2010/1/15 Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com>:

> I guess I should be more explicit.  I found your post bemusingly
> inconsistent.  You theorized that the continuity of your experience was an
> illusion produced by evolution and you "really" exist as a sequence of
> discrete OMs.  But evolution is a process that acts on genes and in order to
> have any effect on the "real" you requires continuity, not only of your body
> moment-by-moment and day-by-day but of your genes over millenia.  So it
> strikes me as very strange to invoke it as creating an *illusion* of
> continuity.  Sort of like the Sun producing an illusion of daylight.

Genes and everything else change over time. There is no absolute basis
for saying one physical object is "the same" as another, although by
convention we ignore what we consider unimportant changes and say it
is the same object. Sometimes the changes are not unimportant but we
still say it's "the same". For example, the infant may share almost
nothing physically or mentally with the adult but we say they are "the
same person" because there is a continuous series of intermediate
stages between them. But when we consider duplication thought
experiments not only is there a physical discontinuity, we may end up
with several copies each of whom has equal claim to being "the same
person" as the original. What is the truth of the matter regarding the
person who gets copied? Who should get access to his bank accounts?
How is it possible that I could find myself waking up somewhere other
than in my bed tomorrow if I am surreptitiously copied during the
night when the original stays in bed undisturbed? And how do I talk
about being "the same person" if it turns out we live in a multiverse?

At the very least, if we speak in terms of person-stages or
observer-moments it allows us to refer to what we mean unambiguously.
The specification can be a physical description of the person-stage
but from a subjective point of view it is better to speak of
observer-moments, since I am mainly interested in my mind and only
indirectly in the hardware that produces it. The duration of a
"moment" can be as long as it needs to be for the discussion at hand.
However, you can see that if I can be copied at any moment, then there
is no absolute reason why the next moment should be "me"; it's only
"me" contingently, because there are no competing OM's. And if there
are competing OM's there is no absolute way to say which one or more,
if any, should continue as "me". In practice, I calculate
probabilities as if I am still living in the single track world in
which humans evolved.

My conclusion is that in general it is simplest to think in terms of
discrete OM's which associate into persons due to their information
content. Only in the special case of the single track world with which
we are all familiar is it simpler to say that there is a unique person
persisting through time.


-- 
Stathis Papaioannou
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