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kebwi comments on Identity map - Less Wrong Discussion

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

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Comment author: kebwi 16 August 2016 06:02:34AM *  2 points [-]

I don't mean to sound harsh below Alexey. On the whole, I think you've done a wonderful job, but that said, here's my take...

I personally think the question is poorly phrased. Throughout the document, Turchin asks the question "will some future entity be me?" The copy problem, which he takes as one of the central issues at task, demonstrates why this question is so poorly formulated, for it leads us into such troublesome quandaries and paradoxes. I think the future-oriented question (will a future entity be me?) is simply a nonsense question, perhaps best conceptualized by the fact that the future doesn't exist and therefore it violates some fundamental temporal property to speak about things as if they already exist and are available for scrutiny. They don't and it is wrong to do so.

I think the only rational way to pose the question is past-oriented: "was some past entity me?" Notice how simply and totally the copy problem evaporates in this context. Two current people can both give a positive answer to the question via a branching scenario in which one person splits into two, perhaps physically, perhaps psychologically (informationally). Despite both answering "yes", practically all the funny questions and challenges just go away when we phrase the question in a past-oriented manner. Asking which of multiple future people is you paralyzes you with some "choice" to be made from the available future options. Hence the paradox. But asking which past person of you puts no choice on the table. The copy scenario always consists of a single person splitting, and so there is only one ancestor from which a descendant could claim to have derived. No choice from a set of available people enters into the question.

One question claws its way back into the discussion though. If current persons A and B both answer "yes" to identifying with past C, then does that somehow make them identified with one another? That can be a highly problematic notion since they can seem to be so irrefutably different, both in their memories and in their "conscious states" (and also in their physical aspects if one cares about physical or body identity). The solution to this addition problem is simple however: identity is not transitive to begin with. Thus, the fact that A is C and B is C does not imply that A is B in the first place. It never implied that anyway, so why even entertain the question? No, of course A and B aren't the same, and yet they are both still identified as C. No problem.

Draw a straight line segment. At one end, deviate with smooth curvature to bend the line to the left. But also deviate from the same point to the right. As we trace along the line, approaching the branch point, we are faced with the classic question: which of the impending branches is the line? We can follow either branch with smooth curvature, which is one good definition of a line "identity" (with lines switching identity at sharp angles). The question is unanswerable since either branch could be identified as the original, yet we are phrasing the question so as to insist upon one choice. I maintain that the question is literally nonsense. Now, pick an arbitrary point on either of the branches, looking back along its history and ask which set of points along its smooth curvature are the same line as that branch? For each branch we can conclude that points along the segment prior to the split are the same line as the branch itself, yet the branches are not equivalent to one another since that would require turning a sharp corner to switch branches. How is this possible? Simple. It is not a transitive relation. It never was.

Turchin pays very minor attention to branching (or splitting) identity in his map, which I think is disappointing since it is likely the best model of identity available.

And that is why I advocate for branching identity in my book and my various articles and papers. I just genuinely think it is the closest theory of identity available to an actual notion of some fundamental truth, assuming there is any such thing on these matters.

Comment author: FeepingCreature 09 September 2016 09:39:40AM 0 points [-]

The past doesn't exist either.

Comment author: turchin 16 August 2016 08:00:49AM 0 points [-]

The reason why I look into the future identity is that most problems with copies arise in decision theory and in expectations of next experience.

For example, I live my live, but someone collect information about me, and using AI create my poor non-exact model of me one day in strange place. Should I add my expectation that I will find myself in strange place?

Comment author: kebwi 16 August 2016 02:34:59PM 0 points [-]

That's fine, but we should phrase the question differently. Instead of asking "Should I add my expectation that I will find myself in strange place?" we should ask "Will that future person, looking back, perceive that I (now) am its former self?"

As to the unrelated question of whether a poor or non-exact model is sufficient to indicate preservation of identity, there is much to consider about which aspects are important (physical or psychological) and how much precision is required in the model in order to deem it a preservation of identity -- but none of that has to do with the copy problem. The copy problem is orthogonal to the sufficient-model-precision question.

