Re: Is a Person One or Many?

From: John K Clark (
Date: Wed Mar 12 2008 - 10:58:54 MDT

On Wed, 12 Mar 2008 21:01:51 +1100, "Stathis Papaioannou"
<> said:

> You can only experience being a single
> person at the one time

I can only experience being one person (not entirely true but I’ll let
it go) but lots of people can have the experience of having been me, and
they would have as much a right to call themselves John K Clark as I do.

> there is no magical process telling you that
> there are 100 other copies of
> you or what those copies are up to.

If the environment those other copies live in is so similar to mine that
they have not diverged then I know exactly what all those other copies
are up to.

> However, the illusion of a mind […]

When I become king it will be illegal to use the word “illusion” in any
conversation about consciousness; invoking a subjective process to
explain subjectivity is just not helpful.

> there is no way to tell that the information came
> from one hard disk or another, if both of the
> hard disks had the same information.

Think about it, if there is no way to tell then that must mean it will
make no difference to the physical universe which hard drive the
information came from; if the universe doesn’t care I don’t see why I

> This means that if there are 101 identical copies,
> you are definitely only one of those copies

If they are identical then I am all those copies. If they started having
different experiences they would still remember being me but they would
not remember being one of there fellow copies, they would diverge. Now
there would be 101 distinct individuals but they would all be John K

> If this next moment involves opening the envelope,
> you will end up finding that you are one (and only one)
> of the 100 copies that reads "no torture" or the
> single copy that reads "torture". So you are 100
> times as likely to read "no torture".

Your arithmetic is wrong. There are 2 versions of me, one gets tortured
and one does not, you figure out the odds.

It’s interesting that all the confusion and paradoxes about this topic
vanishes if you just make one small change in viewpoint. Try thinking of
yourself as an adjective not a noun. Try it, you’d be amazed how much
clearer things become.

   John K Clark

  John K Clark
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