Re: Stuart is dead? Situational issues in identity

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Thu Mar 13 2008 - 23:44:05 MDT

Stuart wrote

> [Lee asked asked about *when* you were so young that you were
> not the same person you are now, etc.]:
>> Care to mention ages, or at least proportions? Since we don't have
>> good measures and good tools, (and eventually may have many
>> different but reliable measures such as we have in statistical theory)
>> no precise answers can be forthcoming at this time.
> Not sure about proportions; but the rate of change is quite high (I
> wouldn't consider I was the same person as 3 years ago, pretty much).

Hmm, interesting. Okay, if you don't mind, I'll keep that figure
in mind! :-) But it's quite reasonable compared to "day persons":

>> Could you be embracing Mike Perry's notion of "day persons"?
>> That is, each day you wake up you are really a different person.
>> (Not that Mike endorses this view at all!) But it's silly, IMNSHO
>> to go around denying that you are not the same person you were
>> yesterday or a few minutes ago.
> I think we are talking of difference of degree, not of kind.

Exactly right! From the above, it does sound like you believe that
you are the same person you were yesterday (not forgetting for an
instant that one gradually changes, and, I say, changes into someone
else). Right, it *is* a matter of degree.

> We can merge me with a recent duplicate of me; or we can
> merge Shakespear with Einstein; the second is just much harder.

Yes. And I might argue that the result could easily be a person
that was neither Einstein or Shakespeare. Operationally: after
we finish that horrendous merging of the two, we might have
a dialog with him that goes:

Us: Are you the same person you were yesterday?

Al-Will: Oh yes. That was something that was the same
              in my old lives.

Us: If we had asked either Al or Will, before the
              merger, what would they have said regarding
              how many years it took to become a different
              person (i.e. not the same person) through the
              natural process of aging?

Al-Will: Well, as Al I would have said <insert answer 1
              here> and as Will I would have said <insert answer
              2 here>.

Us: It seems to us that the merger changed you considerably.
              Would you say that the merger of the 20th century
              German speaking scientist with the 17th century British
              playwright inflicted more change than either <answer 1>
              or <answer 2>?

I cannot imagine Al-Will saying, "Oh no. That was nothing so severe
as becoming <answer1> or <answer2> years older!

Almost surely Al-Will would say that he is not the same person as
either of the two previous worthies.

> Mathematically, we could claim that two duplicates represent 1.001
> people, and tend towards 1.8 people as they age; if their experiences
> are different enough, they will reach 2 people.

I quite agree.

> Not too sure about the moral consequences of this. Logically, killing
> one duplicate immediately is barely a crime; the evil of killing
> increases as the two diverge, and there are a host of questions -

I agree. But reducing the two physically distinct processes to
just one, as you understand I have claimed, amounts to letting
the 1.001 person live only 60 minutes an hour instead of 120.

>> Nozick's seriously stupid idea of "closest continuuer".
> Don't know what that idea is, but the name sounds appealing.

Oh, he said that if you had n-duplicates made and then died
yourself, that only the "closest continuer" would really be you.
How totally nuts. Why exactly aren't the rest you, who may
differ infinitesimally from the anointed one? <rant suppressed>

> I do feel that if I was duplicated every day, and the duplicates
> were either frozen or sent of to live other lives, then (if I was
> deprived of my social interactions and my posessions) I would
> not have a strong claim to being "Stuart Armstrong".

Why need only one of you get to be Stuart? From a physicist's
perspective, they're all pretty similar---as they should be: they're
close duplicates after all.

>> P.S. I'm making my way through your very interesting
>> , but
>> alas, am woefully not up to speed discussing this issue
>> on this list. But maybe I'll get better :-)
> Danke! :-)

You're very welcome.


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