Re: The role of consciousness

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sat Apr 12 2008 - 07:04:53 MDT

Jeff writes

>> 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.
> Assuming I could trust the people who were supposedly going to revive
> the copy with the $10M, it's a no brainer... I would disintegrate and
> let the copy wake up and have $10M dollars. I've explained why in
> my earlier post on "objective anticipation".

Okay, sorry. I hadn't remembered.

> Hopefully, this is the decision you're calling "sensible".

Yes. (Sorry Heartland.)

> So do you agree now that arguing about personal identity is entirely
> about language and mostly a waste of time?

I doubt very much that we can state objectively what is and what
is not a waste of time to discussion. Billions of people would think
that every issue discussed on the forums you and I frequent would
be a waste of time.

No, it's *not* entirely about language, even though it seems that on
this particular action item you and I agree. (There are dozens more
where we may not and probably would not agree.) Perhaps the
central difficult *real* issue---definitely not about language---is
the degree two which people change over time. We say, and we
should say, that I am the same person I was a year ago and will
be a year from now, whereas for some large enough intervals,
that ceases to be true, (for almost anyone). That is, I would
consider Lee Corbin to have survived if you replace me by who/
what I was a year ago. But not if you replace me with the three
year old I once "was".

However, it's also important to bring the language into alignment
with the actions we would take. If we start saying things like "I
am not the same person I was a millisecond or a microsecond
ago, then it leads to the erroneous idea that great harm would
be done to one by replacing him by the entity that he was a
microsecond ago. Eventually, after uploading (or we start to
consider entirely electronic entities), these questions become
quite practical.

Once when I was very young, I asked about the duplication
scenario that I had just thought of: "Which one would I be?"
Very soon I saw that the answer was something like "You will
be both and neither", because it became clear that (as Stathis
and others like to say) we all change continually all the time.
So I eventually settled on the answer "you will be both". And
today, so many decades later, that answer still seems inescapable.


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