the copy and the chair (was: torture yet again)

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Fri, 24 Jun 2005 23:54:07 +1000

Lest anyone take Jonathan Colvin's thought experiment as evidence that the
copy isn't "really" you, here is a variation in which the situation is

You are in a room strapped to an electric chair with a counter counting down
from one minute. There are two buttons accessible to you on the chair,
marked A and B. Pressing button A will cause the chair either to release
you, with Pr=0.4, or immediately electrocute you, with Pr=0.6. Pressing
button B will cause the chair to immediately release you (i.e. with Pr=1),
but it will also teleport itself along with a copy of you still strapped to
the chair to another room, where the countdown will continue. When the
counter reaches zero, you will be electrocuted. Meanwhile, you can press the
buttons as often as you want.

The obvious thing to do would seem to be pressing button B - guaranteed
freedom. However, when you press B, nothing seems to happen: you are still
strapped to the chair, and the counter continues its countdown. On closer
inspection, it does look as if the room is a little different, so you
conclude that you have actually been the teleported copy. Undeterred, you
press the button again, and again, and... every time it is just the same:
you are still strapped to the chair in a room almost indistinguishable from
the last one!

Desperately, you press button B as quickly as you can, but after over 100
presses it seems clear that however many times you press it, you will still
end up strapped to the chair. What are you going to do when the counter
reaches one second? Will you keep pressing B, or will you try button A? Is
your answer to this question any different to your answer in Jonathan's
thought experiment?

--Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Fri Jun 24 2005 - 09:56:05 PDT

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