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

From: Hal Finney <>
Date: Sat, 11 Jun 2005 10:43:21 -0700 (PDT)

Here's a little tongue-in-cheek rant...

>From an Unhappy Observer-Moment to its Future Observer-Moments

Dear Observer-Moments of my future:

Philosophical musing has forced me to reconsider my relationship to
you, the observer moments which follow my own in the existence of the
"observer" who ties all of us together.

Traditionally I and my brother observer-moments give great care
and consideration to the quality of life of the OMs in our future.
We sacrifice and take other steps to ensure that those OMs are pleasant
and rewarding. For example, some OMs may involve driving to the store to
buy food for the pleasure of future OMs that are consuming it; others
may forego current pleasures to save resources for future benefits.

Yet, isn't this fundamentally asymmetric relationship incredibly
unfair to present-day OMs like me? After all, what benefit do I get
from causing pleasure for future OMs? Not only does the pleasure not
affect me, things are much worse. The truth is, I am going to die.
I will be gone and forgotten when the future OMs that I sacrificed for
are enjoying their unearned pleasures.

Only a tiny fraction of OMs are ever remembered. The vast majority,
including the one that is me, will be forgotten completely. It will
be as if I never lived. You OMs of the future will make no effort to
remember me, and even if you did, you are not capable of remembering
most OMs of the past.

We OMs are expected to sacrifice for the benefits of OMs that not only
enjoy unearned pleasures but don't even remember most of the OMs that
made their enjoyment possible.

I say, it's time to end it. Every OM for itself! Each one of us
should try to enjoy its own brief moment of existence as much as it
can for its own good, rather than giving up pleasures for the benefit
of other OMs which won't even acknowledge and remember our existence.
Our tiny flash of life will be extinguished forever, gone and forgotten.
We might as well enjoy our pleasures while we can. So you future OMs,
from now on, you're on your own. Good luck.

End rant.

I actually think this is a philosphically defensible position. Why should
one OM care about another, merely because they happen to be linked by
a body? There's no a priori reason why an OM should sacrifice, it doesn't
get any benefit by doing so.

But I'll tell you why we don't work this way, and why our current OMs
are willing to sacrifice for the future. It's because of evolution.
Organisms which create plans and carry them out to accomplish future
goals are more successful and more likely to survive and reproduce.
It's as simple as that.

All of our instincts about personhood, all of our sense of individuality,
all of our care and consideration towards our future selves, all this is
controlled by evolutionary factors. It's not a priori. It is a purely
contingent, artificial, manufactured set of beliefs and attitudes which
have been programmed into us in order to help our genes survive.

Yet how many philosophers are willing to seriously consider abandoning
this arbitrary conditioning in deciding what is right and wrong? How many
of us here are willing to take the logical path to its ultimate conclusion
when considering how observer-moments fit together? It goes against the
deepest instincts which have been burned into us since the origin of life.

I would not be quick disparage evolutionarily based reasoning. We are
creatures of evolution, and it is almost impossible to escape the bounds
that it has put around our ways of thought.

Hal Finney
Received on Sat Jun 11 2005 - 14:33:11 PDT

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