Just to clarify my view on copies, if they start to diverge from me the moment they are created, then they aren't me and I don't care about them in a *selfish* way. That is, if a copy experiences a pain, I don't experience that pain, which I think is as good a test as any to distinguish self from other. This doesn't mean I should be indifferent to the copy's suffering just because he is a copy; I should treat him just like anyone else. What my actual attitude to the copy would be I'm not really sure, having never been in such a situation. I might be resentful and uncomfortable around him, or I may be over-solicitous. But whatever my feelings are, there is a good chance they will be reciprocated.


Your scenario with the person being shot when he has just walked out of a duplicating booth reminds me of a number of SF novels where people "back up" their minds on a regular basis, in case they get killed in an accident. This may help the dead person's family, but it always seemed to me rather pointless from a selfish point of view, since I would still be losing the memories since the backup, and I would therefore still be afraid of dying. If the backup were done continually, within milliseconds of any thought or experience, that would be a different matter.

Which brings us to death. My definition of death is that it occurs at a particular time point in an observer's life when there is no successor observer moment ever, anywhere. So with the backup example above, if you suffered a fatal accident today and had the instantant backup machinery going, everything up to the moment you lost consciousness would have been recorded, so your mind can be emulated using the data, and you wake up as an upload (or robot , or newly grown human clone) just as you would wake up in hospital if the accident had rendered you unconscious rather than killed you. Whereas if you had only the el cheapo once a day backup, the last thing you see before you are killed is the last thing you will ever see.

With my example, it is important to remeber that the 10^100 copies are *exact* copies which stay in lockstep for the full 10 minutes. If they were initially exact copies and then allowed to diverge, terminating them after 10 minutes would be an act of mass murder, because once they are terminated, their memories and personalities are gone forever: there is no successor OM. (Whether you can call it murder, which is bad, when God does it is an interesting aside, since by definition God never does anything bad.) However, with the exact copies as described, there definitely *is* a successor OM, provided by the single copy in the room when the 10 minutes is up. The continuity is even better than with the "instant" backup machine described above, since nothing special needs to be done other than allow one of the 10^100 to continue living. So in this case, terminating the 10^100 copies is not murder at all, because subjectively, all the copies' stream of consciousness would continue seamlessly.

Finally, there is the idea that a conscious entity's measure has some effect on the entity. If you have given an explanation of why you think this is so, I have missed it or (more likely) not recognised it. Do you think there is any empirical test that can be done to demonstrate higher or lower measure? Do you accept the way I have presented the thought experiment above, i.e. that when God creates or destroys 10^100 copies the subject notices absolutely nothing other than the light changing colour, or do you think he would notice some other difference? If so, it would have to be an *enormous* difference, given the numbers we are talking about; what difference would it make if the ratio were, say, 2:1 instead? Can you honestly say that this subjective effect of measure isn't something that will be cut down by Occam's Razor as a needless complication?

Sorry if the last paragraph sounds like I'm being provocative, but this one topic seems to be the source of most of the disagreement between us.

--Stathis Papaioannou



Hal Finney writes:

Stathis Papaioannou writes:
> You find yourself in a locked room with no windows, and no memory of how you > got there. The room is sparsely furnished: a chair, a desk, pen and paper, > and in one corner a light. The light is currently red, but in the time you > have been in the room you have observed that it alternates between red and > green every 10 minutes. Other than the coloured light, nothing in the room > seems to change. Opening one of the desk drawers, you find a piece of paper
> with incredibly neat handwriting. It turns out to be a letter from God,
> revealing that you have been placed in the room as part of a philosophical > experiment. Every 10 minutes, the system alternates between two states. One > state consists of you alone in your room. The other state consists of 10^100 > exact copies of you, their minds perfectly synchronised with your mind, each > copy isolated from all the others in a room just like yours. Whenever the > light changes colour, it means that God is either instantaneously creating
> (10^100 - 1) copies, or instantaneously destroying all but one randomly
> chosen copy.
>
> Your task is to guess which colour of the light corresponds with which state
> and write it down. Then God will send you home.

Let me make a few comments about this experiment.  I would find it quite
alarming to be experiencing these conditions.  When the light changes
and I go from the high to the low measure state, I would expect to die.
When it goes from the low to the high measure state, I would expect that
my next moment is in a brand new consciousness (that shares memories
with the old).  Although the near-certainty of death is balanced by the
near-certainty of birth, it is to such an extreme degree that it seems
utterly bizarre.  Conscious observers should not be created and destroyed
so cavalierly, not if they know about it.

Suppose you stepped out of a duplicating booth, and a guy walked up with
a gun, aimed it at you, pulled the trigger and killed you.  Would you
say, oh, well, I'm only losing two seconds of memories, my counterpart
will go on anyway?  I don't think so, I think you would be extremely
alarmed and upset at the prospect of your death.  The existence of
your counterpart would be small comfort.  I am speaking specifically
of your views, Stathis, because I think you have already expressed your
disinterest in your copies.

God is basically putting you in this situation, but to an enormously,
unimaginably vaster degree.  He is literally "playing God" with your
consciousness.  I would say it's a very bad thing to do.

And what happens at the end?  Suppose I guess right, all 10^100 of me?
How do we all go home?  Does God create 10^100 copies of entire
universes for all my copies to go home to as a reward?  I doubt it!
Somehow I think the old guy is going to kill me off again, all but one
infinitesimal fraction of me, and let this tiny little piece go home.

Well, so what?  What good is that?  Why do I care, given that I am
going to die, what happens to the one in 10^100 part of me?  That's an
inconceivably small fraction.

In fact, I might actually prefer to have that tiny fraction stay in the
room so I can be reborn.  Having 10^100 copies 50% of the time gives me
a lot higher measure than just being one person.  I know I just finished
complaining about the ethical problems of putting a conscious entity in
this situation, but maybe there are reasons to think it's good.

So I don't necessarily see that I am motivated to follow God's
instructions and try to guess.  I might just want to sit there.
And in any case, the reward from guessing right seems pretty slim
and unmotivating.  Congratulations, you get to die.  Whoopie.

Hal Finney


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