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turchin comments on Identity map - Less Wrong Discussion

7 Post author: turchin 15 August 2016 11:29AM

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Comment author: turchin 15 August 2016 12:55:35PM 0 points [-]

Expected pain paradox may be used to demonstrate difficulty of the identity problem. For example you know that tomorrow your leg will be cut without anesthesias and you are obviously afraid. But then a philosopher comes and says that unlimited number of your copies exist in the worlds there your leg will not be cut and moreover there is no persistent Self so it will be not you tomorrow. How it will change your feeling and expectations?

No matter how many your copies exist outside and how many interesting theories of identity you know, it doesn't change the fact that you will have severe pain very soon.

Comment author: le4fy 15 August 2016 01:58:08PM *  1 point [-]

I'm reading Robin Hanson's Age of Em right now, and some of his analysis of mind emulations might help here. He explains that emulations have the ability to copy themselves into other ems that will from the moment of copying onward have different experiences and therefore act and think differently. That is to say, even if you are aware of many copies of yourself existing in other worlds, they are effectively different people from the moment of copying onward. The fact remains that you are the one that will experience the pain and have to live with that memory and without a leg.

Maybe the identity question can be approached with some sort of continuity of experience argument. Even if minds can be copied easily, you can trace an individual identity by what they have experienced and will experience. Many copies may share past experiences, but their experiences will diverge at the point of copying, from which point you can refer to them as separate identities.

Comment author: turchin 15 August 2016 02:31:42PM 1 point [-]

There is a way to escape the cutting leg experiment. It is named create indexical uncertainty.

Lets create million your copies all of which will have the exactly same information as you: than their leg will be cut, but their leg will not be cut after all.

Them everybody is informed about the situation, including original, and all of them are still in the same state of mind, that is they are identical copies.

But each of them could conclude that they have 1 in 1 000 000 chance of leg cut, which is negligible. Original could have the same logic. And he will be surprised when his leg will be cut.

So the question is how properly calculate probabilities from the point of vies of original in this situation. One line of reasoning gives 1 in million probability and another 100 per cent.

Comment author: le4fy 15 August 2016 02:50:28PM 1 point [-]

I don't agree that the indexical uncertainty argument works in this case. If you assume there are a million copies of you in the same situation, then every copy's posterior must be that their leg will be cut off.

If you know that only one copy's leg will be cut, however, then I agree that you may hold a posterior of experiencing pain 1/1000000. But that seems to me a different situation where the original question is no longer interesting. It's not interesting because for that situation to arise would mean confirmation of many-worlds theories and the ability to communicate across them, which seems like adding way too much complexity to your original setup.

Comment author: turchin 15 August 2016 04:22:49PM 0 points [-]

Look, it will work if it will done in several stages.

1) I am alone and I know that my leg will be cut 2) A friend of mine created 1 000 000 copies, all of them think that their leg will be cut 3) He informs all copies and me about his action, everybody is excited.

I don't see it as confirmation to MW, as it assumed to be done via some kind of scanner in one world, but yes it is similar to MW and may be useful example to estimate subjective probabilities in some thought experiments like quantum suicide with external conditions (and also copies).

Comment author: g_pepper 15 August 2016 05:46:54PM *  1 point [-]

It seems to me that you have 1,000,000 different people, one of whom is going to get his/her leg cut off. The fact that they are all copies of one another seems irrelevant. The same relief that each of the 1,000,000 people in your example feels (in your step 3) upon learning that there is only 1/1000000 chance of loosing a leg would be felt by each of 1,000,000 randomly selected strangers if you:

  • Told each individually that he/she would have his/her leg cut off
  • Then told each that only one member of the group would be randomly selected to have his/her leg cut off

So I guess I do not see how this example tells us anything about identity.

Comment author: turchin 15 August 2016 06:21:41PM 0 points [-]

One way to look at it is as of a trick to solve different identity puzzles.

Another possible idea is to generalise it in a principle: "I am a class of all beings from which I can't distinguish myself."

There is only one real test on identity, that is the question: "What I will feel in the next moment?" Any identity theory must provide plausible answer to it.

Identity theories belong to two main classes: the ones which show real nature of identity and the ones that contract useful identity theory if identity doesn't have any intrinsic nature.

