Re: There's more to me than memories...

From: Stuart Armstrong (
Date: Tue Mar 11 2008 - 04:43:41 MDT

> So what is it that has kept me "me"? I say it's memories.

I'd say that memories are a necessary but not sufficient condition to
keep you "you". The guards and inmates in the Stanford prison
ended up behaving completely differently after only a few short days.
If a guard had been a duplicate of one of the prisoners, their
memories would have been virtually identical; and yet, to all extent
and purposes, they are not the same person.

But it's not so much "duplicates are different people" that I was
looking at. I'm more arguing that if your actual life was similar to a
duplicate experience (that nothing that you accumulated was permanent;
that no friend can be relied on; that your crimes have little
consequences; that stability is forever beyond your grasp) then you
would most likely be a different person from day to day (or at least
from week to week). Or you would gravitate to the stable attractor
"homeless, jobless, friendless, wanderer".

> You would *not* say to yourself, "Oh, I guess I'm not Stuart
> anymore. I must be someone else." No. You would say
> am I, Stuart, doing here? and why is everything blurry when I
> look across the room? Whose body is this? It's not *mine*!"

Of course. But how would I feel after a few days, a week, a month, a
year? What if I woke up female? Or in jail?

I'm not arguing any coherent position here, just that memories are not
the end all of who you are (just think of hormones, for example). And
thus I feel that saying "all ten duplicates start out as the same
person", is correct. However, saying "all ten duplicates are Stuart"
is wrong. They are, to an extent, a new person.

> As for the subsequent consequences --- legal fights and so on,
> as Robin Lee Powell says, that would depend on your personality.
> Each copy would sincerely think that he was Stuart Anderson, and
> each of them would be one-hundred percent right!

Except I wouldn't! A lot of my memories are external to myself -
stored in pictures, computers, environments, and relationships.
Deprived of these, I would not think of myself as the same person.

This post had some kind of point to it, honest, before it became all meandery.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:01:02 MDT