Memory Merging Possible For Close Duplicates

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Mon Mar 10 2008 - 22:18:09 MDT

Jeff writes

> Lee 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.

Right. As regards *anticipation*, not yet. I should dig up my old
essay "The Anticipation Paradox" and post it. The bottom line
is that there are TEs in which you have to look forward (or
"anticipate") something that already happened to you.(!)

> 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.

Yes indeed! You are quite right to be skeptical of what it even
*means* at all. Permit me to tell a story that expresses my views
on the matter.

Suppose that last month you went to a movie and you also went
to a certain bookstore---but you don't remember which happened
first. That happens to us all the time. Now let me further tell a tall
tale about what *really* happened to you last month.

As you were driving down the freeway, in the evening of a dark
December night, very tired after a day's work, we made a duplicate
of you and your car---only the copy was one minute retarded in
time, but at the same point on the freeway (perhaps to the
momentary consternation of a few drivers who saw a car appear
out of nowhere). To the copy, who conveniently blinked, or looked
down at his iPod at this exact time, maybe it did seem that positions
of the other cars on the freeway jumped. But he just blinked again,
and thought nothing more about it, seeing this as yet another sign
of his extreme weariness.

That is, the copy was following his original self by about sixty
seconds barreling down the freeway.

Say further that the retarded copy soon saw a bus advertising
a certain movie, and on impulse pulled off the freeway to a
movie theater that you frequent. Later, this copy drives the
rest of the way home, where his duplicate, the original is
already there! However, just before the copy gets to the
garage, the original's car is teleported away by us. He pulls
into the garage, thinking nothing amiss.

The copy then enters the house as usual---no alarms at this
place to deactivate. The original is downstairs and is going to
bed. We now teleport the duplicate to an exactly identical
house far away where he soon goes to bed also, and gets a
good night's sleep. Soon both the original and the duplicate
are in a very very deep sleep (perhaps with a little chemical
help by us).

Now comes the hard part. While they are sleeping, the memories
of having turned off the freeway and gone to the movie are copied
from the duplicate, and "added" to the memory of the sleeping
original, and then we dispose of the duplicate, who needs play no
further role in this tale. Suddenly, at 5am a terrible, terrible
earthquake rocks the original out of bed, and he fights for his
life over the next hours amid his collapsing building, the city-wide
fire, and his own injuries. He doesn't think about either having
visited the bookstore or having seen the movie. After being in
the hospital, sedated for days and days, he is then kept very
busy during the following month by all the problems that have
come up, and doesn't think about either the movie or the bookstore
visit until many weeks later. When he does, all he really can
remember is that yes, he did go to a movie on one of those nights
last month, and yes, he did go to the bookstore sometime last
month. But he's forgotten which came first.

I claim that all of the foregoing is in principle conceivable, and
poses no psychological difficulty. The memories of two extremely
similar "instances" were merged, and when he's confronted with
all the facts, the original recalls that yes, he was in two places at
the same time.

Note how totally and completely different (and impossible so far
as I know) for memory merging to plausibly take place between
two actually different people.

> 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).

You can remember two different things happening at the same
time as in my story, without being aware that a trick has been

> It might be possible to construct some more general type of sentience
> that "remembers" multiple branches but I have no idea how that would
> work or if it would be possible...

It's *very* problematic, to say the least. Yes, I agree.


> 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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