[extropy-chat] Doomsday argument

Robin Hanson rhanson at gmu.edu
Mon Oct 16 02:44:30 UTC 2006

At 10:08 PM 10/15/2006, Lee Corbin wrote:
> > the idea that we can imagine situations other than the one we find
> > ourselves and ask ourselves what we should believe in such situations
> > is a powerful way to clarify what we should believe in our real situation.
>That is so!  But it is valid only so long as your identity remains constant
>(or nearly so) under the counterfactual assumptions. "What would it be
>like for me if I were a bat" is, as you know, a bad question. Likewise,
>we can't "find ourselves" as you write, in the 14th century (unless someone
>had some mighty fine simulations or hidden societies going on back then).

I don't agree that it matters what your identity is or whether it 
holds constant.
The issue is what beliefs are appropriate given the *info* available in a
situation.   That could include info, or lack of info, about any aspect of your
identity, as well as info about anything else.    So it can make sense to ask
what you should believe if you had the info a bat has, or what you should
believe if you had the info that people had in the 14th century.   Of course
the further you go from your current experience the harder it may be to
evaluate what beliefs should go with what info.   But that doesn't mean the
question doesn't make sense - just that the question may be hard.

Robin Hanson  rhanson at gmu.edu  http://hanson.gmu.edu
Associate Professor of Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326  FAX: 703-993-2323 

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