RE: Many Pasts? Not according to QM...

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sat, 04 Jun 2005 23:48:55 +1000

Lee Corbin writes:

>Stathis writes
> > ...I think we may basically agree, but there are some differences. If
> > look at it from a third person perspective, continuity of personal
> > over time is not only a delusion but a rather strange and inconsistent
> > delusion.
>I'm not quite sure I understand why you say this. Do you only
>mean that *continuity* can be manipulated, e.g., on the one hand
>we suffer a discontinuity every night when we fall asleep; on
>the other, in the future it will be possible to record your
>Monday experience, your Tuesday experience, etc., and then
>a few months later play them back in reverse sequence? (We might
>even give the latter replays tremendous measure, so that so far
>as the parameter *time* is concerned, almost all of your Mondays
>occurred after your Wednesdays.
>Or do you mean more?

The OM's are straightforward empirical observation: "I'm now having the
experience of typing this sentence". How this experience comes about,
whether there really is a physical keyboard in front of me, and so on, may
be in question, but not the fact that I am having the experience. Stringing
the OM's together to construct an individual who persists through time,
however, is not straightforward:

I believe that tomorrow I will become one of the people in the multiverse
who believe they are me and share my memories. When I think about this, I
hope that my future selves will have good experiences, and I fear that they
might have bad experiences. Once tomorrow comes, I no longer care about the
other versions, because they aren't me even though they think they are me.
Looking back, also, I believe that I was only one of the possible versions
in the multiverse, and I no longer care about bad experiences that person
might have had in the same way that I care about bad experiences I am having
at present or one of the versions of me might have in the future.

We normally take all this for granted, but if you think about it, it is
quite arbitrary. Why should I believe I will "become" another person who
thinks he is me? Why should I identify with multiple versions of me in the
future, but not the present or the past? Why should I worry about what might
happen to my future self but not my past self? The answer is, because that
is the way human minds have evolved. But that is the only reason. It would
be no logical contradiction to imagine a person whose mind functioned very
differently; for example, a person who had no fear of the future because he
considered the idea absurd that he could "become" someone with different
spacetime coordinates to his present ones.

It is the failure to take into account this rather complex scheme we use to
create individuals that leads to mistakes in the application of OM measure,
for example in criticising the QTI.

>I still feel that there is a 10%
> > chance I will be tortured, and I still feel relieved that I am one of
> > lucky copies when tomorrow comes and I am not tortured. There is an
> > inconsistency here in that today I identify with all the copies and
> > I identify with only one, but so what? As you say, that is how our minds
> > have evolved.
> > If the experiences of the copy who is to be tortured will eventually be
> > merged with those of the non-tortured copies, that changes the
> > because then it is *guaranteed* that I will eventually experience the
> > torture.
>Good point. To be precise let's say that tomorrow you will split into
>the ten copies, one of which will be tortured. Then one *year* from
>now merging is scheduled to occur. Therefore you behave differently?
>I don't think you should. (You may *have* to because that's how we
>are built, but you still shouldn't.)

Given this information before the split occurs, it makes it more likely that
I will experience torture: the 1/10 chance initially, then the certainty of
merging in a year - although the merging may result in memory of the torture
rather than the first hand experience.

>As I like to say "just because you are not (locally) experiencing
>something, doesn't mean it isn't happening to you". Suppose that
>you don't know whether any merging is to ever happen. How should
>that change the way you feel about your copy being tortured? Now,
>I grant that you don't get the sweaty palms if there won't be
>any merging, but to me that's just a base animalistic reflex action.
>The truth is that *you* are in two places at the same time, and in
>the other place you are hurting a lot.
>The point is that *now* your duplicate is in pain. For purely
>selfish reasons, this should be a big deal to you, I contend.
>Whether or not eons from now some merging does or does not
>take place shouldn't change your approval or disapproval of
>physical events taking place now.

I have to disagree with you here. Why should I care about the suffering of
some guy in another universe who thinks he is me, and whom I can never meet?
I would be more concerned about the suffering of strangers in third world
countries in my own universe.

> > I would worry similarly if I were to inherit the experiences of any
> > unrelated third person; the fact that it is other copies of me who are
> > suffering does not in itself make any selfish difference.
>Two points. First, if it's an "unrelated third person", it becomes
>very unclear what merging would mean. We ran into a little of that
>with trying to obtain memories of having been a bat.

The recording of actual feelings so that the person playing them back
through some kind of neural interface experiences the feeling as if first
hand is a common device in science fiction, and may well become a reality
one day.

>Second, I don't think that the sudden acquisition of memories is
>nearly as big a deal as the actual, first-time-though gaining of
>an experience. I would vastly rather be given the memories of
>having been tortured than to actually experience it (and retain
>the memory). (Some very nice thought experiments obtain when
>one plays off experience vs. memory-acquisition.)


--Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Sat Jun 04 2005 - 09:49:49 PDT

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