Re: why is death painful?

From: Russell Standish <>
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 1999 13:57:04 +1000 (EST)

> Wei Dai, <>, writes:
> > Evolution must have had two "choices" when it programmed our brains to
> > make decisions as they relate to death. It could have made death or
> > circumstances leading to death painful and made us avoid actions that lead
> > to the subjective experience of pain, or it could have made us consider
> > the effect of each of our potential actions on our measure and avoid
> > actions that lead to a decrease in measure. Apparently it chose the
> > former, presumably because it's easier for evolution to accomplish. But
> > because of this our genes are now in trouble because we have found ways to
> > kill ourselves painlessly.
> It might make more sense to consider evolution working on genes rather
> than individuals. Genes are not only evolved to keep their measure
> from decreasing, but they evolve to increase their measure if possible
> (considering a gene as an information pattern which is instantiated in
> each organism which carries it).
> > So what does this mean for us? Since subjective decision making is a
> > legacy of our evolutionary past, and can be shown to be less general than
> > objective decision making, it should no longer be used. Therefore, QS
> > advocates will have to come up with a new justification for ignoring one's
> > measure. I don't think there is one. That doesn't mean one should care
> > about one's measure, just that there is no reason why one shouldn't.
> Over time, if we switch from genes to minds as the units of evolution,
> then we would expect minds which attempt to increase their measure (and
> prevent its decrease) would become more prevalent. Those which are
> convinced by quantum suicide arguments are like genes which have given
> up trying to reproduce; quickly removed from the pool. (Of course in
> an everything universe there are still some survivors off in a corner
> somewhere.)
> If we're not going to ignore our measure, then we seem to have an
> obligation to increase it rather than just keep it from decreasing.
> Presently there is not much we can do about it (especially if the units
> are observer-moments); perhaps recording our thoughts in great detail so
> that future technology can resurrect and replay them would be partially
> effective. Alternatively, working to advance technologies for reading
> brain states and emulating them on computers might be our best bet to
> increase our measure.
> If we don't spend our time doing such things, isn't this almost as bad
> as accepting quantum suicide?
> Hal

When it comes to decision theory, then MWI is really unhelpful. Sure
the process of evolution will favour those genes/memes that increase
measure (or at least minimises its decrease), so would tend to weed
out the idea of QS. However in the bird's eye view there is no
evolution anyway - its just that those memes that evolution would have
picked out dominate the total population. From a first person point of
view, you can choose to action what you like eg atempt suicide. What
you observe will be entirely consistent with this choice, and
evoutionary irrelevant.

As a by the by - I suspect that evolution doesn't typically produce
concious observers - so we are already in an atypical corner of the


Dr. Russell Standish Director
High Performance Computing Support Unit,
University of NSW Phone 9385 6967
Sydney 2052 Fax 9385 7123
Room 2075, Red Centre
Received on Tue Jun 08 1999 - 20:57:58 PDT

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