Hal Finney wrote:
>Jonathan Colvin writes:
>> In the process of writing this email, I did some googling, and it 
>> seems my objection has been independantly discovered (some 
>time ago). 
>> See http://hanson.gmu.edu/nodoom.html
>> In particular, I note the following section, which seems to 
>mirror my 
>> argument rather precisely:
>> "It seems hard to rationalize this state space and prior outside a 
>> religious image where souls wait for God to choose their bodies.
>> This last objection may sound trite, but I think it may be the key. 
>> The universe doesn't know or care whether we are intelligent or 
>> conscious, and I think we risk a hopeless conceptual muddle 
>if we try 
>> to describe the state of the universe directly in terms of abstract 
>> features humans now care about. If we are going to extend our state 
>> desciptions to say where we sit in the universe (and it's 
>not clear to 
>> me that we should) it seems best to construct a state space based on 
>> the relevant physical states involved, to use priors based 
>on natural 
>> physical distributions over such states, and only then to 
>notice features of interest to humans."
>> I've looked for rebuttals of Hanson, and haven't found any. Nick 
>> references him, but comments only that Hanson also seems to be 
>> comitted to the SIA (not sure why he thinks this).
>There was an extensive debate between Robin Hanson and Nick 
>Bostrom on the Extropians list in mid 1988.  You can pick it 
>up from the point where Robin came up with the 
>"rock/monkey/human/posthuman" model which he describes in the 
>web page you cite above, at this link:
>You can also try looking this earlier thread,
>and focus on the postings by Nick and Robin, which led Robin 
>to produce his formal model.
>I think if you look at the details however you will find it is 
>Robin Hanson who advocates the "you could have been a rock" 
>position and Nick Bostrom who insists that you could only have 
>been other people.  This seemed to be one of the foundations 
>of their disagreement.

I think Robin is assuming (as I do) that the only way counterfactuals such
as "I could have been someone/something else" make sense, absent dualism, is
if we adopt a strictly physical identity theory (ie. The atoms in my body
could have been a rock rather than a person). 

Nick then points out that if you were a rock, you wouldn't be you (it looks
like he's assuming a pattern identity theory such as Morovacs'). I agree
with Nick that if you were a rock, you wouldn't be you. But under pattern
identity theory, if you were someone else, you wouldn't be you either.
Absent some sort of identity dualism, this is not any improvement on
physical identity.

The last time I discussed the issue of personal identity with Nick, he
agreed with me that the answer to the question "why am I me and not someone
else?" was *not* "I am a random observer, and so I'm me by chance", but
"it's a meaningless question; I could not have been anyone else". But that
discussion was not in the context of the DA.

Jonathan Colvin

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