Kiln People

From: <>
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2002 19:15:34 -0800

I've started reading the new novel from SF writer David Brin, Kiln People.
He describes it at his web site,

: Take the notion of golems-- temporary clay people (not clones!) -- and
: now imagine a near future when everybody can make them. Using a "home
: copier" you ditto your memories -- perhaps even a genuine imprint of
: your soul -- and off goes the duplicate to run your errands, attend your
: classes, or do all the drudgery work. Then, at day's end, you download
: the golem's memories.
: As a citizen of this near future, you've duplicated yourself a zillion
: times and take it for granted, sometimes being the original, sometimes the
: copy. You live your life in parallel, sending expensive "study golems"
: to the library while cheap models clean the house and your real body
: works out at the gym. Two thirds of the Earth's population consists of
: temporaries made of clay. People seem to have even adjusted to this new
: way of life, until....

The interesting thing is the implication of such technology for some of
our discussions of measure. If you duplicate yourself, of course you
and your duplicate begin to diverge. Your measure effectively doubles.
But the duplicates have a short lifetime, just a day or two. At the
end they either self-destruct, get killed or if they are lucky they get
their memories merged back into the biological original.

If duplicating yourself doubles your measure, then merging two selves
would halve it, right? Likewise letting one of your two selves be killed
would halve it as well. So from the point of view of maximizing measure,
which is supposedly what evolution makes us try to do in the context
of the multiverse, is it any better to try to arrange to recapture the
memories of as many golems as possible, or to just let them expire?

>From the point of view of gaining useful information and experience, it
is certainly better to recapture the memories of the dittos. Doing that
makes it seem like the duplicate was still alive. Yet the measure
is halved. That seems a little paradoxical.

Another point is the experience of having a duplicate made. The narrator,
a private detective, has several made every morning who go out and
do his investigative work. Some come back, others don't (it's a
dangerous business). So he has memories of being both duplicates
and original. From his perspective, when he lies down to be scanned,
it's indeterminate and random whether he will get up as a ditto or as
the biological original.

This is the famous first-person indeterminacy which we have often
discussed. No doubt many of our philosophical conundrums would be easier
to handle if we lived in Brin's golem-ridden society.

Received on Mon Jan 14 2002 - 18:23:33 PST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Feb 16 2018 - 13:20:07 PST