Lee Corbin writes:

[quoting Stathis]
> 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.

It's with the very notion of a "continuer" that
I've always had a problem. So let me ask you
a little about it. Now clearly, if ten minutes
from now the Earth Stathis is to be killed, but
a Martian duplicate is made five minutes from
now, you---the present Stathis---don't really
have a problem with that (that is, not a problem
that couldn't be fixed with a big bribe).

So next, let me ask about a new situation in
which one hour from now you are to die here,
but a duplicate of you will the same second
be established on Mars, only this duplicate
has a little amnesia, and doesn't remember
the last half-hour of its life. Would that
be a continuer of you?  Would it be a
continuer of "you+60_minutes" from now?
Will it only be a continuer of "you+30_minutes"
from now? Is it a continuer of the you-now?

How about this? For ten million dollars, would
you agree to have the last ten minutes of your
memory erased, where you are now?

These are all interesting questions that have bothered me for a long time. I think the most useful suggestion I can make about how to decide whether other versions of a person are or aren't "continuers" or the "same person" is to avoid a direct answer at all and ask - as you have done - how much memory loss a person would tolerate before they felt they would not be the "same" person. This is something that comes up all the time in clinical situations. I would say that definitely I would not want total memory erasure at any price, because that would be like dying. On the other hand, 10 minutes of memory loss for ten million dollars (especially if they were US dollars, instead of our prettier and more durable, but less valuable, Australian kind) is an offer I would definitely take up; in fact, people pay to get drunk on a Friday night and suffer more memory loss than this.

Before you ask, this raises another interesting question: would I agree for the same amount of money to be painlessly killed 10 minutes after being duplicated? Given that I believe my duplicate provides seamless continuity of consciousness from the point of duplication, this should be the same as losing 10 minutes of memory. However, I would probably balk at being "killed" if it were happening for the first time, and I might hesitate even if I knew that it had happened to me many times before.

Yet another variation: for 10 million dollars, would you agree to undergo a week of excruciating pain, and then have the memory of the week wiped? What if you remember agreeing to this 100 times in the past; that is, you remember agreeing to it, then a moment later experiencing a slight discontinuity, and being given the ten million dollars (which let's say you gambled all away). You were told every time you would experience pain, but all you experienced was being given the money. Would it be tempting to agree to this again ("and this time, I'll put the money in the bank")?

These are not trivial questions. The basic problem is that our minds have evolved in a world where there is no copying and no memory loss (memory loss may have occurred naturally, of course, but evolution's answer to it would have been to wipe out the affected individual and their genes), so there is a mismatch between reason and intuition.

--Stathis Papaioannou

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