X-Message-Number: 13007
Date: Sun, 26 Dec 1999 23:10:49 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Potentials, Actuality, Suffering, Existence

Bob Ettinger writes:

>Basically, the 
>hard-core strong-AI people say the abstract is as good as the concrete, the 
>potential as good as the actual, the map as good as the territory, a 
>description of a thing essentially the same as the thing itself. This may 
>turn out to be true, but I strongly doubt it. 
I wouldn't go so far as to say that "the potential is as good as the actual"
(and I am a pretty hard-core strong AI advocate). For instance, the digits
of pi in base 10 are probably random enough that any finite string of digits
can be found in them, and even infinitely often. So somewhere, presumbably,
there is a finite string that describes everything that has happened in our
finite universe since the Big Bang, at the quantum level. (A very big
string, of course.) You and me are there, doing our things. But I don't see
this as quite the same as you and me here and now. And I don't think one is
forced to conclude "pi is conscious" or some such thought just because one
chooses to regard as conscious a certain robot with a sequential processor.

Keith Rene Dugue writes:

>I did not say that a state of non-existence should be considered , or
actually is, >"worse" than any state of existence. What I did say was that
"There can be no >death advantage simply because once one does not exist one
can no longer >appreciate the purported advantage. ..."

If there is no death advantage then it's hard to see how one could consider
the state of non-existence any *better* than any other state, however bad.
To me, it might be said that one can "benefit" from some things without
being aware of them. There might pain I have never experienced, and I
benefit by not experiencing it, I would say, even in dreamless sleep, when
effectively I am, temporarily,  nonexistent.

>You seem to be saying that suffering is dependant on existence.

Yes indeed, or more precisely, "existence as a conscious being."

> But so is one's ability to comprehend ,be aware and appreciate that one is
not >suffering. 

Again, I think one can benefit from *not* experiencing a negative, even when

>What  one can not be aware of is irrelevant to that individual.

With this I disagree. Would you rather be trapped in a lake of lava forever,
or totally oblivious? Or closer to home, suppose an evil terrorist has
kidnapped you, who is very good at excruciating, utterly unbearable,
horrifying torture. And he is going to kill you, but you have a choice. (1)
You can elect to take a painless, lethal injection that will end your life
after 6 hours of total unconsciousness. (2) You can be wide awake but
tortured for 6 hours first, then killed. These are your only two choices.
Which would you choose? If it is (1), how do you justify this? Being totally
unconscious, it would seem you cannot appreciate the benefit. So would you
then choose torture, or not care one way or the other?

> My garbage can is not suffering (for reasons other than

Sorry, I missed the end of the message.

Actually, as an additional comment, I find myself agreeing with Bob
Ettinger, that life potentially is something of value, with a preponderance
of satisfaction over dissatisfaction. In particular, don't think anyone will
be endlessly tortured. (As another possibility, I also believe in an
"afterlife" of sorts, a duplicate of you must inevitably recur, given the
sort of reality we inhabit, so no state of oblivion can be final.)

Another thought is that a death advantage may well seem more real to someone
who believes (unlike me) that eventual death is inevitable anyway.

Mike Perry

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