[ExI] Next moment, everything around you will probably change

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Tue Jun 19 17:46:07 UTC 2007

On 6/18/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> Jef writes
> > On 6/17/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> >
> >> "Personal continuity" is a mistaken notion.  Aren't you
> >> the same person you were before last month?  And so what
> >> would change if miraculously last month really had never
> >> happened, your molecules just happened to assume their
> >> current configuration?  It would not diminish your identity
> >> an iota.  Continuity is a red-herring.
> >
> > While Lee makes some good points and is rightfully proud of discarding
> > belief in an essential self, he does not yet comprehend that
> > similarity is also a red-herring.
> >
> > With regard to personal identity, as the physical Lee changes over
> > days, weeks, months, and years, his identity doesn't degrade or
> > require constant renewal; he is actually considered **exactly** the
> > same person for all practical purposes by others, by himself, by our
> > social and legal systems.
> What others think isn't important if one believes there to be a
> truth to the matter of whether "one is still the same person that
> one was".  As in Damien's (quite good) novel Post Mortal Syndrome
> http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/fiction/online/serials/post_mortal_syndrome/cover>
> we usually regard a single biological human being as capable of
> hosting distinct personalities.  Just because a few people, or the
> law, doesn't happen to recognize this truth  doesn't change it. Although
> personality tests do confirm our hunch about the reality, it would be
> strange indeed if you deny the possibility of multiple personalities.

How strange that your response is so disjointed from what I wrote.
You create a false dichotomy and accuse me of denying what I would

You say "What others think isn't important..." and thus emphasize the
essential importance (to you) of the first-person role and imply
"paradox be damned."  I say there is no actual first person observer,
but only what appears to be first person observation. I'm offering you
a more unifying and extensible model, where personal identity is in
**all** cases dependent on an observer, and where you (the
Lee-biological agent) have the **closest** interactions with the
Lee-abstract entity, but no intrinsically **privileged** interactions.

You say "...we usually regard a single biological human being as
capable of hosting distinct personalities.  Just because a few people,
or the law, doesn't happen to recognize this truth  doesn't change
it."  Again I'll remind you that I am offering a unifying model of
personal identity that works from **any** point of view.  I would be
the last to support the straw-man position you attempt to ascribe to
me.  To add some clarity to this minor subtopic of "multiple
personalities", let's recognize that this psychological condition is
now more properly referred to as Disassociative Identity Disorder,
reflecting the understanding that the biological organism doesn't
actually "host multiple personalities" but **manifests** different
personalities. We can see this as the behavior of a single complex
chaotic system being pulled toward different attractors at different
times.  This directly supports my thesis: That any observer, included
the biological organism itself, will recognize personal identity on
the basis of agency (what abstract entity are you working for?) rather
than any metric of physical/functional similarity.

<snipping some more straw-man rhetoric>

> So as a practical matter, the similarity
> criterion works for me.  It's hard to believe that it doesn't work
> for you despite your claim about agency.

Another rhetorical straw-man. Lee, I've said many times that your
similarity view works just fine as a practical matter of everyday life
(and it even works for your duplication thought-experiments at t = 0.)
 As a practical matter in everyday life, the view based on perceived
continuity also works.  But for a more extensible view of personal
agency that supports everyday interaction as well as transhumanist
scenarios more coherently, an agency-based  view is better as I've

> In your scenario you consider some very selfish person who
> forks and then is at odds with his other self.

Yes, I suggested a very selfish person to make the thought-experiment
easier for you, but any degree of selfishness will tend to put
duplicates at odds with one another as they interact from within
increasingly disparate contexts.

> You suggest that
> it would be inappropriate to suggest that they're still the same
> person.  Well, if personality tests and people who knew them
> affirmed that they were still the same person, I would simply
> conclude that the two instances of that person were not
> capable of seeing this truth (or chose to deny it), and were
> not capable of acting on this truth.

Like another person on this list, one who is fixated on proving the
vital importance of a continuous physical trajectory to matters of
personal identity, you appear to be fixated on the importance of
similarity, which seems to you self-evident, and profound because it
is a step beyond the thinking of most people in everyday life.

I'm not denying the essence of your view, as I said, it works as a
special case, which happens to be the most common case today.

It's like another disagreement of ours:  You've claimed that personal
survival is the ultimate determinant of personal choice, and that
pleasure is the ultimate determinant of "the good."  I've responded
that *all* decision are based on the agent's value set, and that many,
but not necessarily all agents highly value survival and pleasure.  I
offer a more coherent and extensible view, applicable to our world as
well as to a world not yet arrived, and you contest it interminably.
Is this simply a matter of NIH (Not Invented Here) for someone who has
spent decades refining a few ideas and can't bear the thought of being
superseded or encompassed?

I offered you a simple scenario showing an internal contradiction
resulting from your view, and you have yet to respond directly,
resorting here to assuming your conclusion, asserting that if anyone
fails to understand or denies the truth of personal identity on the
basis of similarity, they are simply rejecting the "truth."

To be quite direct and blunt, since this has gone on so long, and your
limited conception is occasionally propagated to impressionable minds
just beginning to ask these questions, I'll say this: It's apparent
that you are infatuated with the idea of personal identity only to the
extent that it offers you relief from the fear of death.  The more
copies, and the more "runtime", the better, even if in multiple
independent universes lacking causal linkage.  You're not interested
in personal identity, but rather in personal survival, and your theory
of personal identity need be only good enough to comfort in this
regard and then -- full stop.

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list