RE: More is Better (was RE: another puzzle)

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Tue, 28 Jun 2005 12:56:59 +1000

Lee Corbin writes (replying to Jesse Mazer):

> > Obviously my sadness is not because the death of the copy here
> > means that there are only 10^10^29 - 1 copies of that person...
>By the way, this figure 10^10^29 is a *distance*. It is, according
>to Tegmark, very approximately how close in terms of meters the
>nearest exact copy of you who is reading this is. (And it doesn't
>matter whether one uses meters or lightyears.)

A strange fact: when you get up to numbers that big, a light year is as many
times bigger than a metre as it always is, but the double exponential
notation makes the difference between the two look negligible. Can anyone
say how widely accepted Tegmark's infinite universe model is amongst

>Let me resort to another torture experiment. Suppose that I invite
>you into my house, take you down to the torture chamber, and allow
>you to look through a tiny peephole inside the entire steel-encased
>chamber. You see some Nazis torturing a little girl, and her screams
>are reproduced electronically so that you hear them.
>You are appalled. You beg me to dissolve the chamber and put an end
>to the atrocity. But then I say the following peculiar thing to you:
>"Ah, but you see, this is an *exact* molecular---down to the QM
>details---reenactment of an incident that happened in 1945. So you
>see, since it's identical, it doesn't matter whether the little girl
>suffers once or twice."

This brings up an interesting conundrum that I raised three or four torture
experiments ago. Given 10 instantiations of a person having an unpleasant
experience E (in the terminology of mild-mannered Hal Finney, who eschews
torture even in thought experiments), for example 10 sentient programs
running in parallel, is it better, if we aim to reduce suffering, to (a)
terminate 9 of the 10 programs and leave one still running and experiencing
E, or (b) stop 5 of the 10 programs from experiencing E, but leave them
running, and leave the other 5 programs continuing to experience E?
(Assume for the sake of argument that, as with dogs, painless termination is
better than continuing to live with pain. Why we automatically assume this
for dogs but not for humans is another question.)

If you do the total suffering equation assuming that each instantiation is
separate, (a) is better. But I would argue that if you are one of the
suffering victims, (a) does you no good at all: subjectively, you will
continue to suffer, since the one remaining program that is running will
serve as continuation for any of the 9 terminated ones. In fact, there is no
way for someone inside the simulated system to know that any of the
instantiations had been terminated, as long as at least one keeps running.
On the other hand, with (b) there is subjectively a 50% probability that
your suffering will end. If you simply added up the total number of
instantiations and attempted to minimise the number experiencing E, you
would be doing the victim(s) a great disservice. Whether you say there is
one victim or 10 to begin with is a moot point, but the conclusion still

--Stathis Papaioannou

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Received on Mon Jun 27 2005 - 22:58:32 PDT

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