[extropy-chat] The Anticipation Dilemma (Personal Identity Paradox)

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Wed Apr 11 06:26:33 UTC 2007

The Anticipation Dilemma

This discussion will be of little or no use to anyone who does
not subscribe to the following assumptions. If you wish to
discuss these *assumptions* (all except the last, which is
developed further below), either start a new thread with a
different title, or write me off-list. Thanks.

* the erasure of memories is not an identity-threatening
  transformation, provided that they are on the order of
  days or perhaps even a very few years, and you would
  agree to memory erasure of at least a few days in
  exchange for suitable monetary reward

* duplicates are selves; you would readily agree to die and
  be replaced by a duplicate of you frozen yesterday and lying
  in a slab of ice in the next room, if either you or he must
  be destroyed, and if $10M will be deposited to your bank
  account tomorrow if it's "you" who dies and "he" who is
  defrosted and gets to live. We agree that except for one
  day's memories, you and he are totally identical persons,
  and so the situation is *exactly* like for $10M agreeing
  to take a drug that would erase your last 24 hours' memory

* because duplicates are selves, as a close duplicate is
  undergoing an experience X, an instance of you says "even
  though memories are not being formed *here* at this
  location of experience X, I am nonetheless forming memories
  of them because my duplicate is myself; just because the
  experience is not happening here does not mean it is not
  happening to me"
* insofar as "anticipation"---that is, the feeling of
  imminent experience about to happen to one---an instance
  of you also anticipates what is about to happen to close 
  duplicates. As a close duplicate is about to undergo a
  dreadful experience X, you must consistently try to conjure
  up the same dread as if this instance (yourself here) itself
  were being threatened by X

* you could conceivably be living in a deterministic 
  simulation, and that from an objective point of view
  (say by the simulators in a basement level universe)
  *this* could be the 2nd, 3rd, or nth computation, all
  bestowing equal additional benefit to you as each run
  is processed
* in principle there could exist a God or an all-knowing
  being (say an entity simulating the universe you are
  living in) who either executes so many runs that He
  finds ones with exceptional properties, or He can conceive
  of a run that possesses these properties, and for all
  you know you could be living in such a run. Alternatively,
  such a deterministic run could arise from a very lucky
  set of initial conditions, though equivalent descriptions
  using "God" are simpler to write

* it is possible by an application of Newcomb's Paradox
  to change the past (from your point of view). In particular,
  there is still the possibility of changing what actually
  happened to you (as opposed to merely remember or having
  certain memories). This is fully explained in 

The next assumption is developed in the essay below:

* so one may continue to feel that he has "free will"
  in some scenarios over what choices he made in the
  past, effected with the help of memory erasure drugs
Granting the above, then, I shall attempt to show that our
common feeling of anticipation cannot be consistently
rationalized. That is, neither the *dread* you have of 
certain imminent things about to happen to you, nor the
near-Pavlovian *relish* you have of certain other imminent
experiences, can be consistently and rationally held
from one scenario to the next.

And this anticipation is crucial to most of us, and is
evidently real part of life. Because of "duplicates are
selves", however, it's important to delimit some kinds
of anticipation. Suppose for example that you and your
duplicate are in nearby beds in a hospital, and you and
all your duplicates have internalized that "duplicates
are selves". Now Nurse Ratched approaches one of you and says
"either you---that is, your particular instance---gets this
incredibly painful shot, or your duplicate next to you gets
TEN shots, which will it be?". However much we realize that
duplicates are selves, our lower level animal instincts 
forbid us from making consistently the right choice. In
other words, even though I *know* that I'll be better off
---more total universal benefit for me---if I want to say
"do it to me", I will in fact say "do it to him", at least
after enough experiences with Nurse Ratched's needle.

