Re: The role of consciousness

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Tue Apr 08 2008 - 18:13:35 MDT

Jeff writes

> I care first and foremost about future people who have my
> memories and intentions....

Yes, the perfectly familiar and normal disposition.

> respects such as... avoiding torture if at all possible.

Quite right.

> The only issue I'm claiming is a language convention is the issue of
> whether you label your future self to be the teleported copy of you,
> the non-teleported copy of you, or some combination of both to be you.
> It's clear what relationship they have to you... they are both copies
> of your brain. So I don't think calling either one "you" is going to
> tell you anything more interesting.

But why be so reserved about the language? Since the problems
with identity, memory erasure, teleportation, uploading are not
familiar to us, I think that there is a tendency for some people to
overreact and try to throw out altogether what is taken as
commonplace by all of us every day.

You really ought to suppose that you are the same person that
you were yesterday, and the same person who wrote the words
above. But if you are so inclined to argue, then I guess that I
must simply be grateful that you don't wreck yourself by denying
that two temperatures, or two pressures, or a single particular
book at two different times, are the same. I am sure that no grave
look comes over your countenance when someone asks whether
you are the same Jeff Jones as <blah blah>, and you do not
immediately dismiss their question as hopelessly wrongheaded
and necessarily to be answered in the negative.

It's really not much harder with copies. If you were copied and
the copy was asked, "Are you the same Jeff Jones who I used
to know from the SL4 list?", the meaning and intent would be
perfectly clear, and you would---or should!---answer quite
simply, "Yes, I am". So why try to be fussy about it?

> Strictly speaking, I think that a person should be defined by
> their past, not their future.

We know all the facts. A river is "defined" (if you must) by its
past and its future. The residents of Kansas City feel perfectly
comfortable with the Missouri river being the same river it was
yesterday and the same river it will be tomorrow, even though
they are not so pedantic to go about constantly reminding
themselves of Heraclitus's statement to the contrary. We know
what Heraclitus meant, and we know what the citizens of Kansas
City mean. Is personal identity really so much different?

> Since the truth is, every person is continuously splitting into multiple
> persons, who then experience multiple futures. It just doesn't make
> sense to label them all as the same person because they are different
> people.

Whether it makes sense or not depends on the context. People will,
should, and ought to know what is meant. If A is duplicated into B
and C, and then A dies, each of B and C will pick up the continuation
of A's life, *as we know ad nauseam*., whatever silly legal or
domestic problems might arise. Each will certainly feel that he is
the same person as A, and I think that they should just get used
to the idea that B and C are the same person---at least for now,
though, as we all know, they do begin to diverge slightly over

To say that B is not A and C is not A amounts to claiming that
you aren't "really" the same person you were yesterday, which
really is fatuous nonsense. Likewise, it's obviously awkward
to insist that though B is the same person as A, and C is the
same person as A, they're not the same person. They know
all the facts (as do we), and they should just get used to it.
What is so hard, unfortunately, is that almost the first baby-thing
we learned in our cradles is that anything outside of what looks
to be our own unique piece of skin is necessarily non-self. It's
high time, with uploads and duplication coming, that we unlearn
that bit of wrongneadedness.


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