Re: Objective Anticipation

From: Jeff L Jones (
Date: Sun Mar 16 2008 - 17:26:22 MDT

On Sun, Mar 16, 2008 at 5:06 AM, Stathis Papaioannou <> wrote:
> To put it differently, being able to have future experiences is one of my most important goals, and
> pursuit of that goal involves concepts of personal identity and
> subjective anticipation. I agree that people who maintain the old
> views will die out when evolution favours the objective view, but what
> can I do? It's the way my mind works.

I agree that for many people, including me, "being able to enjoy
future experiences" seems important at an emotional level. But I
think that the only reason it seems so important is because of a
particular illusion that humans have, which is very common... and even
I admit to falling for it most of the time. This is the illusion that
there is a clear difference between "self" and "environment".... or
said another way, that there even *is* such a thing as the self. I
know it sounds like I'm getting kind of "zen" here, but I really think
that this is something that will ultimately turn out to be false. I
just don't think there is any real meaning to "personal identity",
besides the utility you attach to being able to control future events.

The way I look at it, I care about my "future self" (or more
accurately "future selves") only because we have a lot in common and I
have a lot of influence on him. Not because I think we are the same
person. A person to me is defined by a particular sequential history
of memories. Every sequence is a different person, even if two such
sequences share a common past. So the question of whether I will get
to "enjoy experiencing the future" is already tautologically false by
my definition. I *know* that I won't be around in the future... the
person who I am now will be very different by then. Even if I just
believed in a single timeline, that person would still have a lot of
new experiences and see the world through different eyes by then, just
as I see the world through different eyes than my past selves did. So
strictly speaking, it cannot be said that I will ever have any more
experiences than I've already had.

This is something that has always bugged me about a lot of
immortalists. It seems like a big motivation for many immortalists is
that they want to "keep on experiencing" things. But to me, that's
silly. You can't keep on experience things... but you can affect the
future. I'd like to radically extend my life, but only because I have
certain goals I want accomplished in the future and I don't trust
anyone else besides my "future self" to accomplish them. Nor do I
think I can accomplish even a small fraction of them in a natural
lifespan. In my opinion, my reasons for wanting life extension are
rational, whereas a lot of people want life extension for irrational
reasons (reasons based on the illusion of the self).

So yes, on one hand you're right, it's "how the mind works". But I do
have hope that we can overcome that prejudice and get past it. I
think I've somewhat done that for myself already... even though I
occasionally find myself retrapped by the illusion of the self.


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