Hal writes

> I have been on vacation so I have a large backlog of messages to read!
> But they are very interesting and full of challenging ideas.  I find this
> list to be one of the best I have ever been on in terms both of fearlessly
> exploring difficult areas and also remaining cordial and polite.

Welcome back! You are sorely missed.  (Actually, I think that
you are sorely missed on every email list I know of.)

> I am trying to understand Lee Corbin's idea about duplicates as selves
> better.  I can understand seeing exact, synchronized duplicates as
> selves (such as two computers running the same simulated individual
> in lock-step).  But when they begin to diverge I understand that Lee
> still sees them as (in some sense) "himself" and one copy would in fact
> sacrifice to benefit a diverged copy just as much(?) as to benefit its
> own body.  Is this right?

Yes, I'd sacrifice (for entirely selfish reasons) for my
duplicate if it meant less suffering for me. For example,
if I and my duplicate are quietly talking in a room, and
the torturers come in and offer one instance of me ONE
MINUTE TORTURE so that the other instance is spared TWO
MINUTE TORTURE, then the one instance---perhaps a little
nervously---signs up for it.

(This is clearly a case where we are not in lock step, and
let's say that it's a *close* duplicate, closer than the
person I'll be tomorrow or was yesterday.)

The trouble is my animal self. After a few seconds of the
torture, the instance will cry out "Do it to him!". And it
might be difficult to get an instance of me to sign up again.

> What I would ask is, is there a limit to this?  Is this common-self-ness
> a matter of degree, or is it all-or-none?  Is there some degree of
> divergence after which a copy might be somewhat reluctant to continue
> to view its brother copy as being exactly equivalent to itself?

Definitely it's a matter of degree. There is a smooth transition
between me and, say, Hal Finney, a set of particular instances
that lie between you and me.  So at some point I say (selfishly
---we are only concerned with selfish behavior here) "do it to
the intermediate for an HOUR instead of me for a MINUTE".

> For example, what if someone were an identical twin?  In some sense they
> are duplicates at the moment of conception who then begin to diverge.
> This seems to be different from the copies we discuss merely in degree
> of divergence, not in kind.  Would it be reasonable to argue that an
> identical twin "should" view his brother as himself?

The interesting case of identical twins turns out to be not so
interesting, as I understand it. They're somewhat different at
birth, already headed out on slightly different personality
development paths, for example. I hear that people who know 
twins come to feel very quickly that they're different people.
This would *not* happen with your duplicate. Your wife, for
example, would *never* come to think of you as different people
---at least not until years had passed and differences had
built up.

> And what about the possibility of creating non-identical copies?
> Perhaps our copying machine is imperfect and the products are not quite
> the same as the original.  They are very close, perhaps so close that
> only extremely detailed inspection can detect the differences.  Or perhaps
> they are not really so close at all and the copies in fact bear little
> resemblance to their originals.  How does the potential existence of such
> imperfect copying machines affect the notion that one should view copies
> as selves?

I would say that the known or perceived fidelity of the copying
process *would* be a factor. After my duplicate and I talked for
a while, we might come to see that we weren't so similar as we
thought: we might find that we had slightly different memories,
or (more likely with any strictly mechanical copying process)
that one of us appeared damaged.

> If imperfect or diverged copies are to be considered as lesser-degree
> selves, is there an absolute rule which applies, an objective reality
> which governs the extent to which two different individuals are the
> same "self", or is it ultimately a matter of taste and opinion for the
> individuals involved to make the determination?

I *think* it's objective.  Take two bit strings, for example. We
sort of have a feeling about how similar they are after we study
them awhile. But we can resort to various objective measures. 
Sure there is no *one* particular supreme measure, but nonetheless
I believe that the degree to which two things resemble each other
is objective, and not just a matter of taste.

Still, even if you were my identical twin brother, we might come
to disagree on how far back in time we identified with our younger
selves.  You might say that the twelve-year old was at the 50%
point, and I might say that the eighteen-year old was at the
50% point. Even when an advanced AI gives us some objective
instruments or measures for determining similarity, even my
twin and I might disagree somewhat---so probably taste does
enter into it.  But just a bit, I think.


> Is this something that
> reasonable people can disagree on, or is there an objective truth about
> it that they should ultimately come to agreement on if they work at it
> long enough?
> Hal Finney 

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