[ExI] Affecting Past Experience

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sun Jul 22 05:14:18 UTC 2007

Stathis writes

> [Lee wrote]
>> ...experience and not just a memory addition.  It's very much
>> as in Total Recall, where at after the Martian adventure is
>> over Arnold will always wonder whether it really happened
>> or the folks at Total Recall just added in the memories. We
>> may assume for convenience that Arnold would treasure
>> the experience having been real (even if somehow it had no
>> further repercussions in his life).
> This would be a very artificial situation, as in almost every case
> there would be no impact on a present subject whether his past
> was real or imagined.

That certainly doesn't seem so to me. Consider whether I really
did commit a crime or only imagined having committed it.  In 
the former case, the police may be hot on my heels!  And as
for the Martian Adventure, if it really happened and the character
made a real impact on history, his life will hardly be the same:
he'll be nominated for Savior of Mars at the very least.  Perhaps
you mean something else, but I don't see what.

> My original experiment could conceivably be modelled without the need
> for godlike powers. Suppose I am informed that I am living in a
> computer simulation of a special kind. My whole life from birth to
> death has been determined, and is being run in real time in day long
> sections simultaneously on geographically separated computers, one
> computer for each day of my life, so that the whole thing is over and
> done with in a single day in the real world. I am also aware that
> these computers are the focus of a bombing campaign by forces who
> believe sentient software is blasphemous.

Ah, very nice scenario.

> Although it's beyond my control, I fervently hope that the terrorists
> will not destroy the computers running days in my subjective future,
> but I don't really care if they destroy computers running days in my
> subjective past.

I don't really know why you care more about these discrete *future*
days than you do about the *past* ones. If tomorrow is a day that
gets bombed (I really like the imagery [1]), then you'll simply not
experience that.  But the day after tomorrow and all the days
beyond, it will be exactly the same as if tomorrow happened.
(Actually, were I scheduled for root canal surgery for tomorrow,
then I would even hope that it got bombed!)

> In fact, I would prefer that all my past days be destroyed if it could
> save one future day, even though that way the total runtime of all
> instances of me is reduced.

Evidently you and I simply calculate these things differently. I would
not like losing some actual very pleasant day in my past (retaining
only the memories).  True, I cannot tell if it gets bombed or not,
but I have the intellectual knowledge that my life as a whole was
worse off for not having really experienced that day.


[1] Instead of me getting bombed tomorrow, it's tomorrow itself
that get bombed!  I probably could stand getting bombed tomorrow,
it being a day off.

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