[extropy-chat] Probability of identity

The Avantguardian avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 11 05:50:49 UTC 2006

--- Russell Wallace <russell.wallace at gmail.com> wrote:

> A: I turn you into a frog.
> B: I run off a copy of you. In case you're a
> threadist, I'll do it atom by
> atom, neuron by neuron, symmetrically, with thread
> of consciousness unbroken
> throughout, such that there will be two of you at
> the end and neither
> objectively nor SUBJECTIVELY will it be possible to
> tell which is the
> original and which is the copy

If this is taken as a premise of the problem, emphasis
on SUBJECTIVELY being mine, then what you are saying
is that there will be no way for ME to distinguish
myself from my copies. Since my definition of self as
an autonomous agent is:

if qualia(self, perception A) = qualia(X, perception
A) then X=self. If this is the case and I experience
everything my so called "copies" experience exactly as
they experience it, then my copies are ME. If however
my copies don't experience the exact same qualia. i.e.
I have no idea what my copy is experiencing at a given
time, then my copy is simply a copy and not me. 

I think then it is important that one distinguish
whether ones subjective experience of self is
delocalized over multiple instances or whether the
multiple instances are autonomous selves merely
similar to you and not identical. 

So by this definition, if I copy myself right before
lunch and one of my "selves" has a cheeseburger and
the other other has a salad, then after lunch I try to
determine whether or not my copy is me, then my
criteria is simple: If I remember eating a
cheeseburger then I am the one who ate the
cheeseburger. If I remember eating a salad, then I am
the one who ate the salad. If I remember eating both,
then both are me. 

Ok, so working from the logic of above, from a purely
self-interested and ruthlessly rational point of view,
if I am either a patternist or a threadist, I
shouldn't care. It would be as if 999 of my twin
brothers met their doom but only I escaped. Yeah, it
sucks and I feel bad for them but at least I made it
out alive and in a harsh Darwinian world that is all
that matters. 

If however I do indeed subjectively experience all of
the qualia of the multiple instances of me, then the
dilemma posed is practically identical to Satan
offering to either:

A: Turn you into a frog.
B: Extend your lifespan a thousand fold and torture
you for 99.9% of your preturnaturally long life.

The frog option is looking pretty good at this point,
unless I happen to be Hugh Hefner and Albert Einstein
rolled into one, in which case I may still take B.

Actually to be honest, I have read a zillion
patternist vs. threadist debates on this list and I
don't think my own view of self falls into either
camp. What would you say?

Stuart LaForge
alt email: stuart"AT"ucla.edu

"More persons, on the whole, are humbugged by believing in nothing, than by believing too much."

- P. T. Barnum

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