"Stathis Papaioannou" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> writes:
> OK, I think I'm clear on what you're saying now. But suppose I argue
> that I will not survive the next hour, because the matter making up my
> synapses will have turned over in this time. To an outside observer the
> person taking my place would seem much the same, and if you ask him, he
> will share my memories and he will believe he is me. However, he won't
> be me, because I will by then be dead. Is this a valid analysis? My view
> is that there is a sense in which it *is* valid, but that it doesn't
> matter. What matters to me in survival is that there exist a person in
> an hour from now who by the usual objective and subjective criteria we
> use identifies as being me.

The problem is that there seems to be no basis for judging the validity
of this kind of analysis.  Do we die every instant?  Do we survive sleep
but not being frozen?  Do we live on in our copies?  Does our identity
extend to all conscious entities?  There are so many questions like
this, but they seem unanswerable.  And behind all of them lurks our
evolutionary conditioning forcing us to act as though we have certain
beliefs, and tricking us into coming up with logical rationalizations
for false but survival-promoting beliefs.

I am attracted to the UD+ASSA framework in part because it provides
answers to these questions, answers which are in principle approximately
computable and quantitative.  Of course, it has assumptions of its own.
But modelling a subjective lifespan as a computation, and asking how
much measure the universe adds to that computation, seems to me to be
a reasonable way to approach the problem.

> Even if it were possible to imagine another way of living my life which
> did not entail dying every moment, for example if certain significant
> components in my brain did not turn over, I would not expend any effort
> to bring this state of affairs about, because if it made no subjective
> or objective difference, what would be the point? Moreover, there would
> be no reason for evolution to favour this kind of neurophysiology unless
> it conferred some other advantage, such as greater metabolic efficiency.

Right, so there are two questions here.  One is whether there could be
reasons to prefer a circumstance which seemingly makes no objective or
subjective difference.  I'll say more about this later, but for now I'll
just note that it is often impossible to know whether some change would
make a subjective difference.

The other question is whether we could or should even try to overcome
our evolutionary programming.  If evolution doesn't care if we die
once we have reproduced, should we?  If evolution tells us to sacrifice
ourselves to save two children, eight cousins, or 16 great-great uncles,
should we?  In the long run, we might be forced to obey the instincts
built into us by genes.  But it still is interesting to consider the
deeper philosophical issues, and how we might hypothetically behave if
we were free of evolutionary constraints.

Hal Finney

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