[ExI] Midazolam, Memory Erasure, and Identity

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Wed Jul 18 18:05:31 UTC 2007

Stathis writes

> On 18/07/07, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
>> So since I believe in the information theory of death, i.e., that one is
>> not dead until the information constituting one is thoroughly and
>> irretrievably destroyed, I am forced to regard any surviving sufficiently
>> close copy of me to be sufficient for my survival.
> What this discussion about the definition of "death" reminds me of is
> attempts to define "good" and G.E. Moore's naturalistic fallacy:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_fallacy.
> It is possible to define death in a particular way, for example
> Heartland's definition of cessation (even if temporary) of brain
> processes, or the above definition of information loss, and then be
> perfectly logical and scientific about determining whether death has
> occurred according to that definition. But then, why define it that
> way?


> In the end, you know what it is to be alive every day rather than dead
> (as you know what is good rather than bad) and then you try to come up
> with a definition that is consistent with this knowledge; in other
> words, you have an operational definition in mind and try to come up
> with an intrinsic definition.


> You can get this wrong if it turns out
> that the definition is not in keeping with your intuition in a
> particular case, since that was the purpose of the definition in the
> first place. For example, I would say the brain process cessation
> definition is wrong because it is entirely consistent to suppose that
> this phenomenon might have been happening every moment of what you
> would otherwise have thought was ordinary life, and certainly not
> repeated death.
> The idea that the ultimate standard against which a definition of
> death is to be measured is not some precise and unequivocal test but a
> feeling or a way of thinking makes questions about personal identity
> in a way akin to questions about ethics or aesthetics. I'd prefer it
> if this were not so, but I don't see a way around it.

Maybe you're right.  Myself, I wonder if the behavior that I
expect people would exhibit in thought experiment scenarios
is accurate.  How, for example, would they really respond
to proof that they were "merely a copy"?  Would two
copies automatically fear each other and try to exploit
each other as depicted in the recent movie "The Prestige"?
(I very much doubt it.)

What is different about this philosophical dilemma and the
traditional ones, like the one concerning the is/ought distinction,
is that conditions may rapily change from what they are now:
we may, before too many more decades, find it quite
possible to have copies (especially in uploading scenarios).

It'll be interesting to see what happens, if you and I can make
it that far into the future.


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