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Is information-theoretic death the most real interpretation of death?

Information-theoretic death is defined as the moment when the neural structures in your brain are destroyed. At that point, it becomes theoretically impossible to bring a person back to life. Some philosophers and scientists regard this as a more real interpretation of death than legal death.

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Experts and Influencers

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Experts In Science

Ralph Merkle    Computer Scientist, Nanotechnologist
...as long as the structures that encode the memory and personality of a human being have not been irretrievably "erased" (to use computer jargon) then restoration to a fully functional state with memory and personality intact is in principle feasible. Any technology independent definition of "death" should conclude that such a person is not dead, for a sufficiently advanced technology could restore the person to a healthy state.
01 Jan 1994    Source

Eliezer Yudkowsky    Artificial Intelligence Researcher
...I hope [from reading this you will] gain an entirely new perspective on where your "identity" is located... ...if your brain were non-destructively frozen (e.g. by vitrification in liquid nitrogen); and a computer model of the synapses, neural states, and other brain behaviors were constructed a hundred years later; then it would preserve exactly everything about you that was preserved by going to sleep one night and waking up the next morning.
12 Jun 2008    Source

Classic Quotes from Fiction

H. P. Lovecraft    Author
Holding with Haeckel that all life is a chemical and physical process, and that the so-called "soul" is a myth, my friend believed that artificial reanimation of the dead can depend only on the condition of the tissues; and that unless actual decomposition has set in, a corpse fully equipped with organs may with suitable measures be set going again in the peculiar fashion known as life. | "Herbert West: Reanimator" narrator.
01 Jul 1922    Source

Experts In Philosophy

Robert Todd Carroll    Philosophy Professor
Even if a dead body is somehow preserved for a century or two and then repaired, whatever is animated by whatever process will not be the same person who died. The brain is the key to consciousness and to who a person is. There is no reason to believe that a brain preserved by whatever means and restored to whatever state by nanobots will result in a consciousness that is in any way connected to the consciousness of the person who died two centuries earlier.
23 Feb 2009    Source

Experts In Economics

Bryan Caplan    Economics Professor
I thought I had him [the cryonics advocate] trapped. "Suppose we uploaded [your brain to a computer] while you were still alive. Are you saying that if someone blew your biological head off with a shotgun, you'd still be alive?!" [He] didn't even blink: "I'd say that I just got smaller."
29 Nov 2009    Source

Sub-Arguments Of This Expert:
Could a computer ever be conscious?


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0 Points      MTC      23 Feb 2013      Stance on Question: Agree
Of course. You are not dead until it becomes completely impossible to revive you, independent of currently available technology.

0 Points      TZX      16 Feb 2011      Stance on Question: Agree
If we want the concept of death to be useful at all, it seems obvious that the only, and only the, irrecoverable death is the correct death.

0 Points      blacktrance      10 Feb 2011      Stance on Question: Agree
As there is nothing beyond the material world, the mind is nothing but physical matter. If the physical matter is reconstructed, then the mind will have returned.

0 Points      Benja      01 Aug 2010      Stance on Question: Agree
Atoms are fungible. If you swap one atom in your head for another atom, you've actually changed nothing. Ditto when you swap every atom in your head. Reconstructing your brain atom-for-atom would reconstruct you. But that's (ironically?) an overkill. Reconstructing neural structures will suffice.

Some people claim a reconstructed you is not really you, because there's a break in the continuity of consciousness. However, if continuity was important, you wouldn't want to fall asleep, let alone go under a general anesthetic, where your brain is so dead during the multi-hour surgery that when you wake up it feels like only five minutes has passed.

Cute video on identity.

1 Point      Adam Atlas      08 Apr 2010      Stance on Question: Agree
If someone is unconscious but breathing, they're probably sleeping or passed out or in a coma. If someone is unconscious and not breathing, and does not have a pulse, we say they're dead. Isn't this dividing line obsolete? Given all we know about the mind by now, why are we still identifying life with respiration? Maybe it was the most important and interesting thing about our distant ancestors many millions of years ago, but not anymore. The essence of one's identity is not in the lungs or the heart. It is a pattern of information in the brain, and as long as that pattern is preserved, the description of "alive" is no more inappropriate than it is for a sleeping or comatose person.

I hereby decree that the state currently known as "death" shall henceforth be known as "necrogenesis" until information-theoretic death has occurred. The latter state shall be referred to simply as "death".

Right now, allowing necrogenesis to progress to death holds an arbitrary privileged status as the normal, morally acceptable thing to do. That's not how it should be. Seeing someone in necrogenesis and not making any attempt to preserve the essence of their identity before they die should be viewed as comparable to euthanasia at best, negligent homicide at worst.

2 Points      Billy Brown      05 Apr 2010      Stance on Question: Agree
The legal definition of death isn't based on anything more fundamental than the limits of medical science at the time the law was written, and in fact in many countries people would qualify as legally dead are rescusitated on a routine basis. So it seems perfectly reasonable to say that real death is the point beyond which no possible medical advance could revive you.

1 Point      JGWeissman      06 Mar 2010      Stance on Question: Agree
If the information defining a person is still around, that person can in principle be rebuilt.