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Kaj_Sotala comments on The curse of identity - Less Wrong

125 Post author: Kaj_Sotala 17 November 2011 07:28PM

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Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 17 November 2011 04:15:53PM *  15 points [-]

There are many modules, running different algorithms. I identify with my conscious modules, which quite often lose out to the non-conscious ones.

I find the claim "you are the sum of your conscious and non-conscious modules, so whatever they produce as their overall output is what you want" to be rather similar to the claim that "you are the sum of your brain and body, so whatever they produce as their overall output is what you want". Both might be considered technically true, but it still seems odd to say that a paraplegic could walk if he wanted to, and him not walking just demonstrates that he doesn't really want to.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 17 November 2011 04:25:33PM 1 point [-]

While we're at it, there's also the claim that I am the sum of the conscious and unconscious modules of everyone living in Massachusetts. And an infinite number of other claims along those lines.

Many of these sorts of claims seem odd to me as well.

Comment author: [deleted] 17 November 2011 06:05:52PM 0 points [-]

Both might be considered technically true, but it still seems odd to say that a paraplegic could walk if he wanted to, and him not walking just demonstrates that he doesn't really want to.

There is a difference between preferences and constraints. See e.g. Caplan.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 17 November 2011 07:15:35PM *  1 point [-]

Hmm. It occurs to me that this disagreement might be because my original description of the issue mentioned several different scenarios, which I did not clearly differentiate between.

Scenario one: a person who wants to do prestigious jobs for a charity. Depending on the person, it could be that this is genuinely his preference, which won't change even if consciously realizes that this is his preference. In that scenario, then yes, it's just a preference and there's no problem as such. (Heck, I know I could never get any major project done if there wasn't some status pull involved in the project, somehow.) On the other hand, the person might want to change his behavior if he realized how and why he was acting.

Scenario two: a person wants to e.g. graduate from school, but he's having a hard time studying effectively because he isn't fully motivated on a subconscious level. This would correspond to what Caplan defines as a constraint:

If a person had 24 hours of time to divide between walking and resting, and a healthy person faced budget constraint A, then after contracting the flu or cancer, the same person would face a budget constraint such as B. A sufficiently sick person might collapse if he tried to walk for more than a few miles – suffering from reduced endurance as well as reduced speed. Then the budget constraint of the sick person would differ more starkly from the healthy person's, as shown by the kinked constraint in Figure 2.

This person tries to get studying done, and devotes a lot of time and energy to it. But because his subconscious gaols aren't fully aligned with his conscious goals, he needs to allocate far more time and energy to studying than the person whose subconscious goals are fully aligned with his conscious goals.

Comment author: [deleted] 17 November 2011 07:46:46PM *  2 points [-]

I don't think the second kind is really a constraint. It's more like the ADD child example Caplan uses:

A few of the symptoms of inattention [...] are worded to sound more like constraints. However, each of these is still probably best interpreted as descriptions of preferences. As the DSM uses the term, a person who "has difficulty" "sustaining attention in tasks or play activities" could just as easily be described as "disliking" sustaining attention. Similarly, while "is often forgetful in daily activities" could be interpreted literally as impaired memory, in context it refers primarily to conveniently forgetting to do things you would rather avoid. No one accuses a boy diagnosed with ADHD of forgetting to play videogames.

I can easily frame the student as disliking studying (for good reasons - it's hard work and probably pretty useless for their goals) and thus playing up the pain. This episode of struggle and suffering itself is useful, so they keep it up. Why should I conclude that this is a problematic conflict and not a good compromise? And even if I accept the goal conflict, why side with the lamenting part? Why not with the part that is bored and hates the hard work, and certainly doesn't want to get more effective and study even more?

(I think I have clarified my position enough and the attempts by others haven't helped me to understand your claim. I don't want to get into an "I value this part" debate. These have never been constructive before, so I'm going to drop it now.)