[ExI] The Anticipation Dilemma (Personal Identity Paradox)

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Tue Jul 17 12:00:49 UTC 2007

On 17/07/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> Stathis writes
> > Memory erasure, for one, presents problems for the anticipation
> > criterion for survival. To be consistent, I would have to say that
> > memory erasure is equivalent to death, and that if I'm not worried
> > about memory erasure then I shouldn't be worried about death.
> Yes, thanks for seeing that and saving me the trouble with coming
> up with a scenario. (Though if anyone else is doubtful, I'll be happy
> to provide one.)
> In your medical practice, have you yourself been under the influence
> of midazolam?  (Sorry if we've had this discussion before---I really
> don't keep as straight as I should who has said what  months ago.)

No, but I've probably given it to hundreds of patients in anaesthetics
(IV), paediatrics (squirted into the mouth of the little struggling
tyke with a syringe) and psychiatry (IM). BTW, midazolam is nothing
special as a drug, being just a short-acting benzodiazepine. Diazepam
(Valium) has a similar, if slightly weaker, amnesic effect if given
IV, and a wide variety of other sedative drugs, like alcohol, also
have the same effect in sufficiently high dosages.

> Now the *act* of taking midazolam, of course, is worry-free,
> since future versions of you will be memory-supersets.  But an
> hour later, the creature "you" possibly may believe that he's going
> to die. Is that the case?

One complicating factor with midazolam is that it is a very powerful
anxiolytic at the dosages that produce amnesia, so that patients are
basically too zonked out to care much about what is happening to them
anyway. That consideration aside, one reason it is not as frightening
as death is that, as you say, at the point where you about to take the
drug, death is not guaranteed in the way it is guaranteed if you are
about to have a lethal injection. But having taken the drug, it should
be just like waiting for your execution. If it isn't disturbing, then
to be consistent waiting for your execution shouldn't be disturbing

> > Equivalently, I could say that if I'm not worried about dying as long
> > as my copy in the next room lives, then I shouldn't be worried about
> > dying at all, or at worst I shouldn't be worried about dying as long
> > as there is someone to continue my projects after I'm gone.
> So let's say that you have terminal cancer (heaven forbid), and
> are going to die in three months, and it so happens that a copy
> of you was made four months ago, and frozen, and can be cured.
> If I understand correctly, you do not believe that you will survive
> in this scenario. Therefore, do you care whether your duplicate
> is defrosted and continues your projects, or a brand new (and
> very energetic and thorough) person is found in the unemployment
> lines who will capably continue your projects?   (And let's leave
> out, for convenience, any familial attachments and so on that are
> in principle irrelevant.)

I don't see why I should prefer that the duplicate be defrosted. This
is going on my standard issue feelings about what it means to survive.
If I can overcome these feelings, which I admit are not based on any
logic or empirical fact, then I could as easily decide that the
survival of my duplicate is no more consolation than the survival of a
similarly capable different person.

What this whole topic means to me is that death is not what I thought
it was 20 years ago. If I can convince myself that I die every moment,
or die through memory loss, or survive through a copy (even an old
copy), or any of the other complicated variations we discuss, then
death ceases to be absolute or straightforward, and becomes less
worrying even if nothing in the world changes. I hope that doesn't
sound like bioluddite thanatolatry, because I still wish that some
version of me will see the far future.

Stathis Papaioannou

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