Re: adult vs. child

From: Jack Mallah <>
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2009 07:42:30 -0800 (PST)

--- On Tue, 2/10/09, Stathis Papaioannou <> wrote:
> It seems that the disagreement may be one about personal identity. It is not clear to me from your paper whether you accept what Derek Parfit calls the "reductionist" theory of personal identity. Consider the following experiment:
> There are two consecutive periods of consciousness, A and B, in which you are an observer in a virtual reality program. A is your experiences between 5:00 PM and 5:01 PM while B is your experiences between 5:01 PM and 5:02 PM, subjective time. A is being implemented in parallel on two computers MA1 and MA2, so that there are actually two qualitatively identical streams of consciousness which we can call A1 and A2. At the end of the subjective minute, data is saved to disk and both MA1 and MA2 are switched off. An external operator picks up a copy of the saved data, walks over to a third computer MB, loads the data and starts up the program. After another subjective minute MB is switched off and the experiment ends.
> As the observer you know all this information, and you look at the clock and see that it is 5:00 PM. What can you conclude from this and what should you expect? To me, it seems that you must conclude that you are currently either A1 or A2, and that in one minute you will be B, with 100% certainty. Would you say something else?

I'd say it's a matter of definition, and there are three basic ones:

1) If I am A1 and will become B, then A2 has an equal right to say that he will become B. Thus, one could say that I am the same person as A2. This is personal fusion.

2) If the data saved to the disk is only based on A1 (e.g. discarding any errors that A2 might have made) then one could say that A1 is the same person as B, while A2 is not. This is causal differentiation.

3) If I am defined as an observer-moment, then I am part of either A1 or A2, not even the whole thing - just my current experience. This is the most conservative definition and thus may be the least misleading.

Regardless of definitions, what will be true is that the measure of A will be twice that of B. For example, if have not yet looked at the clock, and I want to place a bet on what it currently reads, and my internal time sense tells me only that about a minute has passed (so it is near 5:01, but I don't know which side of it), then I should bet that it is before 5:01 with effective probability 2/3. This Reflection Argument is equivalent to the famous "Sleeping Beauty" thought experiment.


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Received on Tue Feb 10 2009 - 10:42:46 PST

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