Re: Quantum accident survivor

From: Eric Cavalcanti <>
Date: Thu, 13 Nov 2003 11:13:51 -0200

----- Original Message -----
From: "Pete Carlton" <>

> Greetings;
> this reply has taken some time...
> > I don't quite agree with your point of view, and the reason is maybe
> > similar to our disagreement in my statement: "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."
> I think you're right; this is the central disagreement. To spell it
> out: I do not believe the 1st person/3rd person distinction is
> fundamental. That is, I think that once you've explained what a system
> does (and how it does it), you've explained everything. Consciousness
> is simply a complicated set of behavioral dispositions, which can in
> principle be explained from an objective, 3rd-person standpoint; and
> the "1st person" viewpoint is just a description, a way that it
> naturally occurs to us to put things, because of our psychology
> (biology).

It seems a fundamental disagreement indeed. Let us try to discuss
about it a little bit...

> When you said earlier that:
> "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."
> I took you to be agreeing with me on my view of consciousness. But I
> think a difference is highlighted here:
> > I don't need to point out who ' I ' am. I am
> > concerned with my first-person experiences, and that is easy to
> > determine without even gaining acces to the other entities who look
> > like
> > me.
> What, exactly, are these "first-person experiences"? Are they really so
> easy to determine?
> I would say that whatever they are, they contain no information on
> whether you are Eric01 or Eric02. We know that these completely
> specified entities do exist, but since Eric01 has no way of knowing he
> is in fact Eric01, it does not matter what he experiences; the
> difference between Eric01 and Eric02 is not a difference for Eric.

Suppose I am going to make an experiment to determine the
z-component of a spin-1/2 particle. There are two possibilities: 1/2,-1/2.
Let us forget about all other particles that are changing in the universe
for the sake of the argument.
So Eric01 is the one who measured 1/2. Eric 02 measured -1/2. They
have had completely different experiences. Each one can say: I could
have experienced (-1/2,1/2) but I did not. I actually measured (1/2,-1/2).
If he knows about the multiverse, he might wonder that the universe split
when he measured this event, and some copy of him measured the other
outcome. But that does not change the fact that he can tell what outcome
he DID measure. You could now say: "But there is no tag or anything
telling who is 01 or who is 02". In fact, I could beforehand decide that
if I measure 1/2, I will put a tag in my forehead written: 01. And that I
would put a tag written 02 otherwise. The difference between Eric01
and Eric02 is now manifest!

But we are placing too much emphasis on Eric's actual measurement.
Now suppose Eric is sitting in his lab unaware of whatever is going on in
the particle beam hitting the detector. A friend of his knows of his
wonderings about personality and decides to play a game with him.
If he (the friend) measures spin 1/2, he will place a tag on his back
written 01 or 02 respectively. The difference between Eric01 and Eric02
is again manifest. Nevertheless, Eric01/02 are unaware of it.

Now let's get rid of any conscious awareness.
The spin1/2 particle has been detected, but no one knows. Nevertheless,
the universe has split, and - in principle - Eric could have detected the
particle, and he could get to the same conclusion about how the outcome
could have been different. The fact that he did not actually measure it
does not imply that his universe is not different from the universe where
his copy is. No one can say that Eric01 and Eric02 are indeed the same
person just because they do not know which one they are. Even if their
universe is different only for the state of a particle!

Now suppose Eric placed a bet with his pal Pete. If the measurement
comes out 1/2, Eric will pay him a 6-pack of beer. Otherwise Pete will
pay for Eric. The particle is measured, the universe split. In one of them,
Eric is sad and thirsty. For Eric01, the outcome was not good, and
even though Pete comes up and say: "Cheer up! In another universe
you are drinking beer!" that does not represent any relief on his thirst.
He can only wish he was the other one.
(And this is seeming particularly awful to me right now, since my
air-conditioner is broken and it is really hot in Rio today).
Now what sense could there be for Eric01 to wish he was the other
one if Pete insists that he is both? Is that just Eric's shortmindedness
or does it say something about the nature of the self?

> Hal Finney's thought experiment about the 2 identical computers is
> right on, I think. You have 2 AI programs running in lockstep.
> Nothing in the programs' experiences can tell them which program they
> are (let's say each computer has a serial number on the outside; but
> this is completely inaccessible to the programs running on them). Now
> I tell both programs that I'm going to turn off the machine labeled
> "01" and leave "02" running. Our intuitions now point in different
> directions here.. I do not think it's meaningful here for a program to
> consider which computer it's running on.
> You would ask the next question:
> "If you were one of the programs, what would you expect to happen?"
> whereas I would ask it:
> "If you were the set of these 2 programs, what would you expect to
> happen?"

