RE: Observer-Moment Measure from Universe Measure

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Tue, 07 Jun 2005 01:27:56 +1000

Hal Finney writes:

>Stathis Papaioannou writes:
> > Hal Finney writes:
> > >There are a few unintuitive consequences, though, such as that large
> > >instantiations of OMs will have more measure than small ones, and
> > >slow ones will have more measure than fast ones. This is because in
> > >case the interpretation program can be smaller if it is easier to find
> > >OM in the vastness of a universe, and the slower and bigger an OM is
> > >easier it is to find. I am inclined to tentatively accept these
> > >It does imply that the extreme future vision of some transhumanists,
> > >to upload themselves to super-fast, super-small computers, may greatly
> > >reduce their measure, which would mean that it would be like taking a
> > >large chance of dying.
> >
> > Could someone please explain what will happen to the hapless
> > in their computer when their measure falls to alarmingly low levels?
> > they develop severe headaches, turn transparent like ghosts, or what?
>This is a kind of transformation that hasn't been possible in the world
>before, so no normal phenomenon will exactly capture what happens.
>To a first approximation, if their measure were reduced by 90%, what
>would happen subjectively would be the same as if they took steps that
>had a 90% chance of killing them, in this model.
>Now, objectively this is different because it would require other people
>to deal with their deaths. But subjectively it would be pretty much
>the same.
>Perhaps a closer approximation could be achieved if they were not only
>killed, but somehow everyone else's memory was changed so that no one
>remembered them or noticed that they were gone.
>Imagine instead the question, what would it be like, subjectively,
>to die instantly and without warning? It's a hard question to answer.
>But it is related to the question, what would it be it like to have your
>measure suddenly reduced? You could imagine your larger before-measure
>as being represented by your mind being instantiated as many copies.
>Then a certain percentage of those copies are instantly killed. What is
>it like subjectively?
>To the copies which remain, there is no subjective change. To the
>copies which were killed, perhaps it is like nothing subjectively,
>because there is no longer any subject there. But it is still a change.
>I think a reduction of measure would be like a certain percentage of
>my instances being instantly killed. When I imagine what it is like,
>I picture myself being one of the unlucky instances. I stop and never
>know I stopped, while other copies go on.
>The other night I had a strange dream. I came into a room and met someone
>whom I came to understand was myself. I was a copy who had been created
>a few moments earlier, and he was the original. There was a switch on
>the wall which would instantly destroy the copy, and I was supposed to
>push it. But I hesitated. My own consciousness would be destroyed.
>On the other hand I was supposedly a copy made just moments earlier,
>so only a few seconds of memories would be lost, hardly consequential.
>Still I had to face that dilemma: what would it feel like to just stop,
>Nervously, I went ahead and pushed the button, squeezing my eyes shut
>and making a kind of mental "flinch" or jerk. To my surprise, I was
>still there, and when I opened my eyes, the other person was gone.
>It turned out that he was the copy and I was the original.
>Imagine facing your copy, perhaps an exact copy whose mind is synchronized
>with yours, and seeing a coin flip which will determine which one is
>destroyed. Your measure will be halved. In a sense it will have no
>subjective effect, your thoughts and memories will be preserved in one
>of you. But in another sense you face a 50-50 chance of experiencing that
>mysterous effect of instant death. I think it would be scary. Logically,
>similar reductions of measure should be viewed in the same light.


What I think you're describing is akin to the traditional view of personal
identity as something firmly attached to a particular animal, computer or
whatever. The most important insight the observer moment concept offers, to
my mind, is that the observer effectively dies every moment, and the
illusion of an individual persisting through time is created by the
stringing together of appropriately related OM's. I wouldn't even call this
a theory; I think it is true ipso facto.

Consider an observer experiencing a series of conscious moments OM1, OM2,
OM3... etc. Just as OM3 is about to start, he is vapourised by a nuclear
explosion. Assuming for simplicity there are no parallel universes, the
observer has died. What does "dying" mean in this context? It means that his
last conscious moment was OM2, and there will be no more. Notice that
nothing special has "happened" to OM2; it is the same as if he had continued
living, and it is unaffected by what may or may not follow. Death consists
in the absence of successors to OM2. Therefore, provisionally, as each
conscious moment passes, the observer "dies" until or unless there is a

What counts as a successor to OM2? Normally, it would be OM3, implemented on
the same hardware or wetware as OM2. The important thing about OM3 is not
the physical substrate on which it is implemented, but the fact that it
recognises itself to be a successor to OM2. So if the nuked observer had
teleported himself to safety or uploaded his mind to a computer network
before the nuking, he would suddenly find himself in a different place,
experiencing OM3', which need not be the same as OM3 would have been,
provided it is recognisably a successor to OM2. If the observer had been
less prudent, but by a fantastic stroke of luck OM3'' was implemented on a
computer in the Andromeda galaxy a billion years in the future, OM3'' being
recognisably a successor to OM2 even if different from what OM3 or OM3'
would have been, then again our observer would have survived the disaster.

Now turn to your example. You and an exact copy whose mind is running in
lockstep with yours are awaiting the result of a coin toss. (Actually, you
should not be facing each other if your minds are in lockstep, since then
you would be seeing things differently). Let's say that you are both
experiencing OM2, as above, when the result of the toss is known and instant
death is meted out to one of you. Should you be worried? Well, whether you
are copy 1 or copy 2, once OM2 passes, it has vanished from the present
universe more completely than any nuclear blast could achieve, and
provisionally you are both dead, pending an appropriate successor OM. In
other words, at the end of OM2, you are both in exactly the same position.
What if you, copy 1, are the one who will suffer instant death? Certainly,
this would mean that your brain won't be producing any successor OM's. But
recall the earlier examples: it doesn't make any difference where or how or
with what delay the successor OM is implemented, as long as it is actually
implemented. So when copy 2's brain produces OM3, being the successor to
both yours and his OM2 (because they were the same), you won't notice that
anything at all has gone awry. In fact, you won't have any evidence that the
"instant death" has happened at all, unless you are actually shown copy 1's
dead body. That might be pretty scary, but at least you have survived.

Finally, getting back to the transhumanists in their computer, the same
result applies. If their measure - based on the number of copies in the
multiverse - steadily decreases, they won't notice anything at all as long
as *one* copy remains.

--Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Mon Jun 06 2005 - 11:29:47 PDT

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