Re: Quantum suicide without suicide

From: George Levy <>
Date: Thu, 09 Jan 2003 12:32:14 -0800

Thanks Bruno, for your comments, I fully agree with you. Let me add a
few comments for Tim and Scerir

Tim May wrote:

> Consider this thought experiment: Alice is facing her quantum
> mechanics exam at Berkeley. She sees two main approaches to take.
> First, study hard and try to answer all of the questions as if they
> mattered. Second, take the lessons of her QS readings and simply
> _guess_, or write gibberish, killing herself if she fails to get an
> "A." (Or, as above, facing execution, torture, running out of air,
> etc., just to repudiate the "suicide is painless" aspect of some
> people's argument.)
> What should one do? What did all of you actually do? What did Moravec
> do, what did I do, what did Tegmark do?

Tim, this example is completely inapplicable to the case of QS just like
you would not set up a relativistic experiment to measure the slowing of
a clock in which the clock travels one mile per hour. To get significant
results you must travel a significant fraction of the speed of light.
QS decisions are significantly different from "classical" decisions when
the life of the experimenter is at stake, (or as I pointed out earlier
the memory of the quantum suicide machine in the mind of the
experimenter must be at stake). The amount "at stake" does not have to
be 100% as I shall explain below. Even intentional death (suicide) is
not necessary. The incoming death may be entirely unintentional!

This reminds me of a science fiction story I read about 30 years ago in
which the end of the world was forecasted for midnight. A zealous
journalist was faced with preparing a story to be published the next day
(after the world ended.) He accomplished the task by stating in the
story that the forecast was in fact in error and that the world had not
ended. In the branch of the manyworld, in which he remained alive, his
story was right, and he therefore, astonished the public with his
prescience. He made the right QS decision.

As you can see, suicide is not necessary. One could be on death row - in
other words have a high probability of dying - and make decisions based
on the probability of remaining alive.

Being on death row, dying of cancer, travelling on an airline, or
sleeping in our bed involve different probability of death... These
situations only differ in degrees. We are all in the same boat so to
speak. We are all likely to die sooner or later. The closer the
probability of death, the more important QS decision becomes.

The guy on death row must include in his QS decision making the factor
that will save his life: probably a successful appeal or a reprieve by
the state governor. The person flying in an airline should include in
his QS decision process the fact that the plane will not have a
mechanical failure or be hijacked. The person dying of cancer must
include the possibility of finding a cure to cancer, or of being
successfully preserved somehow by cryogenic means.

As you see, suicide is not necessary for QS decisions.

In addition the whole issue of "measure" is in my opinion suspect as I
have already extensively stated on this list. See below.

Scerir wrote

>Lev Vaidman wrote that we must care about all our 'successive'
>worlds in proportion to their measures of existence [Behavior
>Principle]. He does not agree to play the 'quantum Russian
>roulette' because the measure of existence of worlds with
>himself dead is be much larger than the measure of existence
>of the worlds with himself alive and rich!

I agree that QS is unethical. Yet, the reasons given by Vaidman could be unjustified because maximizing measure may not be possible if measure is already infinite - a clue that measure is infinite is that the manyworld seem to vary according to a continuum since schroedinger function is continuous.

Received on Thu Jan 09 2003 - 15:35:03 PST

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