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RobbBB comments on Causal Universes - Less Wrong

60 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 29 November 2012 04:08AM

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Comment author: CronoDAS 28 November 2012 09:17:07PM *  25 points [-]

when billions of people are extinguished and replaced by slightly different versions of themselves.

This happens in the ordinary passage of time anyway. (Stephen King's story "The Langoliers" plays this for horror - the reason the past no longer exists is because monsters are eating it.)

Comment author: RobbBB 29 November 2012 02:13:37AM 10 points [-]

If your theory of time is 4-dimensionalist, then you might think the past people are 'still there,' in some timeless sense, rather than wholly annihilated. Interestingly, you might (especially if you reject determinism) think that moving through time involves killing (possible) futures, rather than (or in addition to) killing the past.

Comment author: grobstein 29 November 2012 05:28:10PM 3 points [-]

Hard to see why you can't make a version of this same argument, at an additional remove, in the time travel case. For example, if you are a "determinist" and / or "n-dimensionalist" about the "meta-time" concept in Eliezer's story, the future people who are lopped off the timeline still exist in the meta-timeless eternity of the "meta-timeline," just as in your comment the dead still exist in the eternity of the past.

In the (seemingly degenerate) hypothetical where you go back in time and change the future, I'm not sure why we should prefer to say that we "destroy" the "old" future, rather than simply that we disconnect it from our local universe. That might be a horrible thing to do, but then again it might not be. There's lots of at-least-conceivable stuff that is disconnected from our local universe.

Comment author: SilasBarta 03 December 2012 07:44:39PM 1 point [-]

Yes, that seems more consistent with the rest of the sequences (and indeed advocacy of cryonics/timeless identity). "You" are a pattern, not a specific collection of atoms. So if the pattern persists (as per successive moments of time, or destroying and re-creating the pattern), so do "you".

Comment author: RobbBB 03 December 2012 09:14:44PM *  0 points [-]

Sure. At the same time, it's important to note that this is a 'you' by stipulation. The question of how to define self-identity for linguistic purposes (e.g., the scope of pronouns) is independent of the psychological question 'When do I feel as though something is 'part of me'?', and both of these are independent of the normative question 'What entities should I act to preserve in the same way that I act to preserve my immediate person?' It may be that there is no unique principled way to define the self, in which case we should be open to shifting conceptions based on which way of thinking is most useful in a given situation.

This is one of the reasons the idea of my death does not terrify me. The idea of death in general is horrific, but the future I who will die will only be somewhat similar to my present self, differing only in degree from my similarity to other persons. I fear death, not just 'my' death.

Comment author: SilasBarta 03 December 2012 09:16:35PM 1 point [-]

Sure, but my point is that most of the commentary on this site, or that is predicated on the Sequences, assumes the equivalence of all of those.

Comment author: Caspar42 16 February 2018 05:09:26PM 0 points [-]

(RobbBB seems to refer to what philosophers call the B-theory of time, whereas CronoDAS seems to refer to the A-theory of time.)