[extropy-chat] Probability of identity, or "Am I missing your point entirely?"

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Wed Oct 11 01:05:13 UTC 2006

Russell Wallace wrote:

	On 10/10/06, Jef Allbright <jef at jefallbright.net> wrote:
		Here's where the confusion becomes apparent.  It's the usual confusion between objective and subjective points of view, reinforced by culture, language, and personal experience.  It's Descartes'' error in not so subtle disguise, the assumption within "cogito, ergo sum" that *I* am experiencing, rather than the more defensible assertion that *some process* seems to be reporting on an experience.

	That's how I would be inclined to come at it too, but the problem is that we implicitly use this stuff to make predictions.

	In an infinite universe (at any of the Tegmark levels), there are infinitely many identical instances of you, and there is no fact of the matter as to which one of those instances you are; you are all of them.

But as I tried to say earlier (above), the Self is not somehow outside and observing these processes that are your current focus of concern in this email.  The self is a result of these processes and is not privileged is such a way that any of this matters.  Or am I missing your point entirely?  The scenario you described seems fully comprehensible in classical terms.

	Because there is a finite (albeit very small) probability that a flock of giant albino penguins will materialize in your living room in five minutes, the number of instances that experience such an event is the same as the number that does not: infinity (of the same cardinality) in each case.

	In practice, we predict a giant albino penguinless future - and this prediction always comes true. Why? The best explanation is that in some obvious sense (cardinality notwithstanding) there are far _fewer_ penguin-experiencing instances than penguinless ones, so one's subjective probability of the latter experience is almost 1. Empirically this works: our subjective experiences are in fact those we would expect from the probability argument.

I would say our subjective experience is a *result* of the way these things work.  Even if things were different behind the scenes, we would not be in a position to know any difference.  This reminds me of the silly cliché found in many fictional stories involving time travel.  Someone changes something in the past and a person in the present says, "That's strange, there wasn't a tree here a moment ago..."  Or am I missing your point entirely?

	But this explanation appears to break down here, because a count of instances gives 999:1, yet it seems that the actual subjective experience should be 50:50. In other words, this paradox appears to break the one explanation we have as to how the world manages to be a semi-predictable place. That's why I'm still chewing on it.

It seems like you're imagining some kind of Self that can be spread out over multiple instances.  To me it seems almost a problem of semantics, but reflecting a misconception of reality:  A point of view is a result of the processes producing it, not something that observes the show from some privileged position.  Or am I missing your point entirely? ;-)

- Jef

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