On Tuesday, January 14, 2003, at 02:45 PM, Hal Finney wrote:
From the point of view of _this_ particular continuation, namely, me, I will choose injury over death.Russell Standish refers to his earlier post, http://www.escribe.com/science/theory/m781.html and now writes:Noone that I could recall came up with a convincing argument against the Euthanasia issue - it would seem that committing euthanasia on someone is actually condemning them to an eternity of even greater misery than if you'd just left things alone - quite the contrary to what one expects in a single universe notion of reality.The problem Russell points out is that in the MWI if we try to kill someone, we will succeed in many branches, but fail in some others. And in those in which we fail, we will probably injure the victim. The effect from the point of view of the continuations of the victim is that their quality of life has been worsened.
Any attempt to claim that injury means "quality of life has been worsened" as compared to death is...well, I won't say "silly," as that's not a good debating term.
Let's turn to simple causal decision theory. A man is approaching me with a large knife. I have two choices:
* Choice 1: Attempt to defend myself, probably causing me some amount of injury but possibly saving my life.
* Choice 2: Allow myself to be killed.
I get the idea from your paragraph above that you think Choice 1 is less desirable, as "The effect from the point of view of the continuations of the victim is that their quality of life has been worsened."
Am I misunderstanding your point of view about what I should do?
My approach is to optimize for the actual life (reality, branch, world) I am actually experiencing. Arguments that it would be better for "me" to allow myself to be killed, or euthanized, so as to make some average of realities forever disconnected from mine (Everett, De Witt, etc., not contradicted by anyone here, at least not recently) is not convincing to me.
If you believe in this strong form of quantum suicide, then of course the path to "quantum eugenics" is clear: immediately kill children who get less than perfect scores on exams, immediately kill anyone who is outside the societal norms for beauty and charm, and so on. This will mean, so the theory goes, that in some realities there are mostly smart, healthy, beautiful, wise people.
I think a counter-argument comes if we look at the larger picture, not
just the particular branch in which we are acting. Suppose that the
victim has suffered some injury which led to their unfortunate condition,
where we are now considering committing euthanasia. In other branches,
then, the victim is alive and healthy. If we eliminate them from most
of the branches in which they are injured, then in the big picture their
average quality of life has been improved. Even though there are a few
branches where our attempts to kill them have failed and have made their
life worse, those are small in proportion to the set of branches which
encompass their entire life.
And this is what a person facing attack and death will also choose to do, to optimize his own survival and his own quality of life. Suicide can be a choice in extreme cases, I think many in society would agree. But it has nothing to do with branches of Possibilia forever disconnected from Actuality.
Now it may be said that this perspective is invalid, because the
injured person here in front of us is the only one we can affect.
His consciousness will never re-join the branches where he was not
injured. We can only affect him, and therefore we should judge our
actions only based on their effects on him and his future continuations.