Re: The role of consciousness (Re: The GLUT and functionalism)

From: Matt Mahoney (
Date: Mon Apr 07 2008 - 17:48:13 MDT

--- Stathis Papaioannou <> wrote:

> On 07/04/2008, Matt Mahoney <> wrote:
> > Example: teleportation. It works like this. I step into a booth at
> point A
> > and a copy of me is produced at point B. The copy at point A is slowly
> and
> > painfully killed by being crushed between the soundproofed walls of the
> > teleportation booth in a process that takes 24 hours. For $2 extra I
> have the
> > option of having the copy at point A injected with an overdose of a
> narcotic,
> > making the death fast and painless. But I have teleported hundreds of
> times
> > both ways and can't tell the difference. I always come out at point B
> and I
> > would rather save the money.
> The process of walking from A to B results in the copy at A painlessly
> vanishing from the universe and another copy appearing at B. This is
> what ordinary survival from moment to moment is all about. So if a
> form of transport such as destructive teleportation reproduces this
> process, I wouldn't worry about it. But if some new form of walking is
> discovered which leaves a copy at A to be slowly crushed, which is
> equivalent to your non-destructive teleportation scenario, that would
> be worrying indeed. This is because with two copies extant at the same
> time, I have a subjectively 1/2 chance of becoming either of the two.
> In a sense I don't really "become" my copy even if there's only one of
> them, but I feel as if I do because that's the way my brain has
> evolved to think.

No, this is the same problem as the quantum coin. Subjective expectation for
rational agents requires multiple trials and counting outcomes. If you are
copied 100 times when a coin comes up heads, then there is a subjective 99%
chance of heads because after multiple trials that is what you are most likely
to remember. In the case of teleportation I end up at point B every time,
independent of the method used to kill the copy at A. If you believe you
might be tortured, then that belief is based on faith rather than experience.
Faith says that you are going to step into a booth and be crushed with 100%
probability, so you will probably pay the $2. But after repeating enough
times and always ending up at B, you will at some point decide to save the

If you prefer, think of teleportation as equivalent to being tortured and then
having the memory of the torture erased. This has zero utility to a rational
agent because there is no change in mental state.

-- Matt Mahoney,

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