Re: A calculus of personal identity

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2006 11:05:46 -0700

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Brent Meeker writes:
>>> I think it is one of the most profound things about consciousness that observer moments don't
>>> *need* anything to connect them other than
>> their content. They are linked like the novels in a series, not like the
>> carriages of a train. It is not necessary that the individual novels be
>>> lined up specially on a shelf: as long as they have each been written and exist somewhere in
>>> the world, the series exists.
> But the series exists, as a series, by virtue of the information in them. They are like
> Barbour's
> time-capsules; each contains enough references and characters from the others to allow them to be
> put into order. It's not clear to me what duration "obserever moments" have - but I don't think
> they are novel length. I imagine them more like sentences (a complete thought as my English
> teacher
> used to say), and sentences *don't* have enough information to allow them to be reconstructed
> into
>> the novel they came from.
> A book is the analogy that came to mind, but there is an important difference between this and
> conscious experience. Books, sentences, words may not need to be physically collected together to
> make a coherent larger structure, but they do need to be somehow sorted in the mind of an
> observer; otherwise, we could say that a dictionary contains every book ever written or yet to be
> written. Moments of consciousness, on the other hand, by their nature contain their own observer.

Even if they are not self-conscious? If they are not reflective, as most aren't, then what is it
about the "observer" that makes it *the same observer*? You seem to be postulating a mystic dualism
in which otherwise disjoint moments of consciousness are joined by having the same the
Cartesian theater?

> That's why I suggest that OMs are not an adequate ontological basis for a world model. On the
> other
> hand, if we include brain processes, or more abstractly, subconscious thoughts, then we would
> have
>> enough information to string them together.
> I know some people on this list have attempted world-building with OMs, but my starting point is
> the less ambitious idea that consciousness can in principle extend across time and space without
> being specially linked.

I'm not sure how to take that - a poetic metaphor? Time and space are our inventions: part of our
model of the world. In that model

> If a person's stream of consciousness were chopped up into seconds, minutes, days or whatever,
> using whatever vehicle it takes to run a human mind, and these moments of consciousness randomly
> dispersed throughout the multiverse, they would all connect up by virtue of their information
> content. Do you disagree that it would in principle be possible?

Yes, I disagree. At the level of minutes it would probably work; at the level of seconds, I'm
doubtful; at the level of milliseconds, I don't believe it.

Brent Meeker

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Received on Fri Jun 30 2006 - 14:06:53 PDT

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