Re: Request for a glossary of acronyms

From: Jesse Mazer <>
Date: Fri, 14 Nov 2003 04:43:38 -0500

Hal Finney wrote:
>Jesse Mazer writes:
> > In your definition of the ASSA, why do you define it in terms of your
> > observer moment?
>The ASSA and the RSSA were historically defined as competing views.
>I am not 100% sure that I have the ASSA right, in that it doesn't seem
>too different from the SSSA. (BTW I have kept the definitions at the end
>of this email.) (BTW, BTW means By The Way.) But I am pretty sure about
>the RSSA being in terms of the "next" moment, so I defined the ASSA the
>same way, to better illustrate its complementary relationship to the RSSA.
>The real difference between these views was not addressed in my
>glossary, which is that the RSSA is supposed to justify the QTI, the
>quantum theory of immortality, while the ASSA is supposed to refute it.
>That is, if you only experience universes where your identity continues,
>as the RSSA implies, then it would seem that you will never die. But if
>your life-moments are ruled by statistics based on physical law as the
>ASSA says, then the chance that you will ever experience being extremely
>old is infinitesimal.
>Personally I think the ASSA as I have it is somewhat incoherent, speaking
>of a "next" observer moment in a framework where there really isn't any
>such notion. But as I said it has been considered as the alternative
>to the RSSA. I invite suggestions for improved wording.

I think that proponents of the type of ASSA youíre talking about would say
that the experience of consciousness passing through multiple
observer-moments is simply an illusion, and that I am nothing more than my
current observer-moment. Therefore they would not believe in quantum
immortality, and they also would not define the ASSA in terms of the "next"
observer-moment, only the current observer-moment. I think youíd be
hard-pressed to find any supporters of the ASSA who would define it in the
way you have.

But as I say below, I think it is possible to have a different
interpretation of the ASSA in which consciousness-over-time is not an
illusion, and in which it can be compatible with the RSSA, not opposed to

> > Wouldn't it be possible to have a version of the SSA where
> > you consider your *current* observer moment to be randomly sampled from
> > set of all observer-moments, but you use something like the RSSA to
> > what your next observer moment is likely to be like?
>That seems contradictory. You have one distribution for the current
>observer-moment (sampled from all of them), and another distribution for
>the next observer-moment (sampled from those that are continuous with
>the same identity). But the current observer-moment is also a "next"
>observer-moment (relative to the previous observer-moment). So you can't
>use the ASSA for current OM's and the RSSA for next OM's, because every
>next is a current, and vice versa. (By OM I mean observer-moment.)

Well, any theory involving splitting/merging consciousness is naturally
going to privilege the current observer-moment, because itís the only thing
you can be really sure of a la "I think therefore I am"Öwhen talking about
the past or the future, there will be multiple pasts and multiple futures
compatible with your present OM, so you can only talk about a sort of
probabilistic spread.

That said, although some might argue thereís a sort of philosophical
contradiction there, I think it is possible to conceive of a mathematical
theory of consciousness which incorporates both the ASSA and the RSSA
without leading to any formal/mathematical contradictions. There could even
be a sort of "complementarity" between the two aspects of the theory, so
that OMís with the highest absolute probability-of-being would also be the
ones that have the most other high-absolute-probability OMís that see them
as a likely "successor" in terms of relative probability-of-becoming. In
fact, an elegant solution for determining a given OMís absolute
probability-of-being might be to simply do a sum over the probability of
becoming that OM relative to all the other OMís in the multiverse, weighted
by their own probability-of-being.

Hereís a simple model for how this could work. Say you have some large set
of all the OMís in the multiverse, possibly finite if there is some upper
limit on the complexity of an OMís, but probably infinite. You have some
theory of consciousness that quantifies the "similarity" S between any two
given OMís, which deals with how well they fit as the same mind at different
moments, how many of the same memories they share in common, how similar are
their causal patterns, and so on. You also have some absolute measure on all
the OMís, a "probability-of-being" B assigned to each oneóthis is basically
just my idea that the self-sampling assumption could be weighted somehow, so
that the ideal way to use the ASSA is to assume that your current OM is
randomly sampled from the set of all possible observer-moments, weighted by
their own probability-of-being B.

Then, to determine the relative probability-of-becoming various possible
OMís, I could just multiply their similarity S to my own current OM by their
absolute measure B representing each oneís probability-of-being. This would
insure that even though a version of me observing a dragon popping out of my
computer screen may be have just as much similarity S to my current mental
state, in terms of memories and the like, as a version of me whoís watching
the computer screen behaving normally, if one OM is objectively less
probable (lower B) due to the laws of nature, I will have a higher relative
probability of becoming the OM who sees business-as-usual. This would also
insure that if I step into a teleportation machine and the machine
reconstructs two people, one whose brain is close to identical to mine and
one who has a very different personality and memories, then even if the OMís
of both these people have about the same absolute probability-of-being B, I
am far more likely to become the one whoís more similar to me because his
similarity S to my current OM would be much higher.

