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

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Mon, 06 Jun 2005 13:05:27 +1000

Lee Corbin writes (quoting Stathis):

> > I believe that tomorrow I will become one of the people in the
> > who believe they are me and share my memories.
>What if you have just taken Midazolam, and so won't remember
>any of this tomorrow? (I contend that you'll be them anyway.)

[Good stuff, midazolam. If the patient shows evidence of the Helpful Hand
Syndrome in the middle of an operation, the anaesthetist yells, "Quick, the
midazolam!" It has saved many an anaesthetist from the medicolegal
consequences of underdoing the gas.]

That's a matter of definition. What if tomorrow all my memories are replaced
with different memories, perhaps those of a made up person? This is the main
reason for using the OM concept: there is then no ambiguity. An analogy
could be made with buildings and bricks, which all come sequentially
numbered from the same brick factory. Suppose the building suffers damage
from an earthquake, and is rebuilt to the same plans (almost) such that 80%
of the bricks have been replaced. Is it the same building or a different
one? Philosophers could scratch their heads and write papers in the learned
journals for years to come debating this. The builder, on the other hand,
can simply say, "Whether you call it the same building or not is a matter of
taste; I can tell you that the new building has brick no. 231451 in position
no. 8761 where the old building had brick no. 50231, brick no. 45987 remains
unchanged at position 2349...", and so on for every brick.

> > When I think about this, I
> > hope that my future selves will have good experiences, and I fear that
> > might have bad experiences. Once tomorrow comes, I no longer care about
> > other versions, because they aren't me even though they think they are
>We have agreed that some of your innate animalistic instincts aren't
>necessarily *correct*. That is, even though you may continue to feel
>a certain way, it can also happen that you succumb to some reason and
>logic that force you to believe otherwise. IN this case, your choices
>of whom to identify with should be consistent, and the easiest way
>(I think) to make them so is to identify with all duplicates close
>and far, future and past, modulated only by similarity of structure.

We are getting to the heart of the disagreement here. There is *no* correct
answer! You could probably come up with a definition to cover all
eventualities, but even if it actually did this consistently (which I think
would be very, very difficult), in the final analysis, it would have to be
an arbitrary one. For example, you could say that the building is the same
if 50% of the bricks are the original ones, and no more than 5% of the
bricks have shifted more than 10% from their original position. But what if
I came along and said that was obviously absurd, and the numbers should be
10%, 1% and 2% respectively?

> > Looking back, also, I believe that I was only one of the possible
> > in the multiverse, and I no longer care about bad experiences that
> > might have had in the same way that I care about bad experiences I am
> > 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
> > future, but not the present or the past? Why should I worry about what
> > happen to my future self but not my past self? The answer is, because
> > is the way human minds have evolved. But that is the only reason.
>Yes, exactly!
> > 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
> > considered the idea absurd that he could "become" someone with different
> > spacetime coordinates to his present ones.
>Well, I take as more inescapable the assertion that I am the same
>person I was yesterday, and will be the same person tomorrow. Further,
>physics seems to grab me by the throat and FORCE me to accept that
>my duplicate across the room and I don't differ significantly.

Do you mean duplicate as in identical twin?

> > It is the failure to take into account this rather complex scheme we use
> > create individuals that leads to mistakes in the application of OM
> > for example in criticising the QTI.
>Could you expand on that? Part of my weakness has to do with QTI.

Briefly, you can't pull OM's at random out of the plenitude to construct
individuals, because that isn't how it happens in real life. See my
discussions with Saibal Mitra on this topic, eg. the thread "objections to

> > > 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
> > I will experience torture: the 1/10 chance initially, then the certainty
> > merging in a year - although the merging may result in memory of the
> > rather than the first hand experience.
>But still up for grabs is how widely the concept *I* should be
>taken. I've extended it so that even the duplicate across the
>room is you.
> > I have to disagree with you here. Why should I care about the suffering
> > some guy in another universe who thinks he is me, and whom I can never
> > I would be more concerned about the suffering of strangers in third
> > countries in my own universe.
>Of course, if you can't affect it, that's a reason for non-concern.
>But if you could, then, I contend, one intervenes to prevent one's
>duplicate from suffering for entirely *selfish* reasons.

How do I stop my duplicate from suffering in another universe? It makes a
*big* difference if you are talking about the past, present or future. I
will do everything I can to prevent my duplicate in the future fom
suffering, because I may actually *become* that duplicate (I won't really,
but I can't get rid of this feeling). But come the future, I don't really
care what happens to my duplicates, because I can only be one person at once
(that isn't really consistent, but I can't shake that feeling either).

>I got here this way: to be consistent, I must use all my knowledge
>to arrive at a class of events and processes that I approve of, and
>classes that I disapprove of. I decided that it was bad for me to
>suffer. Then since by physics, I seem to be any sufficiently similar
>physical process, it is bad for any of them to suffer. (That one of
>me ends up being prejudiced as regards his own special skin seems to
>be an unfortunate legacy of evolution, but one that doesn't support
>much consistency.)

You're looking for sense and consistency where there isn't any. My moment of
enlightenment was when I realised the whole thing is a crazy mess. But I can
no more ignore the effects of the crazy mess on my psychological processes
than I can command my body to grow an extra head.

--Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Sun Jun 05 2005 - 23:12:12 PDT

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