Lee Corbin writes:
> This brings up an interesting conundrum that I raised three or four
> experiments ago. Given 10 instantiations of a person having an
> experience E ... for example 10 sentient programs running in parallel,
> it better, if we aim to reduce suffering, to (a) terminate 9 of the 10
> programs and leave one still running and experiencing E, or (b) stop 5
> the 10 programs from experiencing E, but leave them running,
Ah ha! And having what sort of experience? It's crucial: I shall
assume that they are having very mildly positive experiences, e.g.,
that their lives are barely worth living in this condition.
Yes, this is what I meant: that given a 49% chance of escaping E and living,
or a 50% chance of escaping E by dying, dying would be the preferred option.
> and leave the other 5 programs continuing to experience E?
I will say that it is better to terminate 9 of the 10,
because we are given that the experience E is horrible
> But I would argue that if you are one of the suffering victims,
> (a) does you no good at all: subjectively, you will continue to
> suffer, since the one remaining program that is running will
> serve as continuation for any of the 9 terminated ones.
Here is the dreadful "closest continuer" method of Nozick and
others. I claim it gives the wrong answer. Look, the "continuation"
happens anyway, whether you die here or not! Especially if the
events are outside each other's light cones, how can what happens
here possibly affect what happens there? Just because you, say,
are *not* terminated here does not mean that you don't "continue"
there just as much.
It is the "closest" part of Nozick's method that I disagree with, based as
it is on the assumption that that there can only be one "real" you - the
closest continuer - out of multiple possible candidates. I believe that even
though someone can only *experience* being one person at a time, in the
event of duplication all the copies have an equal claim to being
continuations of the original, and it is in attempting to reconcile these
two facts that I arrive at the notion of subjective probabilities for the
next observer moment.
As for everything else you say in the above paragraph, I agree completely! I
had been assuming that the experiment was being done in an isolated system,
but if you take into account the rest of the multiverse, there is no reason
why the continuer (or successor OM) at the point where the (a)/(b) decision
is being made must come from the experiment rather than, say, 10^10^100
metres away. (Some might argue that there has to be some sort of information
transfer if the successor OM is to count, but I can't see why this should be
The number of successor OM's and the type of experiences they are having is
important, and it changes the calculations to determine the subjective
probabilities. Let's assume that the external successor OM's all have a
bland, average sort of experience, similar to the alternative to E in choice
(b). If there is one other successor OM, then choice (b) would still be
(a) Pr(E)=1/2, (b) Pr(E)=5/11
If there were two external successor OM's, choice (a) would now be better:
(a) Pr(E)=1/3, (b) Pr(E)=5/12
If there were more than two external successor OM's, (a) would be an even
Given the existence of the rest of the multiverse, where all sorts of things
impossible for us here to know, let alone control, may be happening or (more
importantly) may in future happen to other versions of us, a general
argument can be made that it *is* helpful to increase our measure as much as
possible, as a sort of counterbalance to any terrible things that may be
happening to us elsewhere. It is the relative measure, which determines
subjective probability of what our next moment will be like, which is
important rather than absolute measure per se. In most cases it may turn out
the same whether you look at it your way or my way, but in certain special
cases, such as the thought experiment above considered as an isolated
system, there are differences.
> In fact, there is no way for someone inside the simulated system
> to know that any of the instantiations had been terminated, as
> long as at least one keeps running.
Well, even if they are ALL terminated, the subject does not know.
Knowing is an activity, and so you don't know if suddenly you all
> On the other hand, with (b) there is subjectively a 50% probability that
> your suffering will end.
People who use probability when discussing duplicates seem to talk
as though an executing process had a magical serial number generated
by God. When the subject dies, it's as if the serial number is
instantaneously transferred to *one* other of the possible systems
that could support him, but not to the others. But there are no souls.
There are no serial numbers. You become all the others equally, and
with 100% probability for each. You even become them if "you" do
There is no transfer of anything, and no-one "becomes" anyone else, or even
a future version of himself. I don't even think these things are true for
ordinary, moment to moment existence, let alone duplication. If you want to
use terms like this, then you do have to resort to something like a soul to
hold it all together. All that really exists is a series of conscious
moments (or a series of sentient observers, if you prefer) which are
interpreted by our brains as a unique individual persisting through time,
based on such things as memories and a "sense of identity". This is not just
a belief, like the belief that the Earth is flat because it looks flat, and
the concept of a spherical Earth has not provided any survival advantage
during man's evolutionary history. It is more like an ovewhelming, pervasive
conviction, no matter how rational a person you are. Perhaps it would have
been different had we evolved in a world where copying and encounters with
one's copy were common. But we did not; we evolved in a world where copies
are hidden away in parallel universes we can never contact, if MWI is true,
allowing us to continue thinking that we are unique and that probability
theory describes what happens to us as we live our life.
What will happen if you choose A is that you will experience E through
one bad session. If you choose B, you will experience E through five
bad sessions, and E' through five so-so sessions. Given that E' is of
no particular value either positive or negative, A is the better choice.
(This is just using different language to do the same calculation as
Do you doubt that each of the 10 copies if you choose (a) will continue
experiencing E? Is it a problem with cramming 10 minds pre-choice into one
mind post-choice? If you accept that there are no serial numbers, no
transfer of consciousness, no soul, and the only thing that matters in
maintaining the illusion of continuity of identity over time is the
relationship between the memories and "sense of identity" of the earlier and
the later version, you will see that (a) perfectly satisfies this
relationship, and all 10 versions will continue to suffer. Note also that if
the 10 versions started to diverge, then the relationship no longer holds:
only *one* of the 10 will have a continuer after choice (a); the rest will
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