On Jun 17, 2005, at 10:24 AM, Hal Finney wrote:


Does it make sense for Jobs to say, who would I have been if that had
happened?

Yes, it makes sense, but only because we know that the phrase "Who would I have been", uttered by Steve Jobs, is just a convenient way for expressing a third-person proposition, "What would have happened to Steve Jobs if...". Which in turn is also a short way of asking about the whole world, i.e., "What would the world have been like if Steve Jobs had been adopted by someone else". The part of the world that's the main target of this question is the part that wears turtlenecks, makes Apple computers and calls itself Steve - so here it just gets replaced by "I". But logically, by asking "who would I have been", Steve's not inquiring into anything that a third-person observer could not also inquire into.

The apparent problems can be solved by translating these questions into third-person terms. for example,

So yes, if you can imagine what it would have been like to eat something else for breakfast, then you should be able to imagine what it would have
been like to be born as someone else.

For breakfast: what would have happened to the world (especially the Steve Jobs part of the world) if Steve Jobs had had something else for breakfast? For birth: what would the world be like if Steve Jobs hadn't been born, but his biological parents had had some other child?

There's no sense in asking "what if I was born as someone else", no more than there is asking "what would Steve Jobs be like if Steve Jobs had never been born?" But there is sense in asking what would be different about the world. The problems here all come from overzealous emphasis on the "first person perspective". In other words, I think the mistake is made by asking the question "what would >it< have been like", instead of the question "what would >the world< have been like". The thing that the "it" refers to (a first- person perspective, presumably) is not a thing that exists in the world framed by the question.

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