Re: answers I'd like from an SI

From: Jeff L Jones (
Date: Sat Nov 10 2007 - 22:37:23 MST

On Nov 10, 2007 6:01 PM, Wei Dai <> wrote:
> Ok, I'll clarify the question to "Why am I Wei Dai at this point in time in
> this Everett branch?" And let "I" denote my indexical location rather than
> the person Wei Dai.

I think this is still tautological, pretty much however you ask it.

> If it indeed confirms that the question
> isn't well posed, then I'd like to follow up by asking what makes us ask
> that question in the first place.

Now this is a well-posed question, and somewhat interesting.
Fortunately, I think I know the answer (or most of it, at least)... so
maybe it's you're lucky day, and you won't have to wait for an SI.

I admit to having asked that question myself before... it's just that
every time I think about it in depth, I decide it's not really a good
question. It's meaningful to ask things like "Why am I wearing a
watch rather than not wearing a watch?", and if you're a mind/body
functionalist and consider your "self" to refer to the mental software
running on your body (rather than the body itself) then you can even
ask things like "Why am I 6 feet tall rather than 4 feet?" or why is
my skin a particular color? etc. Maybe there will be an interesting
answer to those questions, and maybe the answer is that it was just
random chance... but either way, I think there is a sense in which
they are well-posed. However, those questions are only meaningful if
you're defining "I" in a certain way. You can ask "why do I have
property X, and not some other property?" only if property X is
non-essential to your definition of "I". If property X is a part of
what you mean by "I" then it fails as a meaningful question. So you
cannot, for instance, ask "Why do I have the set of properties K?"
where K is the set of all properties which define the intelligence
which is you. If you include too many properties in the set you're
inquiring about, then it reduces to asking "Why is the set K the set
K?" which is obviously a tautology. So I think the reason why we tend
to ask that question, is because there are a number of meaningful
questions leading up to it, but because of the loose way in which we
tend to throw words around like "I" and "me" without fixing them to
rigid signifiers, and because we have a difficulty in conceiving of
ourselves fully, we don't realize when we've crossed the line into
asking something tautological. We tend to just glide right past the
line, assuming our questions are still meaningful.

So, if I were a superintelligence, and I answered your question in
this way, would I get full credit? ;)


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