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

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Thu Apr 12 13:35:59 UTC 2007

Stathis wrote

> Sent: Wednesday, April 11, 2007 4:28 AM
> On 4/11/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:

> > This is most unfortunate, because feelings of anticipation
> > are hardwired at a very  fundamental level into our selves
> > and our motivations.
> We could try to patch things up by saying that both memory loss
> and dying some time after you have been duplicated, which I
> agree are equivalent, constitute absolute death and are to be
> avoided at all costs.

Yes, it being understood that by "dying some time after being
duplicated",  you mean a quite a large number of years or decades.

> However, this sounds wrong, because most people wouldn't
> worry that much about a few minutes or a few hours of memory
> loss

But that's a different matter, entirely, though perhaps I'm 
misreading you.  We have to view as mentally aberrant
anyone who so little identifies with who he'll be in a few
minutes that (except in extreme cases of torture or 
pleasure), he benefit horizon (or a discount factor of
future benefit), that he can't make very small sacrifices
of the moment to save himself vast loss of benefit over
succeeding hours or days.  In other words, anyone who
won't spend a penny today to avoid loss of thousands
of dollars tomorrow is simply crazy (i.e. has something

> Alternatively, we could say that, indeed, we should anticipate
> the past as much as the future, but as you point out this runs
> counter to all our programming.

No, I'm not saying that we ought to try to change ourselves to
anticipate the past as well as the future---as we agree, that
would be peculiarly at odds with the evolutionary purpose
of anticipation.  I'm only lamenting that anticipation cannot
be rationalized (at least I've not seen any way so far).  But
big deal---we've learned that any number of concepts that
we took for granted, e.g. "simultaneity", cannot be so
consistently rationalized.

> Either solution would allow a consistent theory of personal
> identity, but it wouldn't feel right. 

Well, I didn't think that theories about personal identity were
really at stake over the anticipation dilemma.  Now it *is*
true, I contend, that most people get their views on personal
identity by consulting their "anticipation" module. For example,
they just don't "feel" that they'll themselves will have the future
experiences of that frozen slab in the next room who is a recent
duplicate.  All along, I've been attacking the veracity of this
particular feeling, just as, for example, Columbus could be 
said to be attacking the "feeling" that the Earth must be flat.

(Boy, am I begging for a lot of new threads to be started!
I hope that nobody cavalierly responds to all this unless
they either start a new thread, or it's really germane to
an analysis of "anticipation" and its uses. Thanks.)

> I think the paradox comes from trying to reconcile our psychology
> with logic. There really is no *logical* reason why an entity should
> have one type of concern for past versions of itself and another type
> of concern for future versions of itself.

There is an evolutionary reason.  Despite the peculiar thought
experiments that can be generated in which past experiences
can be shown (in these weird cases) to be on a par with future
ones, for an entity to worry about past events is like throwing
good money after bad.

> That is why I think of every observer moment as a separate
> entity, related to its fellows not due to any absolute rules but
> by virtue of certain contingent facts about the evolution of
> our brains.

For what its worth, my view on the concept of OMs is that
they're pretty worthless. But this could be a matter of taste.

> Other entities may have quite different views about personal
> identity. If worker bees regard their queen more as self than
> they do themselves, are they wrong?

Oh, absolutely not!  As we discussed in various threads over
the last six months, values cannot be said to be rational or 
irrational. Suicide bombers, for example, cannot be shown
to be irrational per se; they have simply placed certain 
benefits for their entire society or for the human race above
their own survival.  Worker bees don't even need to be as
abstract as that  :-)   given their "allegiance" to the perpetuation
of their genes.


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