Re: FIN Again (was: Re: James Higgo)

From: Jesse Mazer <>
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2001 14:59:02 -0400

>From: "Jacques Mallah" <>

>>You continue to characterize those who disagree with you on this issue
>>as insane. Do you mean this literally? Or is it just a rhetorical
>>technique, argument by intimidation and rudeness?
> No, it's not a rhetorical technique. Why would it be advantageous in
>argument to be rude?
> I do mean it quite literally. As far as I can tell, there people
>believe in illogical and dangerous things, for no apparent reason. It's no
>different than if they believed they can fly.

I don't understand your objection. It seems to me that it is perfectly
coherent to imagine a TOE which includes both a universal "objective"
measure on the set of all observer-moments and also a relative conditional
probability which tells me what the probability is I'll have experience B in
the future if I'm having experience A right now. In statistics we have both
absolute and conditional probability, so what's wrong with having the same
thing in a TOE? I suppose one objection might be that once we have an
objective measure, we understand everything we need to know about why I find
myself having the types of experiences I do, and that defining an additional
conditional probability measure on the set of all observer-moments would be
purely "epiphenomenal" and inelegant. Is that what your problem with the
idea is? I have my own pet theory about why a TOE including both absolute
and conditional probability measures could actually be quite elegant, with
each type of probability measure defining the other (like solving a large
set of simultaneous equations to find the only self-consistent way to assign
values to each variable), but I'll save that for another post.

Another possible objection to the notion of a conditional probability
measure would be the one you mentioned earlier, that it would seem to imply
some weird idea of a propertyless "soul" that leaps around between different
observer-moments (each defined as a certain computation, perhaps). I would
point out, though, that there is a nice symmetry between this difficulty and
a similar difficulty in understanding the meaning of the self-sampling
assumption--what does it mean to say that "I" should reason as if I had an
equal probability of being any one of all possible observer-moments? How
could I be any observer-moment but the one I actually am? Perhaps a skeptic
would caricature the self-sampling assumption by imagining a bunch of
propertyless souls that have to draw straws to decide which observer-moment
they'll end up "becoming," but I don't think the difficulty visualizing what
the SSA means really counts as a strong argument against it. Similarly, I
don't think the difficulty with visualizing what "conditional probability"
would mean is a strong objection to the idea, "leaping" nonwithstanding.
>From a first-person perspective you can see pretty clearly what it would
mean--if I am about to step into a machine that will replicate one copy of
me in heaven and one copy in hell, then as I step into the imaging chamber I
will be in suspense about where I will find myself a moment from now, and if
the conditional probability of each possible future observer-moment is 50%
given my current observer-moment, then I will interpret that as a 50/50
chance that I'm about to experience torture or bliss.

Surely you agree that there is nothing *mathematically* incoherent about
defining both absolute and conditional probability measures on the set of
all observer-moments. So what's your basis for calling the idea "crazy?"

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Received on Thu Aug 30 2001 - 12:00:19 PDT

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