[ExI] Midazolam, Memory Erasure, and Identity

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky sentience at pobox.com
Sun Jul 15 06:05:45 UTC 2007

Lee Corbin wrote:
> For example, suppose that teleportation became the norm, only
> it was "teleportation with delay".  That is, the original lived on for
> another sixty seconds while it was confirmed that his remote 
> duplicate had been successfully incarnated.   He would see his
> newly created duplicate over closed circuit TV alive and well
> at the remote destination, and his remote duplicate would see
> him.
> Now over time, the commuter who employed this teleportation
> with delay would become completely accustomed to it working
> just fine.  Each time he used it, he would appear at the destination
> and see his original on the TV screen and wave.  But after a few
> months of this, he would note the increasing astonishment apparent
> on the original's face.  Why?  Because the original would have
> remembered being on the *receiving* end numerous times, having
> never experienced being on the to-be-disintegrated end. 
> Even I would be astonished, I couldn't help it.  But *I* would not
> be alarmed, just rather amused.  Because I have internalized that
> tomorrow I will still wake up in the same bed, no matter what
> trifling incidents happen to me today.   In fact, I would realize
> that *I* was really there at the remote destination!  It would
> simply be that the instance *here* was not collecting memories
> of what was happening to me *there*.  Perfectly natural, given
> the circumstances.

Suppose we permit the quantum theory of immortality, so that, in a 
tiny fraction of worlds, a successor to the original-location commuter 
would survive; the disintegrator would malfunction.  By QTI it would 
feel like the line of subjective experience definitely continued there 
(and it still annoys me that I can think of no non-subjective 
experiment which distinguishes between QTI and its theoretical 

Would this change your mind about the whole thing being a case of 
short-term memory loss?  Would you say that in this case they become 
different people - different subjective lines?

If so, what difference does some tiny infinitesimal fraction of worlds 
make?  Why not say they are two people to begin with, and one line ends?

I just can't get rid of the apparently basic nature of the question 
"What seems to happen next?"  I acknowledge this as probably 
indicating some kind of very basic flaw in my understanding, but I see 
nothing for it but to continue pursuing the line of reasoning until I 
can see where I am confused.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                          http://singinst.org/
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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