Experience vs. Memory Acquisition (was Separate Copies...)

From: Lee Corbin (lcorbin@rawbw.com)
Date: Sat Mar 08 2008 - 01:07:35 MST

Matt also inquires

> Is it bad to be tortured and then have the state of your mind reset to an
> earlier time so that you had no memory of it?

Oh yes, quite bad. To prove it, suppose that you are indeed
awakened every night at 3pm and tortured for an hour, and
then have the memory erased, but you get $1000 deposited
to your bank account for each hour. "Big deal if I don't remember
the torture", you might say.

But before I get to "the proof", let me say that on the face of
it you should be suspicious of this proposition. This is because
an objective determination of how well your life went would
sample those hours with the same weight as other hours. You
don't want that.

Now let's change the TE (thought experiment) slightly. This time
you are awakened as before at 3pm, but imprisoned ten years
in a hideous, pitiful prison somewhere, where the food is marginal
but you have plenty, plenty of time to think and reflect. Moreover,
we also add that the during the ten years you are able to remember
what happened "the night before", i.e., the last time you were
awakened and imprisoned for ten years. Oh, I should have added,
---if you didn't figure it out---that this prison manages to compress
ten years in-prison time into a single hour of outside time.

You would then see what your life has become. Your perpetual,
miserable existence in prison would be the reality, and the little
24 hours outside episodes merely a weird interruption, during
which you didn't have a clue as to what your real life was about.
So we see that experience is what matters, and whether you
retain the memories is secondary.

> Is it bad to program a false memory of being tortured into your
> brain without actually inflicting pain?

Yes, it certainly is, as you know. It gives you the willies to recall
the episode, even if you know it didn't really happen (a variation).

> If you had to choose between these two options, which would
> you choose?

Alas, there is the horrible Clock/Torture experiment that perhaps
I'll describe later. The bottom line is that you should always prefer
to get only the memories---but tragically you will eventually choose
the worse option, namely the experience without the memories.


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