Re: The role of consciousness (Re: The GLUT and functionalism)

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Mon Apr 07 2008 - 21:54:47 MDT

Matt writes

> Stathis wrote:
>> On 07/04/2008, Matt Mahoney <> wrote:
>> > Example: teleportation. It works like this.
>> > I step into a booth at point A and a copy
>> > of me is produced at point B. The copy
>> > at point A is slowly [tortured and killed]
>> > For $2 extra I have the option of having
>> > the copy at point A injected with an
>> > overdose of a narcotic, making the death
>> > fast and painless.

By the way, Jeff mentioned that it would be cruel and
unethical to not pay the $2, but we get to the heart
of the problem by supposing---of course, entirely
hypothetically---that Matt (or whoever is speaking,
i.e., the subject of the query) is what I have called
an MSI (a most selfish individual). We wish to ask
what an MSI would do, and what are the logical
reasons one way or the other for his choices, given
that the MSI values existing.

>> > But I have teleported hundreds of times
>> > both ways and can't tell the difference.
>> > I always come out at point B and I
>> > would rather save the money.

Stathis responds (and if you respond to this, Matt, please
try to fix your line lengths so that I don't have to reformat)

>> The process of walking from A to B results in the copy at A painlessly
>> vanishing from the universe and another copy appearing at B. This is
>> what ordinary survival from moment to moment is all about. So if a
>> form of transport such as destructive teleportation reproduces this
>> process, I wouldn't worry about it. But if some new form of walking is
>> discovered which leaves a copy at A to be slowly crushed, which is
>> equivalent to your non-destructive teleportation scenario, that would
>> be worrying indeed.

I totally concur with Stathis. However, as *perhaps* Matt is
saying, I dispute the probability interpretation:

>> This is because with two copies extant at the
>> same time, I have a subjectively 1/2 chance
>> of becoming either of the two. In a sense I
>> don't really "become" my copy even if there's
>> only one of them, but I feel as if I do because
>> that's the way my brain has evolved to think.

I would suggest that you *do* become both the copy and
the original. We are simply unused to believing that we
can be in two places at the same time, that's all. If we
thinking of "becoming" as a physical process that is
happening to us from moment to moment all the time,
then one becomes the ill-fated original with exactly
the same fidelity that one becomes the remote duplicate.

Matt responds

> No, this is the same problem as the quantum coin.
> Subjective expectation for rational agents requires
> multiple trials and counting outcomes. If you are
> copied 100 times when a coin comes up heads,
> then there is a subjective 99% chance of heads
> because after multiple trials that is what you are
> most likely to remember.

If one must use the tricky "subjective probability"
stuff---which I don't think we ought to resort to,
since the entire process you originally described
is from a physical point of view perfectly well-
defined---then I suppose that I agree with you

> In the case of teleportation I end up at point
> B every time, independent of the method used
> to kill the copy at A.

You do nothing of the kind. According to the
very obvious physics of the situation, it's only
one particular "I" that you are correctly describing
here. The doomed original is just as valid an "I"
as is the copy. The fact is that you end up as
both A and B, even if A is short-lived. Just
because B ends up later with some memories---
and we know from memory addition arguments
that this often means absolutely nothing---does
not imply that B is somehow a more legitimate
or true version of you than A is.

> If you believe you might be tortured, then that
> belief is based on faith rather than experience.

It is based upon a simple *understanding* of the
situation that is being outlined. It is not based on
faith anymore than your understanding of air
traffic control is based on faith. If you claim to
understand air traffic control, and commend your
fate to the controllers, then you probably understand
air traffic control as well as you understand the
simple A - B scenario you outlined here. The
reasons are all very clear for what a person
ought to believe (if you ask me), and the necessary
actions that follow are (to me) equally clear. You
should pay the $2 so that you are not tortured for
such a long time (*regardless* of whether you
remember it or not).

> Faith says that you are going to step into a booth
> and be crushed with 100% probability,

No, a mere objective examination of the apparatus
and the physical entity that gets trapped in it say
that you (clearly the physical entity in question
totally regardless of whatever else may be happening
at remote stations) will be crushed with 100% probability.

It's important to focus upon that point. *Anyone* who
objectively assesses that some other bad thing could
happen to you (e.g. the IRS comes after you next week
say with 100% probability), and who tries to specify
exactly what that means by physics, will also come to
inescapable conclusion that Matt will be with 100%
probability crushed (quite regardless that elsewhere
in time in space, near or far, there may be other copies
of Matt receiving other experiences).

> so you will probably pay the $2. But after repeating
> enough times and always ending up at B, you will at
> some point decide to save the money.

Maybe; but you'd either have to be very broke or
be very much of a tightwad. But that we are sometimes
inevitably led to poor decisions was explained in the
thread I started "The Clock/Torture Experiment".
And I believe therefore that it is not entirely relevant
what one "eventually decides to do", because objectively,
that may be the worse outcome for one.

> If you prefer, think of teleportation as equivalent
> to being tortured and then having the memory of
> the torture erased.

It is not the same thing at all! The you who was
being tortured, i.e. the you that existed at that
point in time, is just as much a valid you as you
are. It would be a bad thing for you if we woke
you up every day at 3am and tortured you for
an hour, even if we managed to erase all the
memories subsequently. It's simply clear that
under such a scenario it is objectively true that
your live (by your lights) does not go as well
for you as in the case where you are not tortured.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:01:02 MDT