From: Bruno Marchal <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: Re: Request for a glossary of acronyms
Date: Sat, 31 Jan 2004 16:11:39 +0100

Here is an interesting post by Jesse. Curiously I have not been able to find it
in the archive, but luckily I find it in my computer memory.

Is that normal? I will try again later.

Thanks for reviving this post, it's in the archives here: It was part of this thread:

Jesse's TOE pet is very similar to the type of TOE compatible with the comp hyp, I guess everyone can see that.

Jesse, imo, that post deserves to be developed. The way you manage to save
partially the ASSA (Absolute Self-Sampling Assumption) is not very clear to me.


Well, the idea I discussed was somewhat vague, I think to develop it I'd need to have better ideas about what a theory of consciousness should look like, and I don't know where to begin with that. But as for how the ASSA is incorporated, I'll try to summarize again and maybe make it a little clearer. Basically my idea was that there would be two types of measures on observer-moments: a relative measure, which gives you answers to questions like "if I am currently experiencing observer-moment A, what is the probability that my next experience will be of observer-moment B?", and an absolute measure, which is sort of like the probability that my current observer-moment will be A in the first place. This idea of absolute measure might seem meaningless since whatever observer-moment I'm experiencing right now, from my point of view the probability is 1 that I'm experiencing that one and not some other, but probably the best way to think of it is in terms of the self-sampling assumption, where reasoning *as if* I'm randomly sampled from some group (for example, 'all humans ever born' in the doomsday argument) can lead to useful conclusions, even if I don't actually believe that God used a random-number generator to decide which body my preexisting soul would be placed in.

So, once you have the idea of both a relative measure ('probability-of-becoming') and an absolute measure ('probability-of-being') on observer-moments, my idea is that the two measures could be interrelated, like this:

1. My probability-of-becoming some possible future observer-moment is based both on something like the 'similarity' between that observer-moment and my current one (so my next experience is unlikely to be that of George W. Bush sitting in the White House, for example, because his memories and personality are so different from my current ones) but also on the absolute probability of that observer-moment (so that I am unlikely to find myself having the experience of talking to an intelligent white rabbit, because even if that future observer-moment is fairly similar to my current one in terms of personality, memories, etc., white-rabbit observer-moments are objectively improbable). I don't know how to quantify "similarity" though, or exactly how both similarity and absolute probabilities would be used to calculate the relative measure between two observer-moments...this is where some sort of "theory of consciousness" would be needed.

2. Meanwhile, the absolute measure is itself dependent on the relative measure, in the sense that an observer-moment A will have higher absolute measure if a lot of other observer-moments that themselves have high absolute measure see A as a likely "next experience" or a likely "past experience" (ie there's a high relative measure between them). This idea is based partly on that thought experiment where two copies of a person are made, then one copy is itself later copied many more times, the idea being that the copy that is destined to be copied more in the future has a higher absolute measure because there are more future observer-moments "reinforcing" it (see for more on this thought-experiment). I think of this whole idea in analogy to the way Google's ranking system works: pages are ranked as more popular if they are linked to by a lot of other pages that are themselves highly ranked. So, the popularity of a particular page is sort of like the absolute probability of being a particular observer-moment, while a link from one page to another is like a high relative probability from one observer-moment to another (to make the analogy better you'd have to use weighted links, and you'd have to assume the weight of the link between page A and page B itself depends partly on B's popularity).

The final part of my pet theory is that by having the two measures interrelated in this way, you'd end up with a unique self-consistent solution to what each measure would look like, like what happens when you have a bunch of simultaneous equations specifying how different variables relate to one another, and they determine a unique solution. This would provide a rationale for having a non-arbitrary choice of absolute and relative measure (see my comments about the 'arbitrariness problem' in my very first post on this list at ). Also, this type of TOE would give a precise answer to the 'problem of the reference class' which Nick Bostrom talks about in his work on the self-sampling assumption, the answer being that you should reason as if you were randomly sampled from the set of all observer-moments, weighted by their absolute measure. The final benefit of this type of theory is that you wouldn't need a two-step procedure of first coming up with a measure on "universes" and then afterwards adding anthropic considerations as a second step--I think that two-step idea depends on a fundamentally dualistic view of the mind/body problem, as I said in my post at

So, does any of this help explain how I try to save the ASSA? I guess it depends on what you think the basic problem the ASSA has that requires it to be "saved", I think Hal Finney was saying the problem was that it could lead to predictions incompatible with those of the RSSA, while others seem to have more of a philosophical problem with talking about the "probability" that my current observer-moment could be anything other than what it actually is (if 'I' were someone else, 'I' wouldn't be me!) What is your basic objection to the ASSA, and do you think my pet theory offers at least one possible way to resolve it?

Jesse Mazer

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