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

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Fri Mar 14 2008 - 23:38:31 MDT

Slawek writes

>>> the first place, and not just to survival, but why are they so important,
>>> period.
> Lee:
>> What in the world does that mean? How can something be important
>> in the abstract without being important to someone, or for something?
> Ok, then why are memories important [to people] in the first place?
> The explanation I'm looking for cannot:
> 1) assume memories are important [to people]

I'll take that as a joke :-) though it's quite possible that you have
correctly criticized some of us for circular reasoning.

> 2) mention concept of "survival"
> Can you do that?

I think so. Suppose that people are different from each other
because of specific characteristics, brain structures, and so
on (and not because their soul has a different #ID-num).
Suppose further that in general people don't want to become
much more like someone else than like themselves; specifically,
person X does not want to lose what makes him X and thus
become, say, his friend Max (person Y). Finally, it's a
commonplace observation that people often resist change

Given those two assumptions and one observation, we
can conclude that my becoming a lot more like you means
to some degree that Lee Corbin is---just a little bit or quite
a bit---morphing into someone else, namely Slawek, say.

Time for a pithy example. Suppose that your best friend
rather suddenly acquired all of my memories (due to some
fiendish test for world domination that I'm trying out).
You do start noticing startling and sudden personality
changes. Finally he says "I'm really your pen-pal Lee
Corbin!". You'd be aghast and you'd say: "prove it!".
"Well, " says he, "do you remember how in an email
not so long ago I got you to tell me that you lived in
New Jersey by correctly guessing your age (to within
five years)?" And he goes on and on relating things that
presumably only Lee Corbin would know (unless your
friend is part of some incredible conspiracy and has
acquired uncanny acting skills).

(You would probably retort "Oh Fred, or whatever
his name is, "you're not really Lee at all! You just
have his memories!". To me that's a pretty weak
response, most obviously because 99 out of 100
people knowing the facts would *say* that "that
diabolical Lee Corbin has taken over your friend,
and your friend is apparently gone". But that's just
an illustration. I understand that to you he's still Fred.)

Anyway, back to the logic. Since X does not want to
become more like Y than X, especially perhaps in terms
of behavioral characteristics at least, say, (we can find
other characteristics to add), then X surely does not
want X's body to suddenly have Y's memories. People
hate amnesia, and regard it as an inconvenience, to say
the very least (you can surely agree with that).

Again, your question was

> Ok, then why are memories important [to people] in the first place?

and I think I've answered pretty well. So now I get to ask
two questions: would you mind losing most of your memories?
If you got all of Lee Corbin's memories and retained none of
Slawek's then would you (on your idea of what you "is")
behave more like Lee or more like Slawek? Specifically,
what if I credibly offer to pay you $100,000,000 to let
your memories be entirely replaced by mine. Would you
take the deal?
> No, I'm equally unattached to "my atoms" (whatever that means) as I am
> unattached to my personal memories (hopefully, you'll see this).

All I can say is "wow!". Hmm. Would you settle, say, for $25,000
in *cash*? I could use the New Jersey runtime.

> There *are* other things I can be attached to, you know.

Like what?

> I'm only in the process of trying to make you see what it is.
> Please don't guess.

Okay, sorry.

> Back to the main question about importance of memories [to people]. See if this
> dilemma clarifies anything. If you had to choose between 2 options, which one would
> you prefer?

Ah, a man after my own heart. Decisions and actions reveal better
than anything what we believe!

> Option 1) In 1 minute you will go into an eternal coma. On the bright side, you are
> guaranteed that your brain, and thus your memories, will remain exactly the way
> they are now until the end of Universe.

Arghh! No runtime :-( No processing. No more happy moments for Lee :-(

> Option 2) In 1 minute all your personal memories will be completely erased
> from your brain, but, other than that, this brain will function just like any other
> healthy brain that's able to form and retain new personal memories and
> remember all the general knowledge acquired throughout the brain's life,
> like being able to speak, read and write English, do math, etc. However,
> this brain will not remember its name, its opinions, its family and friends,
> its tastes, where it's located, none of that personal stuff.

Option 2 is only slightly preferable because I'm still a bit of an idealist,
and think that it's better for some mystery person (whoever he is) to
exist than not exist. But alas, for me, selfishly? To me, I'm dead as
a doornail either way.


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