On 6/27/05, Stathis Papaioannou <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:
> Sorry for going on about this, but I'm still trying to understand: what
> possible difference could it make to anyone - you or your copy - if you
> suddenly disintegrated and were replaced a microsecond later with an exact
To understand my point of view you need to stop thinking in pure
physicalist terms. Imagine that your consciousness is fundamental.
You are defined by your experiences, not by the pattern of matter that
your body is composed of. Your experiences seem to obey a given
set of restrictions, such as those that we identify as laws of physics.
Apart from the fact that you have experiences, be agnostic to any
other proposition, including the one that there is a physical objective
world. Note that I didn't say "deny any proposition".
The best analogy is to imagine that you are in a game, as the example
I used before. The game feeds experiences into your brain, if you like.
These experiences obey certain rules that were defined by the
programmer. In the case of the thought experiment described before,
where you press the button to create a copy, your next experience will
be whatever the programmer decided it would be. He could have made
the program in such a way that you would experience one of the two
with 50% probability, or he could have made the program such that
you always experience being in the same place. The only way to
know is to try it. I believe that in this particular case I will always
experience to be the same, but of course that is just my intuition.
Now imagine that other people are playing the game , and they watch
you doing the experiment. They can never know whether you are now
experiencing to be the copy or still the original, since that information
is not available within the game.
Of course, that is a dualist view of the world, which takes consciousness
as something fundamental. If you don't believe that consciousness plays
any fundamental role in the universe, then to be consistent you should
say that there is no meaning to attach a probability to what is your next
experience at all, since the question is meaningless from a physicalist
perspective. Lee Corbin, for example, has a consistent set of beliefs
about this (even though I don't agree with him).
> How would this in any way be different if you didn't disintegrate, but
> passed from one moment to the next as per usual? My view is that, as a
> matter of fact, we do die every moment only to be replaced by a copy, since
> to be "one and the same" at different times is physically impossible; at the
> very least, the atoms comprising our body have different spacetime
> coordinates. Suppose that this were actually scientifically confirmed: every
> microsecond, every human being disintegrates and is replaced within a
> femtosecond by an exact copy, and this has been occurring for as long as the
> human species has been around, and will continue to occur. If you still felt
> in the light of this knowledge that copies are not the same as the original
> in some important but ineffable sense, would you go about your life any
> differently, or even worry about it, given that the creation/destruction
> cycle is far shorter than the time it would take to even form a worry in
> your mind?
As I tried to argue before, there is a huge difference between making a
copy without in any way affecting the original, and continuously changing
the original. In the former case, there are two asymmetrical copies. One is
a continuous evolution of the original, while the other has been created
moments ago from raw materials. The copy will have a discontinuity
of experience. There is no a priori reason to assign a 50/50 probability in
In fact, consider the following problems;
1. You are scanned to be copied, but no copy is made. Your data
is saved in a hard drive, and it could be used to create copies of you
in any time during the next millions of years. If you believe MWI, if it
can be used, it will. So the measure of being a copy could be much
larger than the measure of being the original, and simply because you
were scanned you have a negligible probability to experience to be in
the same place anymore. Of course, this invokes the problem of
how to measure the "thickness" of each copy's world, which I didn't
see any satisfactory answer yet.
2. When you are scanned, how fast does the scan need to be to
count as a copy? The scan cannot be instantaneous. The final copy
will then be a rough smeared-out description of my body during a
certain interval of time. Will I experience to be the copy (if that is
possible) soon after the scan is started or soon after it is finished?
What if the scan is made long enough to take more than a moment
of thought so that I can experience the slow process of being copied?
At which point will I stop experiencing this process and start experincing
to be the copy?
3. Of course, the copy is never perfectly identical to the original. How
is the probability of experiencing the copy affected if the experimenters
gradually change some details of the copy? What if they make the copy
with the same brain but with a different body? Or almost the same body
but a slight different wiring of the brain? Since you can continuously
modify your body into that of anyone else, would you say then that there
is a small nonzero probability for you to suddenly experience to be
In light of these problems, my intuition says that I cannot experience to
be my copies. So you can scan me as much as you like, I won't leave the