And as I suggested earlier, it would be neat if the probability-of-being B
could itself be derived by something like a sum over the Sís between me and
all the other other OMís, each one weighted by their own B-rating. This idea
could be summed up by the slogan "the most probable present experiences are
the ones that are high-probability successors to other experiences that are
themselves highly probable present experiences". In this way it might even
be possible to bootstrap a unique B-rating for all OMís, starting with only
a knowledge of the similarity ratings between them. Consider the following
simple universe with only three observers X, Y, and Z, and a known matrix of
similarity ratings S between each pair:

    X Y Z
X1.00 0.60 0.35
Y 0.60 1.00 0.25
Z 0.35 0.25 1.00

In this case, if the B-ratings for each one were determined by a sum over
the S-ratings for the others weighted by their own B-ratings, and you
represent Xís B-rating by the variable x, Yís B-rating by the variable y,
etc., then youíd have some simultaneous equations thatíd actually allow you
to find a unique self-consistent solution for x, y, and z:

x = (0.60)y + (0.35)z
y = (0.60)x + (0.25)z
z = (0.35)x + (0.25)y

I havenít actually planned these numbers out, so the solution probably leads
to some variables being negative or greater than one, which doesnít really
make sense if the Bís are supposed to be probabilities, but the basic idea
here is that you can bootstrap the Bís just by knowing the Sís.

Now keep in mind, this is all a very cartoonish sketch, I donít really think
whatever theory of consciousness is used to determine relative probabilities
would be as simple as multiplying a "similarity rating" by an absolute
probability; among other things, "similarity" fails to capture the crucial
issue of the directionality of subjective time, my current OM might be just
as similar to an OM 2 seconds ago as it is to one 2 second from now, but I
expect a higher probability Iíll become the one 2 seconds in the future.
Also, I suggested earlier that the complexity of an OMís consciousness might
play a part in both the absolute probability (so my present experience is
more likely to be that of a human than an insect) and relative probability
(so I am more likely to experience becoming a copy with an intact brain than
one with brain damage), but the model I presented doesnít take that into
account. Still, itís sort of a pet theory of mine that the real TOE will
turn out to be analogous to this model in the following ways:

1. It will include a theory of consciousness that can take my present OM
along with various possible future OMís, and determine the relative
probability of my experiencing each one in my future based on a combination
of features that are inherent to each OM (analogous to the Ďsimilarityí
rating in my model) and an external measure which assigns each one an
absolute probability. The relative probability on different future
observer-moments would be used as weights in the RSSA, and the absolute
probability of different present observer-moments would be used in a
weighted ASSA.

2. Even if you donít know the correct absolute probability of any of the
OMís to start with, there will turn out to be a unique self-consistent
solution to what this absolute measure on OMís has to look like, given only
the theory of consciousness and the assumption that all possible OMís exist
(the Ďeverythingí part of the theory). This would be analogous to the unique
solution to the simultaneous equations in the cartoon model above.

This would be neat because the laws of physics we observe could hopefully be
derived (in principle anyway) from the absolute and relative measures on all
OMís, so youíd basically be deriving all the laws of the universe from just
a theory of consciousness and platonic assumption that every conscious
pattern that can exist, does exist. The problem with any TOE that
incorporates a "theory of consciousness" is that it runs the risk of being a
dualist theory if any aspect of first-person probabilities derives from
something other than that theory (like an objective measure on universes
rather than OMís to explain why I donít experience Harry Potter worlds), but
this idea is nicely monist and simple.

It might seem that a theory centered on consciousness and observer-moments
would suggest that any part of the universe that isnít observed by a
sentient being doesnít really exist, but I imagine identifying distinct
"observer-moments" with something like "patterns of causal relationships"
(or finite computations, perhaps), so that all such patterns, even the
random jostling of molecules in a cloud of gas, would qualify as
observer-moments with very low-grade levels of consciousness. That way the
absolute probability of each such pattern, along with the probabilistic
relationships between different patterns, might be used to derive what we
ordinarily think of as the laws of physics, especially if the laws of
physics can ultimately be stated in terms of nothing but relationships
between elementary events, as physicists like Lee Smolin have suggested.
This is similar to the "naturalistic panpsychism" idea I found described on
the same website that hosts the many-worlds FAQ (although I disagree with
them on a few points):

Apologies for the long post, but I havenít really outlined my own pet TOE on
this list before, so I wanted to get all the major details in there.

Jesse Mazer

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Received on Fri Nov 14 2003 - 04:45:56 PST

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