Re: Observer-Moment Measure from Universe Measure

From: Johnathan Corgan <>
Date: Mon, 06 Jun 2005 10:05:07 -0700

Hal Finney wrote:

> 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.

As I'm sure many on the list are familiar, David Brin's "Kiln People" is
an interesting science fiction treatment of similar issues.

In this story, a technology exists by which one may copy one's "standing
wave" (forgive the cheesy pseudo-terminology) into a specially formed
clay-based body. These duplicates, or "dittos", have a limited (24
hour) lifespan before they self-destruct. Different clay templates are
manufactured to enhance different parts of the mind's functioning, so
one can create dittos that are better at abstract thinking, or that have
more tolerance to menial work, etc.

In this society, people create a variety of dittos on a daily basis to
conduct their business in the world while they themselves avoid risk or
stick to the more pleasant things. The dittos know exactly what to do
as they are the exact personality and memories of the original up to the
point of copying. They have a compulsion to return home prior to their
self-destruction so their memories can be reintegrated with their
original. (It wasn't clear, to me anyway, whether this compulsion was
forced or whether it was the consequence of the dittos understanding
that they would "die" if they didn't make it back to reintegrate.)

Brin's treatment of this scenario is well worth the read; it's like a
novel-length thought experiment. One scene follows the internal
dialogue of the protagonist as he enters the copying machine, and then
the individual internal dialogues of his copies. There is initial
continuity and then a divergence as each copy "discovers" which one he
is and thus what he must do for the day. And of course, each one feels
like he became that particular copy at random.

Some of the same issues about whether one should "care" about one's
copies (and whether the copies should care about the original) are
handled as well. In this story, though, since the dittos reintegrate
their memories, they know they will eventually have the memories of the
other copies, as well as what has happened with the original in the interim.

Neat stuff. There is a lot more along these lines, wrapped in a
suspense/murder/mystery storyline (the protagonist is a detective.) The
last third of the book gets a little dubious, though, but it is a good
read overall nonetheless.

Received on Mon Jun 06 2005 - 13:08:43 PDT

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