Something that has always troubled me about the science fiction process of uploading yourself to a computer is how do you know that you are still you? Often the story has the original body being destroyed in the process. So where is the continuity of you and your self-identity?
I’ve come to realise that I don’t think consciousness is a continuous process. In a way, I believe we die every time we sleep.
Consciousness is like the hibernation state in a computer. The memories and processes are saved to disk when the computer is powered down, then restored to their previous state when it is powered up again.
It’s not a perfect analogy, because there are brain and body processes that continue while we sleep, modifying memories and our body state, but when we awake we are not consciously aware of those modifications, only their results, that perhaps we feel a little happier or calmer than before we slept, that we might feel an urge to use the bathroom.
Those of us who have memorable, lucid dreams, well, that is part of our conscious state.
So our identity is our memories, the timestamped events of the past, and our reactions to stimuli.
But if they could be stored and recreated elsewhere then the person that woke up with them would still be you, would still believe they were you.
Perhaps knowing that we die each night, that we have died before, can bring comfort to those who will not awake.