At 06:00 AM 6/13/2005, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
I have been arguing in recent posts that the absolute measure of an observer moment (or observer, if you prefer) makes no possible difference at the first person level. A counterargument has been that, even if an observer cannot know how many instantiations of him are being run, it is still important in principle to take the absolute measure into account, for example when considering the total amount of suffering in the world. The following thought experiment shows how, counterintuitively, sticking to this principle may actually be doing the victims a disservice:

You are one of 10 copies who are being tortured. The copies are all being run in lockstep with each other, as would occur if 10 identical computers were running 10 identical sentient programs. Assume that the torture is so bad that death is preferable, and so bad that escaping it with your life is only marginally preferable to escaping it by dying (eg., given the option of a 50% chance of dying or a 49% chance of escaping the torture and living, you would take the 50%). The torture will continue for a year, but you are allowed one of 3 choices as to how things will proceed:

(a) 9 of the 10 copies will be chosen at random and painlessly killed, while the remaining copy will continue to be tortured.

(b) For one minute, the torture will cease and the number of copies will increase to 10^100. Once the minute is up, the number of copies will be reduced to 10 again and the torture will resume as before.

(c) the torture will be stopped for 8 randomly chosen copies, and continue for the other 2.

Which would you choose? To me, it seems clear that there is an 80% chance of escaping the torture if you pick (c), while with (a) it is certain that the torture will continue, and with (b) it is certain that the torture will continue with only one minute of respite.
RM writes. . .
Here is my criteria: There are those who suggest that there is only one electron in the universe, but that it travels forward and backward in time, thus making multiple copies of itself. If the individual percipient would eventually have to experience the pain and suffering of all whom he had affected--or caused to experience pain and suffering, then the most selfish, altruistic *and* sensible choice would be (c).

Rich Miller

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