Re: Is a Person One or Many?

From: Jeff L Jones (
Date: Mon Mar 10 2008 - 12:54:31 MDT

On Sun, Mar 9, 2008 at 10:13 PM, Lee Corbin <> wrote:
> Anticipation is another
> matter entirely. I've given up now for over 20 years believing that a
> completely consistent account of anticipation can be formulated.

I don't think anything in this thread is all that paradoxical. As
many have pointed out, it's clear what will happen physically, and
what fraction of your copies will be tortured (or see heads). So the
only issue is regarding this word "anticipation". My opinion is not
that we should give up on anticipation, but that we should just choose
the most useful thing to do in the situation. The point of
anticipating an event is to set your brain up in a state so that it is
prepared to deal with that event if and when it happens with the
appropriate proabability. And I think it's clear that there is only
one objective "right answer" to what you should anticipate. You
should anticipate in the case of the coins, that there is a 100:1
chance that a future instance of your brain will have to deal with the
coin being heads, and in the case of the torture it's the same story.
So clearly the most adaptively useful thing to do is to put your brain
into a state where you expect to see heads with 100:1 odds.

As for merging, I don't understand what is meant. It doesn't seem
like a very coherent idea. The whole idea of a "person" is that you
have some sequence of memories. If you tried to merge people with two
different sets of memories, what would that mean? It couldn't result
in a another person, because people have sequential memories (you
can't remember two different things happening). It might be possible
to construct some more general type of sentience that "remembers"
mutliple branches but I have no idea how that would work or if it
would be possible... but clearly this thing you created would be very
different than a human, and it may or may not be appropriate to even
call it a type of consciousness. But even if it were possible, how it
would work would probably depend a lot on the implementation, and it
would probably require new ways of speaking about identity (if
identity even makes sense for such a creature). But it doesn't seem
that relevant to the main question here, which is what should you
anticipate when you are being copied... a question whose answer seems
pretty clear.


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