Suppose that before being turned off, the AI will feel a brief but
extreme pain. I imagine the AI sitting there, unconcerned by the
prospect that one of them will be turned off, since he thinks that
he is both, and he will survive anyway. Then Hal comes up
and presses the button. For a second, the turned off program will
wide open his virtual eyes, and silently shout "FUC...!" :)

But playing with death and AI's just makes the task harder. Let us first
come to a conclusion on the easier problem.
In face of my example, you would ask the question: "if you were the set
of the two Eric's in the example, how thirsty would you expect to be?"
Your question does not make sense, I cannot answer it.
I, on the other hand, would ask: "if you were one of the two Pete's,
how thirsty would you expect to be?"
And you could answer: "50% probability that I am thirsty, 50% that I
am drinking beer."

But in your point of view, you would just sit back and relax, because you
would be happy anyway. But I don't believe that you actually live by
the rules you are proposing. How does that fit in your everyday life?

> So I think it all comes down to which conception of "you" you decide to
> use.

I would like to use the concept that I am both, but unfortunately it
is overwhelmingly hard for me to cheer up about having won the lottery
in another universe.

> Another comment:
> > You are trying to identify ' me ' by somehowpointing it out from the
> > pool
> > of similar entities in a God's perspective. That may be even
> > impossible,
> > if there is no God, but that is another discussion.
> You're right, it is impossible. (even if "you" were in one of Jürgen's
> or Bruno's programs, I would think it would be difficult and, to a
> certain degree, _arbitrary_ to completely isolate the part of the
> program that is "you" from the part that is everything else.) I think
> the fact that it is impossible to determine who "you" are is precisely
> one of the things that makes QTI seem plausible.
> > ' I ' am what I experience myself to be, and that is a completely
> > specified entity since there are no interactions between universes.
> I think that your word "that" in this sentence does _not_ actually
> point to a completely specified entity. Your experiences are not
> specifying what needs to be specified here. You appear to be saying,
> "Well, at any rate, I know that _I am me_ and no one else!". But you
> do not experience yourself as a completely specified entity. And it's
> still true that a vast number of (almost completely) identical bunches
> of atoms are saying the same thing as "you", and invoking the same
> experiences in support of their assertion.

No, I am Eric02, the one who measured the -1/2 spin, and I am thirsty.
The other is not. Since these are the only two entities in my simplified
example, ' I ' am a completely specified entity. The cases where the
are unaware of the difference does not pose a problem either, as I showed
above. All those Eric's might be saying the same thing, but look closely
and you will find that each one of them live in universes that are
different, and that is the difference between them. If two of them live in
*exactly* the same universe, then I concede they are the same, but that
is not what we are worried about. We are worried about those which
do have differences, and specially those which have such remarkable
differences as thirsty/not-thirsty, dead/alive.

> This was my point about Wittgenstein's man who says he knows how tall
> he is. The answer to the question "How tall are you?" is not "This
> tall!", accompanied by a gesture with your hand. It seems like an
> answer, but it won't do - because the question is asking for a
> measurement (given an agreed-upon metric, etc.). For the purposes of
> the QTI, the question "who are you?" cannot be answered by doing, as
> you essentially are doing, "I'm this person!", accompanied by pointing
> to your chest.

Maybe my previous posts weren't clear enough, but I think what I am
saying is not similar to Wittgenstein's man's claim. He cannot measure
his height with relation to himself, of course, because a distance is
necessarily given in relation to something else. But I did relate to
something else. I am the thirsty one, not the other. If you can see both,
then you can tell exactly who I am. No ambiguity, no imprecision.

> > If two universes have any distinction, even in the state of a
> > particle, as
> > I understand the MWI, they are distinct universes. That is an objective
> > statement, which has nothing to do with my lack of knowledge about
> > the small differences. One particular universe (the one ' I ' am in)
> > may
> > have distinct outcomes in a dangerous situation, so that it splits in,
> > say,
> > 50% universes where I am dead, and 50% where I am alive.
> We both agree with this setup of MWI and the outcomes of dangerous
> events, etc.
> You might say, "We agree on all the 3rd person facts". For instance,
> we both agree that, say, Eric01 will die and Eric02 will live, and this
> has nothing to do with what either of them know. The disagreement
> comes when you say, "Yes, but what will *I* experience?". I have been
> trying to argue that this question and its answer depends on the
> particular sense of "I" being used.

And I sustain that the only sense of ' I ' that really makes sense is the
that I am proposing. If not, please defend another position.

Thank you for an extremely pleasant discussion,
Received on Thu Nov 13 2003 - 08:46:58 PST

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