But this is not yet the real problem with anticipation, for
it can be claimed (and I do) that it is to be expected that
the lower, animal parts of our selves will have this almost
instinctive response to pain. I do not identify with these
lower level aspects of my self, and will edit them out
entirely if ever uploaded. The parts of me that I *do*
identify with are (a) having a good time (b) learning
interesting things (c) delighting in understanding, and
so forth. I do not identify with the part of me that is
a slave to coercion from pain or with parts of me that are
motivated from entirely prurient, crude, depraved, or
vulgar stimuli.

We come now to the most difficult antimony having to do with
identity that has ever vexed me. Suppose that we try to 
rationalize anticipation---as above---so that, for example,
in the preceding example, an instance says to himself "so
long as I am able, I will choose one experience of Nurse
Ratched's needle, as opposed to ten experiences, because
I totally identify with all my duplicates and must logically
anticipate what happens to any of them".  

But since me yesterday is a close duplicate, I must anticipate
what happens to him also; therefore, I must look forward to
the delicious dinner I had last night as much as I do the one
I'm about to have tonight. That's it in a nutshell. Yet there
is an argument concerning time that must be overcome. That is,
for the sake of completeness, the objection that experiences
in the past are somehow different from future experiences has
to be addressed. The remainder of this essay is only to
justify the foregoing conclusion of this paragraph.

That's it; that's the "Anticipation Dilemma".


Why Past Experiences Must be Anticipated as Much as Future Ones

It is to be shown in detail that anticipating tonight's repast
is no more justified than anticipating last night's, on any
ordinary meaning of "anticipate".

Suppose that it is the year 999 A.D. and God knows that you
will live in the 21st century, and knows all the details of
your life. God realizes that on October 1, 2007, you will
wish to time-travel back to October 1, 999 A.D., so God
decides to cause an exception in the otherwise totally
causally deterministic run of that day in 999, in that
out of nowhere a 2007 version of you suddenly appears in
a small village outside London. Now this isn't so easy for
God to calculate, because whatever effects you produce
in 999 will causally affect the 21st century. God therefore
finds a "fixed point" in which a you comes into being in
the 20th or 21st century according to the deterministic
calculations that is consistent with some manner of your
activities in 999. 

You live an ordinary day in October 1, 999, presumably
having a good time checking out the local history. That
night, however, you wish to get back in your time machine
and live an ordinary October 2, 2007 back in the twenty-
first century. But God has foreseen this (of course), 
and you do. Likewise on successive days you live
alternately in the 10th century and in the 21st century.

Suppose on October 3, 999 you schedule a most desirable
experience with the locals, either, say a fine repast with
the village elders, or perhaps a tryst with one of the fair
maidens of the town, and this is to happen on October 5, 999.
Then when you are back in the 21st century on October 4, 2007,
you reflect on the curiosity that you are actually looking
forward to something that formally happened in the past.
That's all right, because it's still in your future.
Everything proceeds/proceeded exactly in this way.

Then another opportunity arises on October 7, 999 A.D. that
will be consummated on October 9, 999. But this time there is
a twist. On the morning of October 9 back in the medieval
village you are to be given/was given an injection that will
erase (erased) your last 48 hours of memory. In other words,
on the morning of October 9 you will wake up and believe it
to be October 7 (until the locals clue you in). The highly
desirable event that you relish proceeds anyway, though
back in the future on October 8 2007, this all seems
stranger still. For you now must look forward to something
not only in the past, but which no memory superset of you
will ever experience!

Yet just because your present memories are to be tampered
with, future delights are not any the less appealing. Recall
that by agreeing to commit suicide so that your duplicate
frozen yesterday gets $10M, you are nonetheless looking
forward to all the great things you (as your duplicate)
will do with the money.

What we have reached is the uncomfortable conclusion that
what happens to you (or happened to you) in the past is
every bit as worthy of anticipation as events that are
scheduled to happen in your future. This demolishes any
rational or consistent use of *anticipation* that I have
ever been able to formulate. This is most unfortunate, 
because feelings of anticipation are hardwired at a very 
fundamental level into our selves and our motivations.


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