Re: zombie wives

From: Christopher Maloney <>
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 21:17:09 -0400

Gilles HENRI wrote:
> Some remarks about already old mails!
> CM:
> >I agree that the concept "that one's measure is somehow distributed
> >among the so called computational continuations of one's brain activity"
> >leads inevitably to the concept of near-zombies. The description of
> >making a million copies of one person is a good illustration. Each of
> >those copies has only a one millionth chance of "being" the original
> >person, so we should not be as concerned when one of those dies as
> >when someone else, who has never been copied, dies. But is this a
> >refutation of the concept, by reductio-ad-absurdum? I don't think so.
> This shows very clearly the absurdity of identifying two copies as the same
> individual and divide the "value" of each copy by two. As I argued already,
> two instantaneous copies will immediately diverge because they are not at
> the same physical place, and must be considered as two persons capable of
> different future histories (although sharing the same past), exactly like
> two twins. In Wei's argument, we need an external factor (color of the
> screen) to differentiate jane 1 from Jane2 : they are different since they
> have a different memory of what happened after the duplication. Jacques, do
> you mean that it is less crual to kill 5 quins than 5 children from
> different families?

Well, a few people seem to be arguing from a "common sense" point of view,
which immediately makes the arguments suspect. Let me say a few words about
this case. You're asking about the value of an individual conscious being,
and asking an ethical question about killing that being. I'd agree that the
value is tied up with the ethical question.

But it seems that you are jumping to the conclusion that the value of one of
two copies must be the same as the value of the original, based on "common
sense". But is it? If we have such a thing as a copy machine, I agree that
each of the copies will begin to diverge from the other instantly. They will
become different. I'd assume that the amount of difference between the copies
would vary according to time, tending to increase. This is true whether or
not they are subject to different stimuli.

So maybe after one second, the copies are slightly different, and have just
begun to have a thought with some slight different quality than the other
copy. Now, if one of those copies is killed, have we committed a crime
equal to killing an original, unique person, who has never been involved in
our dastardly experiments? From the bird perspective, all that is lost to
our universe is a small amount of information, representing the delta
between that copy and the other. For the most part, the memories of the
copies are identical, as are the personality, the shape of the face, etc.
So if you equate the value of a human with the information content, then
clearly killing a copy is not as bad as killing a non-copied original.

In more human terminology, when we kill that copy, all we are wiping out
are the experiences of one second, not those of a lifetime. The experiences
of the lifetime persist in the other copy.

That sounds pretty scary, and of course the average person's reaction to
such an argument would be to condemn the whole line of reasoning. That
doesn't make it wrong.

But note that this whole question is backwards. I've been saying that
each person's measure (I'd definitely hesitate to use the word "value") is
related to that person's chances of surviving into the infinite future.
So in the copy situation, I would still say that each of the copies has
half the measure of the original, but then I'd say that each has (roughly)
an equal measure to any other human. So the original, before the copy
process, had twice the measure of an average human.

Chris Maloney
"Donuts are so sweet and tasty."
-- Homer Simpson
Received on Mon Aug 30 1999 - 18:48:32 PDT

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