Continuity, Observer Moments and Memory of a Past

From: Stephen Paul King <>
Date: Tue, 28 Jun 2005 18:41:12 -0400

Dear Lee, and Stathis,

    I have been pondering the various threads discussing OMs and
"continuity" requirements and have a couple of questions.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Lee Corbin" <>
To: <>
Sent: Sunday, June 26, 2005 11:04 PM
Subject: RE: Torture yet again

> Stathis writes
>> I [may] have to say that we are two different people when we
>> are separated by time as well as space or across parallel
>> universes. What I would say is that my successor tomorrow
>> is potentially "me" if there is continuity of consciousness
>> between all the intermediates between now and then.
> [LC]
> I'm skeptical of "continuity" requirements. Now I do not believe in
> Greg Egan's equations in "Permutation City": according to a premise
> of the story, it order to obtain the you of tomorrow, there is a
> short-cut alternative to just letting you run. And that is to
> determine the solutions of an immense number of differential
> equations that do not in fact emulate your intermediary states.
> If this were so, then it may be that you could discontinuously
> skip past all of tonight and tomorrow's experiences, and just
> start living by directly experiencing the day after that.


    Does it not seem that the continuity requirement is such that it only
comes up when we consider either an external 3rd person P.o.V. of a OM
chaining P.o.V. or an internal 1st person of a memory of having changed
one's mind about something is some other OM?

> [LC]
> It's easy to imagine this being possible; when I was a teen and
> was faced with the loathsome task of mowing the lawn, I wondered
> if it could be possible for me to just not have that experience
> at all, but for my life to just magically resume after the chore
> was completed (somehow). I was aware that what I wanted was not
> simply memory erasure.


    If we erase our memories of having done the loasome event after actually
going through it, do we not need to also erase the memory of any other
witness that might be able to remind us of the event?
    How can a OM encode a trace of other OMs such that it can capture the
notion of "remembering something"?

>> [Stathis]
>> The successor of my duplicate with the headache does not satisfy
>> this criterion and is therefore not potentially "me".
> [LC]
> Well, are you sure? What if he takes a memory-erasure pill
> (that works much more perfectly than Midazolam) and thereby
> becomes a past state that is identical to one of "your"
> past states, and then evolves forward into states that you
> definitely consider to be your natural successors.


    What, exactly makes me "me"? Is it "I am what I remember myself to be"?

> [LC]
> After people are uploadable, this could happen without much
> fuss all the time. The interplay of and algebraic combinatorial
> possibilities of *memory addition*, *experience*, and *memory
> erasure* lead back to the notion that one is just a fuzzy set
> in the collection of all persons or person-states.


    This scenario sound to me like a MWI version of time travel, where
"erasure" happens everywhere to the memories of possible witnesses but not
to the person doing the time traveling. Thus, if the time traveler takes a
Blue Pill evertime he steps into the Time Machine portal, he, from his
P.O.V. dies and from the P.o.V. of some witness (to his stepping thru the
portal) just vanishes.

    Am I missing something here?

>> [Stathis]
>> Arbitrary though this criterion for continuity of identity
>> may be, it is the criterion our minds have evolved with,
>> and calling it irrational will not change that fact.
> [LC]
> Well, some of this is involuntary, but some of it is not.
> I've never seen how to shake *anticipation*, for example,
> and suppose that we're just stuck with it, problems and
> all. But actually I don't have any problem believing that
> I *am* my duplicates, even those across the room, who are
> just me seeing a different perspective of the room (and
> perhaps having slightly different thoughts).


    I don't have any problem believing that I *am* all of my duplicates
either, so long as there is some way that the "me" that I remember now could
be smoothly continued within the world of a duplicate *and* all witnesses
agree that I did all that I claim I did with in that world.
    Otherwise, I will need some serious phychiatric help for my
Schitzophrenia! (Ever watch the movie "12 Monkeys"?)

>> [Stathis]
>> If we are to be strictly rational and consistent, it
>> is simplest to go to the extreme of saying that *none*
>> of the instantiations of an individual are actually the
>> "same" person, which is another way of saying that each
>> observer moment exists only transiently. This would mean
>> that we only live for a moment, to be replaced by a copy
>> who only thinks he has a past and a future.


    Exactly what is the definition of "rational" here? Is it the same as my
implied "sane", e.g. not schitzophrenic?

> [LC]
> Mike Perry, in his book "Forever For All" develops these
> from the idea of "day-persons", i.e., the idea that you
> are not the same person from day to day. But that's
> certainly not a satisfactory way of extending our usual
> notions into these bizarre realms; you and I want to live
> next week because we believe that we are the same persons
> we'll be then. And the idea that we *are* fuzzy sets in
> person space permits this.


    DOes Mike Perry elaborate on how anyone can know for sure that "they are
not the same person from day to day". What does he define "same" to be?

>> [Stathis]
>> We die all the time, so death is nothing to worry about.
> [LC]
> On this definition, yes. But this is *such* an impractical
> approach. We all know that it's bad for your neighbor when
> he dies, despite us and him totally believing in the MWI.
> We would like to avoid having to say that we die all the
> time.


    Are we really just recoiling in horror at the prospect of our own
non-existence (mortality) and trying like madmen to find an escape clause?
Isn't this the same motivation that exists at the root of Religions?
    If this is true, can we admit it to ourselves; much like Tippler has?

Kindest regards,

Received on Tue Jun 28 2005 - 18:56:07 PDT

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