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

From: Bradley Thomas (
Date: Sun Dec 06 2009 - 10:54:55 MST

>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.
To me, this is just flat wrong, not less wrong! The "thread" that causally
ties one subjective experience to the next, or one observer moment to the
next, is the physical manifestation of that experience (e.g.
electrical/chemical signals) in physical matter (e.g. neurons/transistors).
The reason I don't wake up feeling like Britney Spears some mornings is
obvious. I don't have her body and brain. I have my body and brain. Clearly
my subjective experiences are dependent on my physical makeup. If my
physical body woke up in her bed and someone came in and told me I had dance
rehearsal at 11am, I still wouldn't feel like Britney Spears. I'd wonder
what the hell happened although it might be fun to play along to see if
anyone noticed.
That's also why I believe this physical body [taps self] will still produce
the subjective experience of Brad Thomasness -- with certainty -- not 50% or
any other number -- even after this physical body is cloned or uploaded.
In my view it makes no sense to say that OM2 is causally computed from OM1
and yet there is no connection between them. A causal effect is a logical
relationship and a logical relationship models nothing real unless it models
some kind of interaction subject to physical law in space-time, i.e. some
kind of physical connection.
Brad Thomas <>
Twitter @bradleymthomas, @instansa

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Frank Adamek
Sent: Sunday, December 06, 2009 9:54 AM
Subject: Re: Copying nonsense (was Re: [sl4] Uploading (was : goals of AI))

--- 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

-- Matt Mahoney,

Thanks for the debate,
-Frank Adamek

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