Re: Copying nonsense (was Re: [sl4] Uploading (was : goals of AI))

From: Frank Adamek (
Date: Sun Dec 06 2009 - 07:53:42 MST

--- On Sat, 12/5/09, Matt Mahoney <> wrote:
If a copy of you is made by some means then there will be two people who claim to be you. If one of them is killed then one of them is killed.
I quite agree with this. 

You ask which copy will be you? What will you experience? These are not well formed questions because "you" is not a well defined concept in a world where minds can be copied. The question only has artificial importance because of this evolved belief in this nonexistent thing that people so desperately want to preserve, sometimes called a "consciousness", "qualia", "experience", or a "soul" that has absolutely no effect on behavior. So why even talk about it? If you taboo the words "you" and "I" then there is no controversy whatsoever.
It really seems about time for a philosopher (or whoever) to define some new words with a finer grain. Even on the scale of a society, it looks like we we'll need them. I agree those terms are tricky. I have strong suspicions that upwards of 50% of disagreement stems from different uses of them. I've tried to stay away from them, except in asking "what do you expect to experience?". In this case however, I'm referring to "you" in the now sense, before uploading, when the concept is more solid. 
I still feel like the point of the disagreement is not well understood by many. I'll make one last quick attempt to lay it out like I see it, and try to make this balanced in terms of word use (e.g. not calling anything from either perspective "magical"). There is indeed no effect on behavior, the concern is for something different (noting that such non-objective concerns are rare/nonexistent in every other aspect of life). Everyone seems to agree that -assuming sufficient technology - each instance will experience the same things: everyone will remember their life as the unique person, and those in new locations will simply perceive that they have been teleported. 
We strive for pleasurable future experience. The critical question is whether - in normal life - whether we are justified in expecting to experience anything. To have it explained by someone with higher status than I, I quote Yudkowsky from his LW article on The Anthropic Trilemma. 

"And the third horn (ETA: possible solution) of the trilemma is to reject the idea of the personal future - that there's any meaningful sense in which I can anticipate waking up as myself tomorrow, rather than Britney Spears.  Or, for that matter, that there's any meaningful sense in which I can anticipate being myself in five seconds, rather than Britney Spears.  In five seconds there will be an Eliezer Yudkowsky, and there will be a Britney Spears, but it is meaningless to speak of the currentEliezer "continuing on" as Eliezer+5 rather than Britney+5; these are simply three different people we are talking about.
There are no threads connecting subjective experiences.  There are simply different subjective experiences.  Even if some subjective experiences are highly similar to, and causally computed from, other subjective experiences, they are not connected.I still have trouble biting that bullet for some reason.  Maybe I'm naive, I know, but there's a sense in which I just can't seem to let go of the question, "What will I see happen next?" "

So maybe we can't expect to "continue on" as our future selves, maybe we can. If we can, then we have a reason to try to preserve whatever allows us to "continue on". If we can't ever expect to do this, then we never have to be concerned about it. And yes, once again, I agree that there are no objective differences, and that to be so concerned with something unmeasurable is unusual or unique. I do not find this terribly surprising, as this issue disassembles the very subject, in the grammatical sense. Like you suggested, it is quite possible that there is no "continuing on". It is impossible to measure or test for it (AFAIK), and for that reason it is quite unjustified to assume it does or does not exist.  
Really, this whole discussion is getting tedious. I could go through the SL4 archives and find a dozen more just like it if I didn't have more important things to do with my time.
It's my first time with such a discussion so it's still fun for me, but I realize it's not the first time for others. My concern is whether any fence-sitters will be left with a suggestion of some large hole (as I see it) in this perspective, but I will make a strong effort to resist further replies. 

 -- Matt Mahoney,

Thanks for the debate,-Frank Adamek

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