The copy problem arises in the first place because we are posing the question literally backwards (*). By posing the question pastward instead of futureward, the copy problem just vanishes. It becomes a misnomer in fact.

The precision problem then remains an entirely valid area of unrelated inquiry, but should not be conflated with the copy problem. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other.

(*): As I said, I'm not sure it's even proper to contemplate the status of nonexistent things, like future things. Does "having a status" require already existing? What we can do is consider what their status will be once they are in the present and can be considered by comparison to their own past (our present), but we can't ask if their "current" future status has some value relative to our current present, because they have no status to begin with.

Comment author: WhySpace 17 August 2016 04:48:53PM *  0 points [-]

The copy problem is also irrelevant for utilitarians, since all persons should be weighted equally under most utilitarian moral theories.

It's only an issue for self-interested actors. So, if spurs A and B both agree that A is C and B is C, that still doesn't help. Are the converse statements true? A selfish C will base their decisions on whether C is A.

I tend to view this as another nail in the coffin of ethical egoism. I lean toward just putting a certain value on each point in mind-space, with high value for human-like minds, and smaller or zero value on possible agents which don't pique our moral impulses.

Comment author: turchin 16 August 2016 03:07:23PM 0 points [-]

While I like your approach in general as it promise to provide simple test for copy problem, I have some objections

  1. In fact the term "copy" is misleading, and we should broke it on several terms. One of the is "my future state". Future state is not copy by definition, as it different, but it could remember my past.

  2. As "future state" is different from me, it opens all the hell of questions about not exact copies. Future state of me is not-exact copy of me which is different from me by the fact that it remembers me now as its past. It may be also different in other things. In fact you said that "not-exact copy of me which remember me in my past - is me anyway". So you suggested a principle how prove identity of non-exact-copyes.

  3. I will not remember most of my life moments. So they are dead ends in my life story. If we agree with your definition of identity it would mean that I die thousand times a day. Not pleasant and not productive model.

  4. There will be false positives too. An impostor who claims to be Napoleon and has some knowledge of Napoleon's life and last days, will be Napoleon by this definition of identity.

  5. It will fail if we will try to connect early childhood of a person and his old state. Being 60 years old he has no any memory of being 3 years old, and not much similar personal traits. The definition of identity as "moving average continuity" (not in the map yet) could easily overcome this non natural situation.

  6. We could reformulate many experiment in the way that copies exist in the past. For example, each day of the weak a copy of me appear in a cell, and he doesn't know which day it is. (Something like Sleeping beauty experiment) In this case some of his copies are in the past from his point in timeline, and some may be in the future, but he should reason as if they all exist actually and simultaneously.

But I also like your intuition about the problem of actuality, that is if only moment now is real, no copies exist at all. Only "me now" exist. It closes the copy problem, but not closes the problem of "future state".

In fact, I have bad news for any reader who happens to be here: the "copy problems" is not about copies. It is about next state of my mind, which is by definition not my copy.

Comment author: WhySpace 17 August 2016 05:04:06PM *  0 points [-]

3. I will not remember most of my life moments. So they are dead ends in my life story. If we agree with your definition of identity it would mean that I die thousand times a day. Not pleasant and not productive model.

I'm not sure if you've made this mistake or not, but I know I have in the past. Just because something is unimaginably horrible doesn't mean it isn't also true.

It's possible that we are all dying every Plank time, and that our CEV's would judge this as an existential holocaust. I think that's unlikely, but possible.

Comment author: turchin 17 August 2016 06:00:34PM 0 points [-]

I don't think it is true, I just said that it follows from the definition of identity based on ability to remember past moments.

In real life we use more complex understanding of identity, where it is constantly verified by multiple independent channels (I am overstraching here). if i don't remember what I did yesterday, there still my non changing attributes like name, and also causal continuity of experiences.

Comment author: WhySpace 17 August 2016 07:34:34PM 1 point [-]

Ah, thanks for the clarification. I interpreted it as a reductio ad absurdum.