The gears are still turning after the Large-Scale Structure post. And since my blog is maxed out on paradoxes for the moment, I'm not calling this a paradox, but the "You are Here Conundrum."
It's probably Philosophy 101 material (included in the second semester mind/brain mid-term) but I still find the following question to be fascinating and worth some chin scratching.
The conundrum is this: At what scale do you become "you"? Or, rephrasing, is it ever possible to point and say with certainty, "You are here"?
Keeping in mind the discussion of pixels and photomosaics , follow me in this thought experiment. First, look at your finger. Now look closer...closer...closer! Look close enough so that you're on the atomic scale and can see a hydrogen atom within your finger (OK, use a scanning tunneling microscope if your eyesight is poor. But don't get whiny with me if you don't have an STM. Remember this is a thought experiment. Just make one. Also remember I'm not a philosopher, so follow at your risk.)
Alright, so now you're looking at an individual hydrogen atom in your finger. I ask the question, "Is that atom you?" Clearly you would say, "No, that's not me, it's just an atom. I could easily loose that atom and I would still be me." I would say, "Correct."
Now reverse zoom* a bit and look at the organic molecule which that hydrogen atom is part of. I ask the same question, "Is that you?" Certainly not, it's just a molecule. It's in you but it is not "you".
Reverse zoom to the cellular level. That single cell is not "you" either.
Now get rid of the STM, and reverse zoom to the view where you can see your entire finger. That finger is still not you. You're starting to feel it is a part of "you", but you could loose that finger in a vicious opossum attack and still consider that "you" are "you" because "you" are not the finger.
Now zoom out to where you can see all of you and the people around you in the Starbucks** in which you're now sitting***. Take a picture of the scene. Look at the picture and point to yourself. You are clearly in the cafe. I can easily say, "You are here" and you would agree.
Here's where the conundrum rears it's ugly (?) head. Somewhere in between the finger level zoom and the Starbucks level zoom "you" become "you". But where and what is the boundary between you'ness**** and not-you'ness?
Zeno might be making a cameo again (curse him!) because as you reverse zoom from the atomic scale through microscopic scale to macroscopic scale you first must reverse zoom half way between "not you" and "you". Then you must reverse zoom half way again from "not you" to "you". Yet at some point, you cross a boundary and you say, "this physical stuff definitely contains me" and "I am here!" And I could point and say, "You are here!"
People familiar with mind/brain philosophy will probably pipe up right now and say, "Why not run the experiment starting with a hydrogen atom within the brain instead of the finger? Afterall, that is most likely where your personality resides." And I say to them, "Excellent idea! Why didn't I think of that?" Then they would say, "Because I'm a philosopher and you're not!" And then I'd hang my head a bit. Fearing my new conundrum is doomed. [Hey!!! It's not polite to cheer wildly at this point. Stop it!! I'm bummed out. Sheesh why not rub some lemon and salt on that wound while you're at it!]
But then I throw my chest out in renewed hope, because the same problem exists even if you use the brain as the starting point for your reverse zoom. Whenever one says, "I am here", I'm going to say, "OK, but let's zoom in just a tad." And if there is still confidence, I'll suggest zooming in a bit more, then more, then more, until you say, "Nope, that neuron is not me. You've zoomed too far in."
Then I'll zoom out, just a touch. And repeat.
Fortunately, the zoom control in this thought experiment is infinitely accurate and we can zoom at just the tiniest increment if we've gone too far in or out. And as we get closer and closer to the boundary, you're going to eventually throw up your hands in the air***** and proclaim with a very frustrated shout, "You want to know where I am?? I'm at the end of my dagnabbity rope!!!"
And then I'll buy you an imaginary double tall carmel latte in the imaginary Starbucks because you are here, just as confounded as me.
The Fine Print
*For reliably thought-provoking comments, Rocket Scientist is now officially dubbed "Lady Blog Fodder" by TSON. Her response to the Large-Scale Structure post sparked this reverse zoom conundrum. This honorarium typically carries with it the right to learn the secret of Newton, but she has found the very idea to be not even remotely interesting. So the offer is rescinded. But her blog is remotely interesting (no, wait, that doesn't sound right) and well worth your time.
**Thanks for the sponsorship Starbucks!
***Thought experiments are great because teleportation is easy.
****Not to be confused with Enos on The Dukes of Hazard.
*****Or just throw up.