And if identity is a construction we may try to construct it in the most useful and simple way, which is also don't contradict our intuitive representation of what identity is (which are complex biological and cultural adaption).

It is like "love" - everybody could feel it, as it evolved biologically and culturally, but if we try to give it short logical definition, we are in troubles.

So, defining identity as a subset of all beings from which I can't distinguish myself may be not real nature of identity, but useful construction. I will not insist that it is the best construction.

Comment author: g_pepper 15 August 2016 06:49:14PM 0 points [-]

I agree that identity

is like "love" - everybody could feel it, as it evolved biologically and culturally, but if we try to give it short logical definition, we are in troubles

And, there are other things that most people experience but that are hard to define and can seem paradoxical, e.g. consciousness and free will.

However, you said that we can generalize your leg-amputation thought experiment as a principle: "I am a class of all beings from which I can't distinguish myself." I don't understand what you mean by this - your thought experiment involving 1,000,000 copies of a person seems equivalent to my thought experiment invovling 1,000,000 strangers. So, I do not see how being a member of a class from which I can't distinguish myself is relevant.

Comment author: turchin 15 August 2016 07:32:10PM *  0 points [-]

The strangers are identical in this aspect and are different in other aspects.

it is all similar to social approach to identity. (It is useful for understanding, but final solution should be more complex, so I would say that it is my final opinion.)

The idea is to define identity not trough something about me, but through my difference with other people, so identity is not substance but form of relation with others.

The identity exist only in social situations, where at least several people exist (or their copies), if only one being would exist in the universe it probably will not have idea or problems with identity.

For social situation it is important to distinguish identity of different people, based on their identity tags (name and face). Even I have to remember who I am and scan my live situation every morning. So my personal feeling of identity is in some sense my representation of my self as it would be seen from the social point of view.

If I see my friend F. and he looks like F and correctly reacts on identification procedures (recognises me and reacts on his name), I think that he is F. (Duck test). But in fact infinite number of different possible beings could past the same test.

And interesting thing is that a person could run this identification test for hum self. (And fail: Once i was baby-sitting Lisa's two children and stay in their home. I woke up in the morning and thought that two my children are sleeping and I am in Lisa's bed, so I should be Lisa. In 0.5 second I woke up a little bit more and understood that I am not Lisa and I am even male.)

I tell all it to show how being a member of a class could be good approximation of identity. But real identity should be more complex thing.

Comment author: g_pepper 15 August 2016 08:13:38PM 0 points [-]

I understand that identity is too complex to figure out in this comment thread. However, any theory of identity that defines or approximates identity as "a member of a class" is apt to badly miss encapsulating most people's understanding of identity, as illustrated by the fact that my reaction to having my own leg cut off is going to be significantly different than is my reaction to a copy of me having his leg cut off. I wouldn't be happy about either situation, but I'd be much less happy at having my own leg cut off than I would about a copy of me having his leg cut off.

Comment author: turchin 15 August 2016 02:25:29PM 1 point [-]

There is a problem with idea of continuity as a nature of identity, as some people suggested different meaning of it:

  1. "Informational continuity" is when I remember in the moment N+1 my state of consciousness in the moment N. The problem: Every morning when I suddenly get up I have discontinuity in my memory stream as I loose memory of my dreams. Am I dead every morning?

  2. Causal continuity. The main question here is continuity of what - of element of stream of conscuisness which creates next element in the next moment even if they are not remembered (so here arise difference with informational continuity idea), or causal continuity of underlying mechanism of brain. The main problem here will be that I will be not able (probably) feel if my causal stream was stopped and when restarted. (or i could feel it as one moment blackout which i will not remember?)

Comment author: le4fy 15 August 2016 02:12:15PM 0 points [-]

Another way to think about it may be in terms of conservation of experience. You cannot really be comforted by the fact that many copies of you exist in other places, because one of those copies must experience and retain the memory of this horrible event.

Comment author: turchin 15 August 2016 02:39:36PM *  0 points [-]

But it result in even more complex moral problems.

1) I am really uncomforted with the fact that other people had suffered unbearable suffering (true about me).

2) In the infinite universe should exist infinite number of my copies which experience all types of sufferings. F... :(