Re: death

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Mon, 20 Jun 2005 23:22:33 +1000

Hal Finney writes:

>Stathis Papaioannou writes:
> > Returning to your example, if God creates a person, call him A, and a
> > later kills him, A will be really dead (as opposed to provisionally
>dead) if
> > there will never be any successor OM's to his last conscious moment.
> > suppose God kills A and then creates an exact copy of A along with his
> > environment, call him B, on the other side of the planet. B has all of
> > memories up to the moment before he was killed. This
> > procedure is, except for the duplication of the environment, exactly how
> > teleportation is supposed to work. I think most people on this list
> > agree that teleportation (if it could be made to work, which not
> > does agree is possible) would be a method of transportation, not
> > even though the original dies, the copy has all his memories and
> > the requisite successor OM in exactly the same way as would have
>happened if
> > the original had continued living. So in the example above, if B is an
> > copy of A in an exact copy of A's environment, A would "become" B and
> > even notice that there had been any change.
>I'm not sure I would put it like this, although I agree that this would
>probably become a common way of describing it. But there are some aspects
>of the process by which A becomes B which are different from our usual,
>moment-to-moment continuity of identity. One obvious difference is that
>it is a divine miracle. This can hardly be neglected. Even if we imagine
>this being done technologically rather than miraculously, with A's brain
>being scanned and transmitted to where B will be created, the process of
>making this scan will increase the measure of that OM for A by virtue
>of storing it in extra places. This may manifest as the potential for
>future copies of A to be created starting with that exact mental moment.
>People may come to view transporting as a dangerous activity which puts
>them at risk of the creation of unauthorized copies.

Wouldn't it be relatively simple to do this sort of experiment if, in the
far future, most people live as sentient software on a computer network?

>These are all ways in which seemingly abstract and metaphysical questions
>become manifest in the real world. I think it is important to see that
>these are not merely imperfections in the thought experiments which we
>should ignore in the interests of getting at the real issues. In my
>model, the number of implementations is all important. It is a major
>determinant of measure. Any technology which messes around with this
>stuff is likely to affect the measure of the relevant observer moments.
>Having your mental state recorded increases its measure, which manifests
>physically as a greater chance that it can interact with the world.

I agree that there may be good reasons why running multiple copies of an
individual may come to be seen as desirable, the most obvious one being
backup in case of disaster.

> > Now, consider the same situation with one difference. Instead of
>creating B
> > at the instant he kills A, God creates A and B at the same time, on
> > sides of the planet but in exactly the same environment which will
> > each of them with exactly the same inputs, and their minds at all time
> > remain perfectly synchronised. God allows his two creatures to live for
> > day, and then instantly and painlessly kills A. In the previous example,
> > agreed that the creation of B means that A doesn't really die. Now, we
> > *exactly* the same situation when A is killed: B is there to provide the
> > successor OM, and A need not even know that anything unusual had
> > How could the fact that B was present a day, a minute or a microsecond
> > before A's death make any difference to A? All that matters is that B is
> > the correct state to provide continuity of consciousness when A is
> > Conversely, A and A's death cannot possibly have any direct effect on B.
> > is not as if A's soul flies around the world and takes over B; rather,
> > just so happens (because of how A and B were created) that B's mental
> > coincide with A's, or with what A's would have been if he hadn't died.
>If we focus on observer-moments, there are no A and B as separate
>individuals. There are two instantiations of a set of OMs. Each OM has
>double measure during the time that A and B exist, then it has single
>measure after A has been destroyed. It is meaningless to ask, after A
>dies, if B is now A or still B, or maybe both? (I am curious to know
>how you would try to answer this question, using your terminology!)
>Rather, there is then a single instantiation of the set of OMs.

I agree with this; there is no way from a first person perspective that A
and B can identify themselves as separate individuals, or perceive that
anything has changed when one of them is terminated. I called them A and B
for the sake of argument because I thought that is what you were implying,
given that you have maintained that someone has died when a fraction of
multiple instantiations of an individual are terminated. But I can see that
this was probably presumption on my part, as you would say that the
individual's measure was decreased due to the deaths.

