick with the old until they release something new that is more compelling. I've heard some rumours that imply that things will be coming out that blow away the current macintels (I think it was at Matt Raible's blog but it's currently down so I'm not sure.
Jan. 16th, 2006 07:14 am (UTC)
There's something to add to the list of things I forgot to mention. If I go with a 12" G4 I'll probably buy within the next couple of weeks. If I hold off on a MacBook then I'm planning on waiting longer. I'm not concerned about something significantly more powerful coming out as much as wanting to be sure that any bugs are worked out.
Jan. 16th, 2006 07:19 am (UTC)
Well,the rumour I saw wasn't so much more power as much as more feature, but the site's still down and it's just a rumour, so shrug. I've never really wanted a powerbook primarially because the G4 is kinda weak these days, but that's just me ;) Would a new G4 actually provide anything useful that Gir doesn't?
Jan. 16th, 2006 07:52 am (UTC)
Very much so. I have a few apps that, while they run on Gir, don't run particularly well, and as a result I tend not to use them as much as I'd like (mostly games, but also Dashboard and some of the other Tiger niftiness). There are also a few apps that I've never even tried, as Gir doesn't meet the minimum requirements. A new machine would give me a better video card (not a fantastic one, but an improvement over what I'm using now) and almost double my current clock speed.

Gir also only has 640 MB of RAM, and as far as I can tell that's as high as his model can go. Macs love extra memory, and their performance improvement simply from adding memory is striking (speaking from the experience of our G4 towers at work).

I got a new iPod for Christmas/birthday, and while it's a marvelous, delightful, beautiful thing it doesn't support FireWire at all. While I understand why this is, as the owner of a laptop which only has USB 1.1 this is a big step backwards. Syncing new CDs and podcasts takes *much* longer than it should and is a bit of a hassle. I'm very much spoiled by FireWire, but the USB 2.0 that I'd be getting with a new machine would eliminate that issue entirely.

Gir can burn CDs but not DVDs. The price difference between the two drives has now dropped to the point that it would be silly not to get a SuperDrive in the new machine.

Gir has three built-in speakers. One of them hasn't worked since it was kicked some time back (grrrrr...), and while it's been an annoyance I never got it fixed, either because I couldn't afford to at the time, needed him with me for some purpose or another, or didn't want to risk doing a full tear down to try to fix it myself. In and of itself this is hardly justification for a new computer, but when considering an upgrade anyway it becomes a factor.

Gir's hard drive is currently 80 GB and is getting a bit cramped. I could upgrade it myself (I've done so before), but again when I'm already contemplating an upgrade anyway this becomes a consideration.
Jan. 16th, 2006 08:32 am (UTC)
One of the interesting comments I saw recently is that the huge performance increase of the macbooks over the g4 powermacs is largely due to the increased performance of the memory bus in the macbooks.

Raible's site is back up now, here's the vague rumour link I was talking about: hmmmmmm

If you have a lot of stuff you can't really run on Gir, I guess waiting isn't really an option. Is there any information on what the release of the intel macs is doing to the resale value of the powerPc macs? It may be that you can get the g4 powerbook and sell it in the future when you want to upgrade again and not take much of a hit anyway.
Jan. 16th, 2006 07:52 am (UTC)
I do the forgetting thing also. It is quite freaky. I have also lost the thought mid-sentence, like a wall or a door has shut and it is gone. The worst time I did that the person I was talking to said she could see me lose the thought and sentence. She said she saw my eyes go blank. That one was the worst incident I have had and it was a bit scary.
P.S. I believe a new outer packinging of Gir is still Gir.
Jan. 18th, 2006 12:13 pm (UTC)
What, what?! They can't phase out the 12" line - they're the best offering Apple has! *sniffles softly and clutches Gala*
Jan. 21st, 2006 07:48 am (UTC)
I am in dire need of a laptop upgrade as well. If you recall I bought my Powerbook before you. I mean it's one of the ones made from Titanium for god sakes! ;)

Unfortunately, I'm still paying the loan that bought Chi. =p

...and like you I want to wait until the kinks are worked out. 1st gen hardware = headache on occasion. Plus I believe I read something about the road-map which indicates the processors will be upgraded to newer/better architecture before too long. Once the iBook switches to Intel I guarantee that they'll be upgrading the Pro line.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )