X-Message-Number: 25399
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2004 10:35:54 EST
Subject: twin experiment

Francois writes in part:

Suppose  I am anesthetized and put through an atom for atom copying process.
My copy  and I are then placed in a room together and allowed to wake up. We
are not  told which is the original and which is the copy. Is there a way for
us to  decide simply by careful introspection? If there isn't, are the
notions of  original and copy still important?

Many people keep getting hung up on this point. Language is tricky, and you  
must keep careful track of what you say vs. what you mean or what you  want.
If two or more copies or "instantiations" are sufficiently alike--no  matter 
how they got that way!--then it is trivially true that they will think  and 
feel alike, hence could not make any distinction by introspection, and if  

location doesn't matter they would be interchangeable from the point of view of
outside party.
But that is not the issue!
Even Thomas Donaldson has repeatedly referred to what some version of a  
person "would" feel, as though that were all that mattered. Lots of people  
frequently are mistaken or deluded or misled by intuition. Lots of people are  
satisfied by illusions, or fail to be satisfied by logic that ought to be  
If Scotty's beam-me-up machine were ever built and seemed to work, with  
duplicates reporting "success," then undoubtedly most people would be  

satisfied--and their satisfaction might be fatal. Moslem martyrs are  satisfied 
without any reports of success. 
Here's a slightly different thought experiment that might be helpful in  
recognizing the importance of physical location and continuity:
You doubtless feel that "you" would not survive merely because one of your  

children survives--even though you might derive some comfort from that thought.
 (The "comfort" means little or nothing--all kinds of notions sometimes bring 
 comfort for no good reason.) If your twin survives--the closest possible  

relationship--that is still not your survival, unless you choose to think of it
as partial survival, which would be an arbitrary attitude. If your twin 
somehow  grew up almost exactly like you, much more similar than ordinary 
"identical"  twins, that would *still* not be "you" in your estimation, in all 
probability.  So we have another "continuum" puzzle.
Again, the only likely solution I see is the quantitative view, viz., that  
systems at different locations are the "same" in the ways and to the extent 

that  they are the same, and otherwise different. Thus they differ by location 
 least, and hence necessarily in other ways as well, although not necessarily 
in  important ways. If we adopt my suggestion that survival requires physical 
 continuity or overlap in matter, space, and time, then significant elements 
of  our intuition are protected. 
Intuition is fallible and educable, but almost everyone tries to honor  the 
spirit of intellectual economy--if two ideas are otherwise of equal merit,  we 
prefer the one that requires the least change of viewpoint or that least  

conflicts with intuition. Patternism is in radical conflict with intuition,  
the quantitative view is not. Patternism also appears to give up on  

scientific or logical choice and require an arbitrary stance, saying that  
"truth" is 
unprovable in this connection or possibly meaningless. The  quantitative view, 
on the other hand, is strictly in line with traditional  science, saying 
nothing that is not confirmable in principle. 
Robert Ettinger

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