Is a Person One or Many? (was Separate Copies...)

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sat Mar 08 2008 - 01:20:34 MST

Stathis writes

>> Okay, so, after I all see the coin - in an algorithmically isomorphic
>> way - merge my separated copies.
>> Oh, look, by briefly expending a bit of extra computing power, I can
>> control the outcome of coinflips - though not in a way that any
>> watcher would detect.
> The problem has to do with the fact that we believe there is one, and
> only one, version of us that persists through time. This is shown to
> be objectively false when multiple copies are involved, but our minds
> try to interpret the situation as if it's true.

That indeed could be one of the sources of the problem or the main source.

> In fact, it isn't even true if there is only one copy: why should I care
> about the experiences of some guy who will wake up in my bed
> tomorrow and think he's me, let alone some guy who wakes up as
> an upload and thinks he's me?

Well, of course, because you are the same person you were yesterday,
and, barring extreme thought experiments, surgery, or very weird
experiences, the same person you'll be tomorrow. Objectively speaking,
there are a huge number of different ways that you could wake up in
your bed tomorrow---e.g., whether or not the phone rings between
now and then, whether you hear a bus go by, whether there is an
earthquake and you are thrown out of bed for a while, whether the
police accidentally arrest the wrong person and you spend hours
down at the station explaining, etc. In all these cases, who you
are is not affected.

> So-called paradoxes of personal identity are due to the fact that
> thought experiments such as these screw with our psychology.
> Physics and logic remain unaffected.

I agree with that---but these thought experiments also revolve around
the concept of what a person is, the nature of anticipation, and, (as
you imply) mistakes we make due to looking at some things subjectively
which can perfectly well be approached objectively.


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