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> wrote:

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 tortured?

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 are everyone:

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 nonetheless experienced.

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 process?

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 the nightmare.

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.

I agree.

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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