On 19 Feb 2013, at 07:49, Jason Resch wrote:
On Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 10:12 AM, Bruno Marchal <marc...@ulb.ac.be>
On 17 Feb 2013, at 18:09, Jason Resch wrote:
Thanks to everyone who replied to this post. So far Stathis and
Bruno both answered that both cases are equivalent.
Is there anyone willing to argue against either:
1. you don't experience torture when your memory of it is wiped, or
2. you don't experience torture when your perfect duplicate is
Those are interesting questions, but they ask for thought
experiences with amnesia, which can quickly, too much quickly, makes
you suspicious that personal identity is an illusion. My experience
is that when people begin to grasp this, they can feel quite uneasy.
You are right. This and other thought experiments lead quickly in
that direction. I think the evidence is overwhelming that the
common sense theories of personal identity are wrong. Below is a
set of reasons, thought experiments, and arguments why I think you
1. The duplication and restoring cases are physically symmetric. In
one case, the experiences are spread across time, in the other they
are spread across space. If the same person can be in the same
place at two different times, it follows that the same person can be
in two different places at the same time. Whether or not you
remember experience that alternate copy's experiences is immaterial;
>90% of the moments of our lives are not remembered, yet they are
2. We become all our copies. Imagine a deep space voyage in which
you are to be put in suspended animation for the long journey.
However micrometeorites sometimes penetrate the hull and so after
you are put in suspended animation 5 copies of you are made and put
aboard (for redundancy). Upon arriving at the destination many
years later, one of the copies (the one most intact) is chosen to be
woken up and the rest are destroyed. Does it matter which one is
selected to be thawed for your survival? If not it shows we become
all our copies. If it doesn't matter which of the 5 copies are
thawed (because you will survive as any one of them) then had all 5
been thawed you would live as each of them.
3. We need not our memories to be ourselves. Imagine concentrating
heavily on some task, such as taking an exam, or driving in perilous
conditions. You become so focused on your task that you use almost
none of your personal long term memories. In principal, large
portions of your brain could be disconnected without impacting your
performance or experience. How much of you really goes into any
given moment of your experience? Could we cut out 20%, 50%, 75%,
90% of your memories while you are busy at this task? It is still
you experiencing that test, or that drive, but what about that
experience makes it yours?
4. In the course of normal life, we gain memories (through
experience) and lose memories (by forgetting). Yet most feel they
are still the same person. This allows for some interesting
experiments with a "faulty teleporter". You step into the
teleporter and it transports you, but it is not 100% and your
resulting copy has lost some small fraction of his long term
memories. It has also given you new memories for things you never
actually experienced. You comfort yourself with the idea that this
is no different than living life and assert you are still the same
person. Two very similar twins, Alice and Alicia each use this
teleporter at the same time. Alice and Alicia both steps into it
and on the recieving end of the teleporter, Alice and Alicia step
out. But what really happened is Alice gained and lost some
memories and is now identical to the Alicia who stepped into the
teleporter, and the Alicia gained and lost some memories and is now
identicial to the Alice who stepped into the teleporter. Is this
any different from the two of them entering a closet and the two of
them coming out? If not, couldn't they be switching places all the
time, each always in the other?
5. A spectrum of "yous". If you consider the multi-verse, there are
a near infinite number of beings exactly like you, and an even
greater near infinite number of beings so close to you that you
can't even tell the difference, and so on forming a continuous
spectrum of people leading to any other conscious being and
everything in between Where you you begin and end? Do we
experience the lives of all your duplicates and branchings in the
multi-verse, just as we consider ourselves to experience all our
moments in our lifetime? How close do our doppelgangers have to be
to you right now for you to experience them? If we were to slowly
morph your brain one neuron at a time until your brain was that of
someone else's at what point would you lose consciousness in the
6. Swapping places with someone: In 5 seconds, your mind and
consciousness will swap with that of some rich and famous person.
Let's say Bill Gates. I hope you are ready. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. The
swap is complete. Bill Gates is now in your body, with access to
your memories and living as you were just before you got to reading
this sentence, while you are living as a billionaire and enjoying
Bills bank account. Of course, while you are in his body you only
have access to his memories. Not only does his wife not notice the
switch, but you don't even notice it. You only have access to
Bill's memories now so you do not realize anything is awry. Don't
worry, everything will be set back how it was, in 3. 2. 1. Welcome
back. How was it? Of course, you don't remember. Fortunately, Bill
was nice enough to read the last few sentences for you and now they
have been placed into your memory. This shows it is meaningless to
say "I wish I could live as X", or "experience a day in Y's shoes".
For all you know, you already are, have, and will.
7. It is immensely unlikely that you would ever be born. Consider
all the exact fertilizations it took to lead to you, on up through
all of your ancestors. Isn't it so much morel likely that you would
never be born in the first place? You must be so lucky to be alive
rather than dead. Just think, if any of the hundreds of millions of
other sperm made it, you would not be conscious of anything, and
instead one of your other brothers or sisters would be alive in your
place. Or perhaps not. What if your mother, while pregnant, at
some slightly different food, such that your atomic composition was
different, would you not still be alive? What if a different sperm,
but with the same exact genes fertilized you. Would you not still
be alive? What if a single non-expressed recessive gene were
different, would you not still be alive? If the exact matter, or
genes don't matter, then what did? Would you not be destined to be
born as all your brothers, and sisters? Why is your life bound to
some particular mother? Given the extreme unlikelihood of your
existence and consciousness being dependent on a particular rare set
of circumstances, it is more probable that the assumption is wrong.
That you are instead destined to live and experience all conscious
perspectives. This is also a simpler theory by Occam, in that it
does not require some special selection to have taken place. (The
selection of one being's eyes for you to see through). Thus, in the
same way the present time is not some special property of the
universe, your perspective as living as one particular being is not
some special feature of reality either.
All good points, Jason.
A related question, that I ask to you, Jason. Would you accept to
sleep in my sleep-laboratory. I pay you 100$ or even more. But I
tell you in advance that you will live your worst nightmare. I tell
you also that I have the means to make you, in the morning after,
completely forgetting that nightmare.
Are you OK? Are you OK that your son or daughter makes money in that
way? Can this be legal?
Its not something I would want to do. Whether or not it is legal I
suppose depends on how informed the volunteer is of the severity of
I agree. We can't make it illegal, if the persons are adult and have a
reasonable idea of what is going to happen.
If it is an informed choice then it is consensual, if unfair and
immoral. It is unfair perhaps in the same sense that the day-person
does all the labor at work, and the night-man does all the
relaxation and enjoyment of spending day-man's money.
OK, tomorrow I will try to send the me-sleeper at work, so that the me-
worker can get some rest, at least :)
Is it equivalent with this: I duplicate you and torture the copy for
one hour, and then I kill that copy (assuming I can)?
Is this not equivalent with a forgotten dream of torture?
Erasing memory of torture is equivalent to killing someone after
torturing them, just without leaving a body behind.
Are you OK that your daughter makes money in that way?
OK. But if she is adult, and if you have the assurance that she
"knows" what she is doing, i.e. that she has some fair account of what
is involved, then you can't obliged her to not do it. This follows
from what you said above, as I am sure you see. It is not different
from alpinism. I would be anxious my daughter make alpinism, as she
might get stuck of fall, perhaps die, but then, if she is not a minor,
it is her choice.
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