Re: The role of consciousness

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Thu Apr 10 2008 - 17:36:42 MDT

Jeff writes

> It makes little more sense to call different branches of a person the
> same person than it does to call identical twins the same person.

You may not be aware of the facts concerning identical twins.
(I wasn't for many years.) They are not in any way exchangeable
in the eyes of those who know them; they are much MUCH
less alike that you and your recently created duplicate would

> It makes even less sense to call two copies made in the same
> universe the same person... since that would make it very
> awkward for them to interact and soon become an impossible
> charade to maintain.

Not at all. If you imagine over and over again what it would
be like to have a duplicate, and if you subscribe to the idea
that you survive if any duplicate of you does, then this is the
most natural convention in the world.

> Even though I have strong opinions on what the best way is to talk
> about this, I must admit that I find the whole subject of personal
> identity *incredibly* boring, as it has nothing to do with the real
> world and is--as I've mentioned--simply a language convention.

What keeps these discussions from boiling down to being "incredibly
boring", as you write, is that *actions* will depend on our views.
The main point is to properly prescribe actions. The chief such
action that you have to decide (or will have to decide when uploaded),
(and need to decide now if you want to be philosophically prepared
for all eventualities) can be seen from this following example:

          An exact molecular duplicate of you was created
          ten minutes ago and lies in the next room frozen
          in a cask of ice. On top the cask of ice is a briefcase
          containing $10M dollars. The choice facing you (the
          version, instance, who is now breathing and conscious)
          is (A) to undergo disintegration, in which your ten-
          minute-ago duplicate is resurrected and the money
          becomes his (i.e. in my view, yours), or whether the
          frozen copy in the other room is disintegrated (along
          with the $10M).

Please tell me what you would do in this situation. If you make the
sensible decision, then yes, we are only arguing terminology. But
if you don't, then analogous situations will arise for you provided
that you are so lucky as to survive this century or be uploaded.
> The bottom line is, you've chosen a poor convention, and I've
> chosen a much better one. There's really not much more I can
> say about it.

Yes you *can* say more about it. You can prescribe *actions*
you would take. Then we'll see which is the better and which
the worse speaking convention.


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