[extropy-chat] Probability of identity

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Tue Oct 10 20:19:07 UTC 2006

Heartland wrote:

> Clearly, the best solution from the original instance POV 
> (that is, you) would be to preserve the first instance of you 
> and send all the 99 new instances to Hell. 

Assuming you meant literally what you wrote above, I have the following

Self-preservation, while naturally a strong attractor in the goal
systems of evolved agents, does not necessarily override all other
goals.  What is "best" from the POV of a self-aware agent is whatever
actions it can expect to most effectively promote its present values
into the future.  "Best" does not necessarily imply its own survival,
but does imply survival and growth of that which it values.  [Supporting
examples include parents sacrificing for their offspring, warriors
sacrificing for their cause, and the general behavior of those
culturally recognized as heroes.]

This level of meta-thinking (or lack thereof) is at the root of many of
present society's problems involving Tragedy of the Commons and extended
Prisoners' Dilemma scenarios.  

> Obviously, if the original instance has a capacity 
> for compassion, it will certainly feel very sad about the 
> awful fate of 99 people suffering, but the point is that it 
> will not experience their pain directly.

The pain of the 99 has no *direct* bearing on the actions of the
original, but we can certainly expect a human in that situation to feel
badly. It is the nature of humans -- again as a result of natural
selection -- to react most strongly to local stimuli, but one thinking
at a metalevel would be more concerned with the general causes and
principles involved in such a scenario and seek to apply that
understanding toward creating a more desirable future even though such
actions may not improve quality of life for the currently suffering 99.
[Supporting examples include our typical behavior in response to death
of a friend, while feeling very little for the abstract deaths of
thousands and millions of others, or the knee-jerk reaction to the
plight of those starving in Africa of sending them more food while not
addressing fundamental causes such as organizational corruption and lack
of individual access to knowledge.]

- Jef

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