RE: ASSA and Many-Worlds

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2007 15:29:05 +1100

I agree with what you say about the fragmentation of the first person. This is where the
idea of the observer moment comes to the rescue as the smallest posible unit of conscious
experience (are you aware that there have ben long discussions on this list in the past
about OM's?). While there may be ambiguity as to whether this particular moment of
consciousness is me, you, half me and half you, or whatever, we can at least describe its
objective content; rather like falling back on a latitude and longtitude description when there is
a dispute about which side of the border a piece of land belongs.

Having said that, there is a sense in which I remain me from moment to moment even though
it cannot be made objective in the light of thought experiments such as you describe: I'm me
insofar as I believe I am me, have my memories, and so on. Surviving to the next moment
entails that there be at least one OM extant then (by whatever means this may come about)
which thinks it is me in the same way that I think I am the same person of a moment ago.

What about when multiple equally valid OM's exist? I don't agree that they are all perceived.
If I am to be duplicated and one of the copies tortured, I am worried, because this is subjectively
equivalent to expecting torture with 1/2 probability. Post-duplication, I can only experience
being one of the copies, and if I am not the one who is tortured, I am relieved, although I feel
sorry for the other copy in the same way I might feel sory about anyone else who is suffering
(maybe a bit more, given our shared past). This is no more than a description of how our
psychology as beings who feel themselves to be embedded in linear time works. Arguments that
this does not reflect the reality of the situation, that it does not make sense to consider I might
"become" either copy prior to the duplication but only one copy after the duplication, do not change
the way my brain forces me to feel about it. Lee Corbin on this list has argued that I should consider
both copies as selves at all times, and perhaps we would evolve to think this way in a world where
duplication was commonplace, but our brains aren't wired that way at present.

Stathis Papaioanou

> From:
> To:
> Subject: Re: ASSA and Many-Worlds
> Date: Sat, 20 Jan 2007 05:52:52 +0000
> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> > That is, once you are a conscious entity, you will follow a constrained branching
> > path through the multiverse giving the illusion of a single linear history. Measure is
> > redefined at every branching point: the subjective probability of your next moment.
> > Since the branches of the multiverse will never come to an abrupt stop, there will always
> > be a "next moment" and your stream of consciousness will never end. This the quantum
> > immortality idea, underpinned by what this list has called the relative self-sampling
> > assumption (RSSA).
> >
> > Stathis Papaioannou
> I think a lot of confusion comes from the use of pronounds such as
> "you". In the realm of multiverses, block time, and many-worlds, the
> word "you" becomes much harder to define. Consider time: since your
> brain is in a different state from one moment to the next how can you
> be said to be the same person? As you examine your branched selves in
> more and more distantly branched universes, you will find a greater and
> greater discrepancy. You could even imagine at the moment of your
> conception a different sperm may have fertalized you, would a copy of
> "you" with only one gene's difference still be enough like you to be
> you? Where can the line be drawn as to who you are and who you are
> not?
> I believe that if one accepts that he or she will be conscious of their
> perspective five minutes from now, they must accept that they will
> perceive conscious perspectives of their selves in other branched
> universes. If one accepts they will be conscious of and perceive these
> other perspecties, they must also therefore be conscious of everyone
> else's perspective. And if you accept that, then you must be conscious
> of every conscious creatures perspective, in every point of time, in
> every branched history, in every universe.
> To illustrate problems with personal identity, consider these thought
> experiments:
> 1. Imagine a technologically advanced race that created simulations of
> their brains that run on computers. If two brains were being simulated
> on the same computer by sharing time on the CPU, both individuals would
> be conscious within the computer at the same time, but neither
> simulated individual remembers being the other because the programs are
> restricted from accessing each other's memory space. In the same way
> those brains were simulated on the same computer, our brains are
> computed by the physics of this universe. The universe experiences all
> conscious perspectives simultaneously, yet we as individuals do not
> remember being conscious of these other perspectives since our memory
> is not shared.
> 2. For a second example, consider that with each successive point in
> time, a new copy of you is created in a slightly modified state.
> However, if that state is constantly changing, you are essentially a
> different person from one point in time to the next. If time is indeed
> discrete, it should be even more apparent that we have no continuous
> identity. If we have no continuous identity, by what means could
> consciousness be tied to one creature's perspective? There could be no
> simple rule to define whose brain state you will perceive from one
> point in time to the next. All that could be said is that all conscious
> perspectives will be perceived, but no one could say who will perceive
> them.
> 3. Imagine that using advanced technology, the current state of your
> body was recorded and then an exact duplicate of you was constructed.
> Would you perceive the world from the viewpoint of your double? Common
> sense says no, but then consider this slightly different example: A
> recording of your state is recorded, and then you are completely
> destroyed. Every atom in your body is taken apart. Then the recording
> of your state is used to reconstruct you. Would you not have been
> brought back to life by this procedure? Would you not perceive the
> viewpoint of this recreation? In the first scenario we are less likely
> to claim we would perceive the duplicate's perspective, but it is no
> different from the second scenario where you are destroyed and
> recreated. Now consider this even more bizarre scenario: Your state is
> recorded, you are destroyed, and then 5 duplicates of yourself in the
> recorded state are created. Which one's perspective do you take? There
> can be only one answer: You take all of them. The above scenario seems
> unlikely and you probably have doubts as to whether or not is
> technically feasible. Nevertheless, duplicates of you are being created
> all the time as the universe branches. In each case you end up in a
> slightly different universe, in some you end up slightly changed
> yourself.
> To me this leaves two equally valid definitions for the term "you".
> Either it refers to one conscious observer's perspective, at one point
> of time, in one universe, in one branched history line OR it could
> refer to reality's single first-person perspective of itself.
> For this reason I don't believe there can be a simple definition of
> "observers", there are only observer moments, but all are perceived.
> There is no distinction between the consciousness that experiences any
> particular observer moment. This is why I disagree with Bruno's
> version of comp which says quantum immortality is eternal agony;
> considering all observer moments, reality's first-person experience
> becomes more likely to perceive observer-moments of other individuals
> than to continue along a branched history where one lives abnormally
> long in a state of agony.
> This is why I see quantum mechancs as uncessesary anthropically, but
> highly proabable given the disribution of observer moments among
> universes. I think many-worlds is analagous to a mathematical function
> (or program) where each state mathematically defines many other states.
> Such a program is only marginally more complex than a program that has
> a 1-to-1 mapping of states, but many more observers will find
> themselves in a universe defined by such a program, as it defines so
> many more states. This is where I ran into the apparent conflict that
> we are conscious of perspectives that occur apprently early in the
> universe's history, but I do like Stathis's point that any state we
> perceive has a probably very close to 0, and we should consider
> ourselves fortunate to be perceiving the states we currently find
> ourselves in.

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Received on Sat Jan 20 2007 - 23:29:17 PST

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