Re: [sl4] Uploading into a deterministic sim vs Many worlds

From: Matt Mahoney (
Date: Mon Oct 27 2008 - 18:49:24 MDT

--- On Mon, 10/27/08, Stathis Papaioannou <> wrote:

> 2008/10/27 Matt Mahoney <>:
> > --- On Sun, 10/26/08, Stathis Papaioannou
> <> wrote:
> >
> >> > Let's say you believe in many worlds and you are
> >> offered the chance to run a simulation of your brain in a
> >> plausible, deterministic simulated world such that the
> >> simulation would predict your behavior in the real world in
> >> every case where the model agrees with reality. You know
> >> that the model is not entirely accurate because your
> >> simulation will be immortal, although the details of what
> >> that entails have not been specified. At the instant you
> >> flip the switch to start the simulation, you will be
> >> vaporized. Will you (not should you) flip the switch?
> >>
> >> Yes: it's the same as ordinary life, when your previous
> >> self disappears utterly from the universe as soon as the moment
> >> passes.
> >
> > That's not the question. The question is what
> *will* a brain that has evolved to fear death do? I suppose
> that some brains could override instinct and be convinced
> that their consciousness transfers to the simulation, but
> they won't pass on their DNA.
> A brain that has evolved to fear death needs to have a notion of what
> death is. Questions about personal identity are questions about the
> definition of death. We can say that *either* destructive copying is
> not death *or* ordinary life where your previous self disappears
> utterly from the universe as soon as the moment passes is death.

A lot of philosophical arguments are the result of confusing evolved beliefs like fear of things that can kill us, consciousness, free will, and good and bad, with actual truth. When a question is phrased in terms of observable events in such a way as to maintain the distinction between belief and truth, as in my example, then the answer becomes just a matter of working out what a brain-computer will output for a given input.

To answer your question, I was not quite correct in saying that humans have evolved to fear death. Animals and small children that have no concept of death still have an evolved fear of most of the things that can kill them. Adult humans have learned to associate these things with death. For the case of destructive uploading, no association has been learned either way. However, we can predict what will happen. If you see your dead friends and relatives appear to be brought back to life as machines, and if those machines deny that the process involved pain, then you will not fear uploading.

-- Matt Mahoney,

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