[ExI] Who is the 'real' you? [WAS Re: Let's play What If.]

Richard Loosemore rpwl at lightlink.com
Wed Oct 27 16:44:26 UTC 2010

Ben Zaiboc wrote:
> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
>> you would expect to end up as either
>> the copy or the original with equal probability.
> and:
>> there is a 1/million probability that you would be
> the
>> copy that differentiates.
> Again, what is this 'you' of which you speak?  This is
> the heart of the problem.  To say that 'you' would end
> up as one or other of the instances is nonsense, as
> 'you' have been duplicated.  There are now two 'you's.
> The Amoeba example is a good one.  After reproducing,
> which one of the daughter cells is the 'true' amoeba? 
> It's a nonsense question, isn't it?  The only possible
> answer is "not one, both!".
> 'I' am what my brain /does/.  Wherever that 'doing'
> happens, there am 'I'.  
> All these objections seem to hinge on a totally
> unsuported assumption:  There can only be one 'I'. 
> There isn't any scientific principle which indicates
> that this is true, and logic indicates that it's
> false.
> Here's a thought experiment:  Imagine a machine which
> could create two atoms where there was one, and move
> each atom exactly 1 metre away from the original
> position, in opposite directions, very quickly. This
> process is applied to your entire body, creating two
> exact copies, 2 metres apart.
> So which one is 'you'?
> Ben Zaiboc

I completely agree with your analysis, Ben, but it might help to focus 
on the reason why people tend to get all tangled up on this point.

If we start thinking that all one million duplicates are independent 
entities, then this has a blowback effect on the original, simple case 
where one person is completely duplicated AND the 'original' is 
destroyed at the same instant that the new one is created.

The blowback is this:  some of us want to say that this is equivalent to 
going to sleep and then waking up in a new body.  But if the same 
situation is looked at from the point of view of the million duplicates 
(all of which are new creatures, so NONE of them are a continuation of 
the 'real you'), then the implication is that this is like death plus 
the creation of a new individual with the same memories.

So that gives two contradictory interpretations.

I believe the solution is relatively simple, though strange.  The 
concept of a "you" is just not coherent in these circumstances, and in 
fact the problem actually comes down to an IRRESOLVABLE duality between 
the two concepts of "death plus replication" versus "going to sleep and 
waking up".  These two are the same concept.  There is no difference 
between the two of them, and no conceivably way to test for a difference 
between them.

The problem has always been that we evolved the concept of a self in a 
world in which duplication does not happen.  The concept is not built to 
stand the strain of that extended usage.

Richard Loosemore

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