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

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Thu, 16 Jun 2005 01:18:51 +1000

Tom Caylor wrote:

>Hal wrote:
> >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.
>Then Staphis wrote:
> > This is *exactly* the way it is! Each moment is ephemeral; once the next
>moment comes along, the previous one could not be any more thoroughly dead
>and gone from the universe if it had sat on top of a detonating nuclear
>bomb.... There is nothing logically inconsistent in a being who does just
>live for the present moment, as Hal suggests. The problem, of course, is
>that evolution has long ago weeded out these unfortunate beings, so they no
>longer live amongst us.
>Again, I'll just ask a simple question to try to understand this, bit by
>What about the "OMs" in the past? I don't think we even have to appeal to
>evolution to explain why we think planning/working for the future is worth
>it. If it were not for the sacrificial planning and working of the OMs of
>the past, we would not be where we are today. It's simply a matter of what
>has worked in the past should work in the present and future. Or have you
>abandoned so much of the scientific method, and even simply explanation and
>prediction, that this is no longer logical to you? What happened to the
>impression of continuous consciousness? A nuclear bomb going off every
>second and continuous consciousness don't seem to go together, in my

If you wander into the middle of one of our discussions, it might seem that
we've all forsaken common sense. As a general rule, bizarre-sounding
physical scenarios are proposed as "thought experiments", to explain,
explore or clarify a theory by applying it to a concrete example.

What the post you have quoted deals with is basically the philosophical
problem of personal identity. On the face of it, it may not seem that there
is much of a problem, because in the situations we are all familiar with
continuity of consciousness and continuity of identity are both firmly
attached to a particular organism, from its birth to its death. However, it
isn't difficult to come up with a number of situations, some actual and some
just theoretical possibilities, which may lead you to question this common
sense notion. For a start, a person literally is not the same physical
person throughout his life. The matter comprising his body is constantly
being turned over by the cellular machinery, rather like a building project
where the wreckers are continually smashing things and removing debris while
the builders are continually bringing in new material to repair the damage.
What this means is that almost all the matter that was in your body in 2001
(say) has been broken down to small molecules, excreted, and distributed
evenly around the planet. In its place, new matter has been used to
construct a person who looks very similar to and has most of the memories of
your 2001 self. In other words, although it has happened gradually, the
person you were 4 years ago has utterly disintegrated - which is where my
sitting on a nuclear bomb analogy came from - and has been replaced by a
copy. And you never even noticed what was happening!

OK, that's a start. I'm sure you can think of all sorts of problems and
paradoxes the above news leads to (if it is news to you; sorry for my
presumption if it isn't). I'll have a go at answering some of your specific
questions if I have time in the next few days.

--Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Wed Jun 15 2005 - 11:23:17 PDT

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