RE: Belief Statements

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2005 22:32:07 +1100

Hal Finney writes:

>Stathis Papaioannou writes:

> > As for the "failure of induction" if all possible worlds exist, I prefer
> > simply bypass the problem. I predict that in the next few moments the
> > will most likely continue to behave as it always has in the past... Here
> > am a few moments later, and I am completely, horribly wrong. A zillion
> > versions of me in other worlds are dying or losing consciousness as they
> > watch fire-breathing dragons materialise out of nothing. So what? Those
> > versions are not continuing to type to the end of this paragraph, while
> > one-in-a-zillion version manifestly is, and will continue to live life
> > holding the delusional belief that the laws of physics will remain
>This works OK to reject worlds where you die, but presumably there are
>also more worlds where you survive but see surprising failures of natural
>law than worlds where natural law exists. If you truly believe this,
>it should affect your actions, and you should not proceed under the
>assumption that everything will be normal. Most universes where you
>survive would probably be so lawless that you would just barely survive,
>so perhaps this would point to abandoning moral behavior and striving
>for brute survival at all costs. I.e. go out and steal from people,
>rob banks, commit murder without thought of the consequences, because
>it's far more likely that the street will turn to molten metal than that
>you'll be apprehended and sent to jail.

Actually, no, I don't think most people (with past experience of an orderly
world, as we have) WOULD behave in this way, even if it were proved beyond
reasonable doubt that the lawless, disorganised universes always have and
always will predominate. Having thought about this, I doubt that I would
change my life much if this proof were provided, even if I didn't have to
rely on death removing me from unspeakably horrible futures. I think the
important bit psychologically is the understanding that the horrible and
disorganised universes which will predominate in the future have also
predominated in the past - which would of course mean that we have been
incredibly lucky to have survived thus far. It shouldn't make any difference
to what we should expect from here on, logically, but psychologically, I
think it would.

Suppose you are credibly informed by some very wicked and very powerful
aliens that, starting tonight, you will be whisked from your bed, cloned a
thousand times, one clone will be returned to bed unharmed, while the rest
will be tortured horribly for the rest of their lives. This will then be
repeated with the clone that goes unharmed the next night, and so on every
night until that clone dies before the next cloning time is due. Given this
bleak future, many people, perhaps most people, would understandably choose
suicide now as the only way out.

Now consider the same aliens credibly inform you of all the above, but with
the additional information that, without your knowledge, the cloning/torture
cycles have actually been going on since you were born. While the news would
no doubt still be shocking, I suspect many people would say, "So what? I've
lived like this for years, and as far as this thread of consciousness which
I identify as myself is concerned, I've done OK. As long as I can be sure
that at least one thread of consciousness will continue as before, I would
be stupid to kill myself now."

You might say the attitude in the last paragraph is irrational, but I would
be surprised if at least a substantial minority of subscribers to this list
(who, I think it would be fair to say, as a group hold reason in higher
esteem than the population as a whole does) would decide against suicide.

Probably it would make a difference if we could witness the clones' torture
rather than just knowing that it occcurs, but returning to the original
question, what better way is there to isolate ourselves from unpleasantness
than sequestering it, forever unreachable even in theory, in a parallel

--Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Thu Jan 13 2005 - 06:37:00 PST

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