Re: Quantum accident survivor

From: Pete Carlton <>
Date: Fri, 7 Nov 2003 18:45:57 -0800


Doesn't this part:
> In a materialistic framework, ' I ' am a bunch of atoms. These atoms
> happen to constitute a system that has self-referential qualities that
> we call consciousness. If it happened that these atoms temporarily
> (like in a coma or anesthesy) or permanently (death) lose this quality,
> so will ' I '.
Contradict this part:
> It is not useful to talk about 1st person experiences in 3rd person
> terms, since when we do that we lose the very thing that we want
> to study.

Since surely one can describe "a bunch of atoms with self-referential
qualities" in wholly objective, i.e. 1st person, terms? But I'm
getting ahead of myself here.. I think we actually agree on 99% of
this issue. I think the only place we disagree is on some very subtle
issues regarding how one can refer to "I". Let me then explicitly
state that I am a materialist and a functionalist with regard to

>>> Let me stress this point: *I am, for all practical purposes,
>>> one and only one specific configuration of atoms in a
>>> specific universe. I could never say that ' I ' is ALL the
>>> copies, since I NEVER experience what the other copies
>>> experience.
>> Here I think you're making an assumption. You are certainly not ALL
>> the
>> copies, but then it doesn't follow that you are only 1. "You" could
>> be
>> a fuzzy set of copies that have experiences so similar that they
>> cannot
>> be told apart. That is, they cannot be told apart >yet<.
>> Unnoticeable
>> differences eventually can percolate up and make a noticeable
>> difference, or they can be made noticeable by making more sensitive
>> observations.
> Yes, I am making an assumption, and working through it. The
> assumption is that there is nothing external to the physical body to
> account for consciousness.

I totally agree with >this< assumption. It's the "one and only one"
part that I disagree with, to this extent:
        You may, if you wish, decide to refer to one and only one universe and
to the Eric within that universe. That is, you can stipulate that the
Eric you are referring to is a completely specified entity. But to do
so meaningfully, you would need to take some sort of god-like view of
the plenitude, and *actually specify* the Eric you're talking about.
Otherwise how do you know what you are referring to? Just saying "I"
or "one and only one" does not do the job. (Like Wittgenstein's man
who says "I know how tall I am!" and proves it by putting his hand on
top of his head.)

        Let's say that you were able to completely specify one Eric, by giving
a (possibly infinitely) long description. Let's call the entity you
have thus specified "Eric01". Our point of difference seems to be
this: You believe that when Eric01 says "I", he is referring precisely
to Eric01. I believe that when Eric01 says "I", he is referring to the
entire ensemble of Erics who are identical to Eric01 in all the ways
Eric01 is capable of detecting. Because each member of this ensemble
is also saying "I", and meaning the same thing by it.

        Now you would say that since each completely specified Eric is in fact
different, each one has a different consciousness. Here is where our
disagreement about _reference_ is relevant to QTI.
        I definitely agree with you that if you mean to completely specify one
Eric when you say "I", then it is almost certain that that Eric will
die in one of these dangerous situations. But let's now specify TWO
Erics: Eric01 and Eric02. They are indistinguishable from each other,
and indeed their universes are identical, save for a tiny fluctuation
which will miraculously save Eric02's life tomorrow, but doom Eric01.
If Eric01 and Eric02 mean the same thing when they refer to "I" the
instant before the death-event, then that "I" is going to survive, even
though Eric01 does not. If they refer to different things, then there
is no question of "I" surviving; it is simply the case that Eric01 dies
and Eric02 lives. Let me stress that I do not think anything like
"Eric01 and Eric02 'share' a 'consciousness' that reaches between their
universes". It's simply that if there is no way for Eric01 to know
that he is Eric01 rather than Eric02, then there is no difference
between them with respect to their consciousness.

> A particular atom interacts with the atoms
> or other particles in its universe only (interference is not
> interaction).
> Therefore a set of atoms do the same. All experience comes from the
> interactons that take place in a particular universe. There are
> certainly
> a set of universes so similar that cannot be told apart. But after any
> event (like a particle's interaction with another, or someone's death
> at
> a larger scale) these universes have decohered enough so that you
> cannot equalize them anymore.

Yes, they have decohered with respect to some events. But if this "no
cul-de-sac conjecture" holds, then there must be some events that still
can happen, with respect to which some set of universes has not yet
decohered, that would lead at least one member of an "I"-continuum away
from the danger. I am not sure I understand why some say it must hold,
but I'm going through the archives..

> I think that when people respond to this question they forget the
> assumption that I am making and argue assuming other philosophical
> framework.
I hope I've clarified the issue on this regard.. with the assumption
you made, you are right, that almost all the completely specified
entities die. But I think for this assumption to be meaningful you
must actually be capable of making those specifications.

Sorry to complicate things by introducing Eric01 and 02, etc.. these
posts have a way of becoming long and unreadable, and I can't follow
all the messages in this whole thread. But thanks for having a good

Received on Fri Nov 07 2003 - 21:47:39 PST

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