Re: Objective Anticipation

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Mon Mar 17 2008 - 23:05:34 MDT

Jeff and Stathis are reaching agreement that there is no such
thing as a "self".

Allow me to differ, albeit rather sarcastically.

> On 17/03/2008, Jeff L Jones <> wrote:
>> 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.
> It is, already, patently false if you are looking for "objective
> truth". The definition of self, and the distinction between self and
> other and self and environment is just a side-effect of evolution. If
> you consider the entire possibility space of intelligent organisms,
> there is no reason to consider that you are the same entity from
> moment to moment or distinguish between self and other at all; it's
> just that having that sort of mindset is not conducive to survival of
> the potential replicator.

Please forgive the tone of my reply, but this is how I wish to proceed.

I'm glad that Jeff and Stathis aren't astronomer-wanna-be's. Here
is how a dialog between them might have gone:

Jeff: You know, most astronomers really don't understand that
             there is no clear difference between "star" and "its environment"
              .... or said another way, that there even *is* such a thing as
             a star.

Stathis: Yes, it's actually patently false if you are looking for "objective
             truth". The definition of star, and the phony distinction between
             the star and its environment is a side-effect of our visual system
             and its lack of adequate discriminatory abilities.

Jeff: I know exactly what you mean! In a more accurate approximation
             to reality, we really have nothing more than "atoms" and sub-atomic
             particles, and it really boils down to fundamental quarks, gluons,
             and the whole zoo according to the Standard Model, our fabulously
             successful theory of matter and energy.

Stathis: Yes, exactly. We see that there is no clear boundary between
             star and non-star. It's a continuous rise and lowering of the
             density of quarks, gluons, and the rest, as you go from the
             center where there is the highest concentration (usually
             called the "center of the star") out towards the layers of
             lower density, there is no abrupt ending or boundary anywhere.
             When the solar wind, for example, is included, one can only
             say even roughly that a so-called star extends a light year
             or more in diameter.

Jeff: Precisely. It's just an illusion, although it does sort of sound
            a bit weird or zen-ish to say that there are no such things as
            stars, but the whole concept ultimately has to turn out to be

Stathis: It's even clearer that there is no such thing as a star if we
            examine the question from yet another direction. If you
            consider the entire possibility space that this clumping
            of subatomic particles has, there is no reason at all to
            consider that it's even the same clump from moment to
            moment! The entire collection of subatomic particles,
            extending maybe 30,000 AU in each direction from
            the "point" of maximum concentration --- ha! as if there
            *were* such a point <visibly exasperated at the fallacies
            of those who speak of a star's "center"> --- isn't at all
            the same from instant to instant. The trajectory in phase
            space is in constant motion at all times.

            Of course [continues my parody of Stathis], we understand
            how people and astronomers came to this faulty conclusion;
            it's just that having that sort of mindset was conducive to
            the survival of the "star-meme", a reification that enables
            it to spread easily from "mind" to "mind", and helps
            astronomers gain more information about what's out there.

Returning to the actual Stathis, who, after all, as I quoted above
really did write

> If you consider the entire possibility space of intelligent organisms,
> there is no reason to consider that you are the same entity from
> moment to moment or distinguish between self and other at all;

well, one wonders based on this if he's some sort of nominalist (as opposed
to realists who---most of us---do reify rather often).

Jeff (the real one) went on

>> 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.

Perish the thought! How can you possibly be the same person you
were ten seconds ago? Why, the person reading this very sentence
has, of course, utterly no responsibility for what that other so-called
Jeff creature wrote yesterday. By no means are they the same
person, after all.

>> 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.

Well, actually, I'm relieved. I may be misreading, but it looks as
though Jeff believes in "people" after all. That is here he's now
saying that each *sequence* is a different person (as opposed,
I think, to some other sequence who'd be someone else). Wait!
What happened? A moment ago he was saying "Not because I
think that we [he and his earlier "self"] are the same person."
Now he's saying that a whole sequence of persons is a person
after all. Confusing, isn't it?

>> 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.

"Now" being "this instant"? By then? Well "by then" must be much
less than ten seconds, since you *know* that you won't be around
ten seconds from now, right?

>> Even if I just believed in a single timeline, that person would still

That person? I thought that you had already deconstructed anything
persisting through time.

>> 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.

Yup. Get a hold of yourself, be logical, and entirely banish the false
notion that you'll have any experiences tomorrow. [as often in my
satirical reply, heavy sarcasm is intended for any innocents reading

Stathis---the real one, again---agrees:

> Strictly speaking, yes; why should I care about some guy that wakes up
> in my bed tomorrow morning and thinks he's me? Why should I care about
> him even if he *does* have a lot in common with me and will tend to
> further my projects? Since I know I won't be around anyway, making
> plans beyond the next second is just evolution's ploy to help propagate
> a certain set of genes.

Well, as soon as you are uploaded, you can take care of that, Stathis!
You can reprogram yourself so that you won't make plans for the
future, so long, say, as you can contribute money or something to
see to it that your projects continue to be worked on. Oh, you don't
"want" to? (Actually, I wonder "who" this "you" is who's saying this
right now.) But please see below.

> In fact, so is having any sort of goal or feeling. But the point is,
> understanding all this does not make me want to reprogram my
> brain so that I am free of it... since that too would be contrary
> to my programming. I'm a kind of willing slave.

Don't give up so easily! You can free yourself from your slavery!
Just give the AI who awakens you from cryonic suspension,
or who oversees your uploading, explicit instructions to make
those changes that you won't have the will power to do yourself.
Do you want to be a "willing slave" forever? Besides, there must
be other words for slaves who want to remain slaves.

Jeff agrees totally:

>> 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.

Bingo! We sure as hell do!

>> 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.

Oh, come now! You can in certain circumstances become dead
sure (pun intended) that a given AI, or a given, focused organization
of people, are even more dedicated to your goals than you are.
Surely you can't believe that of all the people in the world, you
are the only one who can carry out your goals now, can you?

>> 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).

Stathis gets the last word in, in this particular post:

> Well, yes, I know it's silly, but not only am I unable to overcome the
> delusion, the delusion itself stops me from *wanting* to overcome the
> delusion.

Like I was telling Jeff, sure you can! You just need a more positive
attitude! Certain drugs might help. And when an AI awakens you
in the future or you get uploaded, there will be many extremely wise
and extremely professional and competent entities around to help
you rid yourself of these silly delusions that have utterly no basis
in reality.


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