[extropy-chat] How to be copied into the future?

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Fri Apr 27 08:18:12 UTC 2007

On 4/27/07, Heartland <velvethum at hotmail.com> wrote:

I hear this kind of argument all the time. What you're saying here does not
> really
> question the fact that flat EEG means death. You merely observe that you
> find no
> difference between an illusion of continuous life and a continuous life.
> Why you
> don't appreciate the difference? It's probably because you have been
> conditioned
> into assuming observer POV which effectively prevents you from seeing this
> difference.

Even if there were a difference, it doesn't matter. Suppose God tells you
that you either die and are pseudo-resurrected every moment, or you have
continuous life of the sort you describe. You have to guess which is the
case, and you get a prize if you are correct. Is there anything about the
way you feel, or the way other people see you which would help you guess the
right answer? If not, then you would have to admit that it is quite possible
that what you take to be continuous life might, in fact, have been
continuous death all along. Say God reveals that this was in fact the case,
but offers to give you a week of continuous life so you can see how you like
it. At the end of the week, you have to admit that it doesn't actually feel
any different to what continuous death felt like. I imagine that as a matter
of principle, you would still express a preference for continuous life, but
most people would probably say, if I've been continuously dying my whole
life and didn't know it, and continuous life feels to me exactly the same as
continuous death, what's the big deal? It would imply a redefinition of
death to *permanent* death, with no successor observer moments ever again.

Imagine you have a servant. As a master it makes no difference to you if the
> servant who does chores for you is being replaced by a perfect copy each
> time he
> escapes your field of vision as long as the job is being done. In other
> words, as
> an observer, the fact your servant is being constantly replaced makes no
> difference
> to you because you *benefit* equally from services of the original or the
> copy.
> But you must realize your servant is a person too and you must be able and
> willing
> to assume his POV also. Let's say he likes chocolate and looks forward to
> eating
> some of it tomorrow. Unfortunately for your servant, you've just lost
> sight of him
> and evil forces drag him into your basement, kill him and send his copy to
> fulfill
> your new orders. The guy rotting now in your basement you have no
> awareness of has
> just been denied the benefit of experiencing the pleasure of eating
> chocolate
> tomorrow.
> The tragedy here is not that servant dies. It's that he permanently loses
> access to
> future benefits while you still maintain that access. That's the
> difference.

If the replacement were seamless, it would be perfectly equivalent to
ordinary life. You have this notion that something "reaches out" from one
moment to the next, and that if it isn't this same something but a mere
copy, then that is a bad thing. But in quantum mechanics it is literally
impossible to distinguish one subatomic particle from another, so the
concept of this proton being the same proton as a moment ago is meaningless.
We can say that this proton has a similar relationship to its neighbours as
the proton a moment ago, but that's all.

As a matter of fact, replacement doesn't even need to be with strictly the
same type of matter. If you were fed food entirely consisting of different
isotopes to what is naturally found in the body, eventually all of you would
demonstrably be made of different matter. This would be a gradual
replacement, and you would presumably still agree that you have been
continuously alive. But imagine that your metabolic rate is increased so
that the replacement occurs faster and faster: weeks, days, minutes, seconds
etc. until the limit where the replacement occurs instantaneously (or takes
one Planck interval). Would you argue that the replacement is OK if it takes
a femtosecond, but murder if it takes a Planck interval?

> >> I could further claim that you
> >> die and are pseudo-resurrected every instant because there is
> >> nothing "between" quantum intervals of existence. You might
> >> disagree, arguing that it isn't really complete and permanent
> >> cessation of physical activity. I could counter that it *is*
> >> complete and permanent cessation of physical activity, and the
> >> person in the next quantum interval isn't really you, he just thinks
> >> he is you.
> And as I argued several times before, any process is defined over time
> interval
> bigger than 0 which means that there's no such thing as a "snapshot" of an
> instance. Snapshots apply only to types (patterns).
> Besides, if there's nothing between quantum intervals, how is it possible
> that
> things exist during multiples of those intervals? After all, nothing times
> anything
> should still result in nothing.

If time is discrete, then all motion is an illusion, like frames in a film.
You may be aware of so-called block universe thories of time, in which every
instant occurs statically and eternally (the instants could be of
infinitesimal duration) and the "flow" of time is an illusion. The point is,
whether or not this is the "true" theory of time, physics is the same in a
block universe or a linear universe. If some experiment were done supporting
the block universe view, which would mean that the moments of your life are
no more closely related than copies in neighbouring rooms, would that be
upsetting to you?

Stathis Papaioannou
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