Lee Corbin writes:

quote--
[quoting Stathis]
> When you press the button in the torture room, there is a 50%
> chance that your next moment will be in the same room and and
> a 50% chance that it will be somewhere else where you won't be
> tortured. However, this constraint has been added to the
> experiment: suppose you end up the copy still in the torture
> room whenever you press the button. After all, it is certain
> that there will be a copy still in the room, however many
> times the button is pressed. Should this unfortunate person
> choose the coin toss instead?


To me, it's always been a big mistake to employ the language of
probability; you *will* be in the room where the torture is and
you *will* be in the room where it's not, because you *can* be
in two places at the same time.

[quoting Jonathan]
> If he shares your beliefs about identity, then if he changes his mind he
> will be be comitting the gambler's fallacy.
>
> However, after having pressed the button 100 times and with nothing to show > for it except 100 tortures, his faith that he is a random observer might be
> shaken :).

You may want to read a story, "The Pit and the Duplicate" that I wrote many
years ago, which dwells on the ironies of being duplicates. It's a little
like Stathis's point here. http://www.leecorbin.com/PitAndDuplicate.html
--endquote

Lee's story linked to above is a good summary of the issues. I fundamentally disagree with Lee and Hal Finney about the status of copies, because I *do* consider that I will only be one person at a time, from a first person perspective. If I am going to be more than one person, it would involve a special process like telepathy or mind-melding, or something. My criterion is that if you stick a pin in someone and I feel it, then that person is me; if I don't feel it, then that person isn't me. There is a reasonable line of argument that says if copying were widespread, then this criterion would change, because people who considered their copies to be as good as self, and worked to increase their number and protect their interests, would eventually come to predominate. However, it would involve a profound and fundamental change in our psychology, so that we would become something like hive insects. Basically, when I look at these thought experiments, I assume that I am me as I am *now*, serving my own selfish interests as they seem to be to me now. If we specify what kind of self-interest is being served in discussing these examples, i.e. whether the traditional human type or that of some post-human ideal, we can avoid misunderstanding.

Having said that, there is a real paradox in Jonathan's and Lee's thought experiment, which does not occur in a single world/ probabilistic cosmology: the button-presser will always be the loser. From his point of view, he will never escape, but rather is helping others escape. It isn't "others" before he presses the button, but it certainly is "others" the moment after the button is pressed, from the point of the view of the still-and-forever button-presser, since as soon as they are created, the duplicates start to diverge. Psychologically, it is easy to see how the button-presser could decide, against his better judgement, that it is hopeless to keep pressing, and this could happen even if the chance of escape per press is raised arbitrarily close to certainty. The paradox resolves if, at random, all but one of the copies is instantly destroyed the moment they are created, because then the button-presser can be assured that if he presses enough times, the chance of escape will come arbitrarily close to certainty. I suppose this is another situation where *reduction* in total measure can actually be a positive - and this time without even any relative reduvction, on average, of adverse outcomes.

--Stathis Papaioannou

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