Bruno Marchal wrote:

At 10:24 13/01/05 +1100, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

1. Every possible world can be simulated by a computer program.

With the most usual (Aristotelian) sense of the term "world", this
assumption would entail the falsity of comp,
which is that I can be simulated by a computer program.
(I, or any of the class of observers I belong(s) to).

Huh? I thought I was saying the opposite. I certainly believe in comp.

In the spirit of your thought experiment, let me ask
you a "personal" question. Assume you have big motivation
for going to Mars. You can now choose between a 100$ and a
10000$ teletransporter machine (TTM). Let us assume you are not so rich
that this difference count (or adjust the number relatively to your situation).
The 100$ TTM has no security and it is known that billion of copies of yourself
will be sold elsewhere, for example to the kind of "hell" you were pointing to.
The 10000$ TTM has quantum coded protection, so that the probability
is very near one that no pirate will be able to copy you.
Are you telling us that you will take the insecure low cost TTM ?

It's a good question, and this is where the rational comes up against the emotional. If it were my first trip, I think I'd be very nervous about the cheap alternative, and I would pay the extra or avoid going if I couldn't afford it. However, if I had used the $100 service many times in the past (through choice or necessity), I don't think I would worry about using it again.

Here is another irrational belief I hold, while I'm confessing. I am absolutely convinced that continuity of personal identity is a kind of illusion. If I were to be painlessly killed every second and immediately replaced by an exact copy, with all my memories, beliefs about being me, etc., I would have no way of knowing that this was happening, and indeed I believe that in a sense this IS happening, every moment of my life. Now, suppose I am offered the following deal. In exchange for $1 million deposited in my bank account, tonight I will be killed with a sharp axe in my sleep, and in the morning a stranger will wake up in my bed who has been brainwashed and implanted with all my memories at my last conscious moment. This stranger will also have had plastic surgery so that he looks like me, and he will then live life as me, among other things spending the $1 million which is now in my bank account.

If I were rational, I should probably accept the above deal, on the grounds that my apparent continuity of personal identity will be the same as it always has been. If such a proposal were put to me, however, I would be horrified; and I am sure my friends and family would be too, even if they shared my philosophical beliefs about personal identity. I would also be horrified if offered the role of the stranger who takes someone else's place. I can't decide which would be worse.

On the other hand, if I had been forced to go through the above transformation several times, I might get used to the idea and not be so worried. Rationally, it shouldn't make any difference.

--Stathis Papaioannou

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