[extropy-chat] Self-preservation and unyielding belief

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sun Dec 3 14:33:29 UTC 2006

Jef had written a lofty and (I thought) a bit high-handed email to which
I responded in like:

>> As for my words above, apparently you simply have failed to 
>> understand--despite all my effort--what I mean by identity 
>> and how unconnected with relatively peripheral issues such as 
>> morality it is. 

Well, did I *ever* choose an unfortunate "nyaah, nyaah, I can say
that too!", which Jef cooly refutes as follows: 

> My understanding of your view of identity (in rough overview) is that it
> has everything to do with the idea of your personal survival into the
> indefinite future.  That the most important element of your self is your
> memories (your current memories, right?) [YES!] and that if a suitable
> computational substrate implementing these memories were given runtime
> (the more the better) to process experience in a Lee Corbin-esque way,
> effectively to be aware of the ongoing experience of self (relative to
> those preserved memories) in a future setting, that you would feel
> satisfied that survival had been accomplished.  Further, if multiple
> copies, each with its own runtime, were to exist, you would be even more
> satisfied due to the "increased measure" of your personal identity in
> active existence.

You take the cake, Jeff!  You should have been a Rogerian psychologist.
Yes, you have utterly understood my position as perhaps no one who
disagrees with it has ever before. You understand my views about 10^2
times as well as I understand yours, I confess.  Or at least my ability to express
your views.  Kudos.

Further on, I had totally misjudged where we actually disagree, 
but I won't waste bandwidth describing how.

> The issue... was with regard to an idealized agent, and which is
> more fundamental to its decision-making:  its values or its survival.
> My point has always been that survival of an entity is just one of its
> many values, and thus values are more fundamental.

Now that I see where you are coming from, I agree, although the
word "fundamental" still sticks in my craw.  For ordinary human
behavior uncorrupted by philosophic (and hence often stupid)
reflection, their survival is much more basic and fundamental than
any "values". But---one could say that that was just a value of
theirs, thus making your statements tautological, no?

Your language invited me to consider "ordinary people" (see how
broad the word "entity" is in your paragraph).

> With regard to Nathan Hale, I think your point may be to ask whether I
> think he is in some sense "surviving" by promoting his values, perhaps
> in the same sense that we say a great artist lives on though his works
> or a parent lives on through his children.  I have never taken such a
> position because I think it is a very narrow and distorted sense of the
> concept of personal survival.

Sorry for my false attribution of view to you, thanks for the correction.

> Where we really seem to disagree is where I say that survival without
> change is not possible even in principle within an open coevolutionary
> environment.

But it is possible to change so little that one remains the same person.
That's what I have been saying all along, you know.  I definitely *am*
the same person I was five years ago, even though I have learned a
lot, my intelligence has diminished a little, and I have taken up some
new habits and discarded some old.

In his book "Forever For All", the great cryonicist Mike Perry goes so
far to say that such a thing as a "core personality" can be maintained
that can sustain any number of extra layers, so that one may grow 
indefinitely and still remain the same person.  I'm doubtful.

In the above paragraph, you may be speaking of the tremendous
changes that we all may have to undergo in the near future. Still, I
fondly hope to remain me throughout these changes, or, if not, then
to give backups enough runtime to keep Lee Corbin alive and

> My children have often told me the same thing.


> So, as simply as I can, with regard to Nathan Hale, I would suppose
> that he did not expect that *he* was going to survive.  Please let me
> know where you want to go with that.

In this thread (subject line), the *only* remaining point of further productive
develoment seems now to be our tiff over

     > Where we really seem to disagree is where I say that survival without
     > change is not possible even in principle within an open coevolutionary
     > environment.

     But it is possible to change so little that one remains the same person....
     [and one can still flourish by running backup copies of previous versions
     even if the most advanced version is no longer the same person]....

as I described above.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list