> > Who's measure is decreased here, A's or B's? How would any of them know
> > their measure had been decreased? It seems to me that neither A nor B
> > *possibly* be aware that anything had happened at all. The only benefit
> > having multiple exact copies of yourself around would seem to be as
> > if one is destroyed. If your measure were surreptitiously increased or
> > decreased, what symptoms would you expect to experience?
>Well, we've been discussing this all along, and I have tried to answer
>it several times, but I can only do so by analogy. Having your measure
>decreased is like having a chance of dying. Having it increased is
>like... well, I can't analogize it to anything, because it has never been
>possible and we have no experience of it. Only if technology advances
>to allow mental copies will it be possible for us to increase measure.
>What will it be like? It will be like gaining greater influence over
>the world, greater ability to put our plans into fruition (just as death
>represents a loss of those abilities).
> > What about if you
> > were a piece of sentient software: surely having multiple instantiations
> > the ones and zeroes could not make any difference; if it did, wouldn't
> > be a bit like expecting that your money would have greater purchasing
> > if your bank backed up their data multiple times? Or like saying that
> > "2+2=4" would be more vividly true (or whatever it is that increasing
> > measure causes to happen) if lots and lots of people held hands and did
> > calculation simultaneously?
>I don't think those are accurate analogies. Your money would not have
>multiple purchasing power if it were backed up multiple times, but
>that information would have greater measure. Measure is a property of
>information. When the information about your money has greater measure,
>this will tend to give it greater robustness and more opportunity to
>interact with and influence the world. Specifically, it can't be deleted
>and lost as easily. Multiple backups have real value and any legitimate
>bank will make sure to use them.
> > I can't be completely sure that increasing your measure would have no
> > effect. Maybe there would be some sort of telepathic communication
> > the various copies, such as is said to occur between identical twins, or
> > some as yet undiscovered physical phenomenon. However, there is
> > no evidence at present for such a thing, and I think that until such
> > evidence is found, we should only go on what we know to be true and what
> > logically be deduced from it.
>No, I have absolutely no expectation of any such nonphysical effects from
>increasing measure. I am confident that we agree about the third-party
>effects of making copies. No copy will demonstrate that he is able to
>read the minds of his fellows. I can only say that increasing measure is
>the opposite of decreasing measure, that our measure decreases every day,
>and that we fight as hard as we can to keep it from decreasing faster.
>I believe that you view this fight as a philosophical mistake, but your
>genes don't agree!
>Your genes are not content to have just one copy. A gene doesn't say,
>it doesn't matter how many of me there are, as long as at least one
>exists I am still alive. No, each gene fights its hardest to increase
>its measure. It wants to occupy as much of the universe as it can.
>It wants to increase its influence, its redundancy, its robustness.
>This is what increasing measure means to your genes. If people lived
>in a regime where increasing measure were possible, I believe they would
>come to adopt similar views, and for the same reason our genes did.

I would agree that increasing your measure makes you more robust in the same
way that backing up information makes it less likely that the last remaining
copy of the information (and hence, the information itself) will be
destroyed. I agree that it might also help you achieve your goals faster,
although here we are deviating a little from the initial argument about
exact copies running in parallel (if you asked your copy to help you dig a
hole, running in parallel wouldn't be a good idea). I can also see how
people, for these reasons, might conclude it would be a good idea to have as
many copies extant as possible, and to protect them from coming to harm. But
to clarify that this is all you meant, would you agree that a person would
have no way of knowing if his measure were suddenly increased or decreased,
provided that he didn't suddenly drop dead? And why would it be a bad thing
to increase a person's measure and then some time later return it to what it
was, given that it won't affect him in any way other than to temporarily
decrease the probability that he will drop dead?

--Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Mon Jun 20 2005 - 09:27:42 PDT

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