tldr; It is incoherent to talk about a "you" which stretches through time.  Instead, we should think of a series of similar mind-moments.

Once upon a time, there was a little boy, who answered to the name Lucas Sloan and was scared of dying. I too answer to the name Lucas Sloan, and I remember being afraid of dying. Little Lucas wasn't scared of the present state of affairs, but it is fairly obvious that Little Lucas isn't around anymore. By any practical definition, Little Lucas is dead, he only exists as a memory in my mind and more indirectly in the minds of others. Little Lucas did not care that other people remembered him, he cared that he did not die. So what is this death thing, if Little Lucas was scared of it, but was not scared of the present situation?

I would now like to introduce the term mind-moment. I'm not sure quite how to define that, it may have to mean a single plank-time snapshot of a mind, or it might be as much as a couple weeks. I doubt that what I mean by this is anywhere near the upper bound I just gave, a more likely upper bound might be about a second - about the time it takes to notice something and realize something is going on.

Confusion about the exact definition of mind-moment aside, I think it is obvious that Little Lucas and I are separate mind-moments. And the fact of the matter is that the mind moment that was Little Lucas no longer exists, that mind-moment is definitely dead, gone, kaput. In fact, if I'm right about what I mean by mind-moment, many mind-moments have ceased exist since I started writing this. And frankly, both of those things are, in fact, good. What would the point be of constantly re-running the same mind-moment over and over again? I certainly don´t want to be caught in a time loop till the end of time, even if I couldn't tell that I was – that would be as much a waste of the future as converting the stars into orgasmium. I want to experience new things, I want to grow and learn. But the problem is that my use of the word I is incoherent - the "me" that experiences those new things, that knows more than I do, is not me. My time is passing, soon enough, I will be the Little Lucas remembered only because he had some interesting ideas.

It's not that I don't want to die, it's that I want there to, in the future, exist happy, fulfilled mind-moments that remember being me. This model neatly solves the problem of the anthropic trilemma, you shouldn't anticipate being one of the winners or losers of the lottery, you should anticipate that at a certain point there will be x mind-moments who won or lost the lottery and remember being you. However, it does make the morality of death a lot more complicated. We shouldn't talk about killing as the action that breaks the status quo, we should instead say that each mind-moment needs to be created, and that mind-moments, once created have a right to the creation of their successors, each of whom retains that right.

This would all be quite simple if each mind-moment had one and only one possible successor. However, this is not the case. In writing this sentence, I could use the verb "use" or "write" and both choices require a separate mind-moment. Which mind-moment should be created? Are we obligated to create both? What if there are a million possible mind-moment successors? Are we obligated to create all of them? I don't think so. I still believe that the creation of minds is an active choice, so we shouldn't create minds without cause.  Recasting life as a series of decisions to create mind moments explains the attractiveness of quantum suicide, you aren't killing yourself, you are refusing to create certain mind-moments.

I still have some questions about life and death.  For example, how quickly do we have to create these mind moments?  It seems wrong to delay the creation of a subsequent mind-moment until the end of the universe, but as long as the next mind moment hasn't been created it isn't entitled to its successor.  Also, are we obligated to create on the best/happiest/most fulfilled successor mind-moments?  It might seem so in a classical universe, but in many worlds, wouldn't doing so result in horrendous duplication of effort?

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Could we please not adopt the "tl;dr" thing? Just cast the abstract in italics, and shift it to the right.

I also would prefer "Abstract:" to "tl;dr:" just because the latter is, to me, language-aesthetically ugly, and also a bad fit: it's kind of like a strained metaphor that doesn't really add to the message.

Or use the words "abstract", "summary" or "précis", even.

I like "tl;dr" - it gives a refreshing air of disrepute to our site. It's a little like quoting anime fanfiction in that respect.

Heartily seconded.

Yeah, just hurry up and whip out your thesis in its proper organizational context.

I would now like to introduce the term mind-moment. I´m not sure quite how to define that, it may have to mean a single plank-time snapshot of a mind, or it might be as much as a couple weeks.

The term-of-art in the philosophy of personal identity literature is "person-stage".

But the problem is that my use of the word I is incoherent - the ¨me¨ that experiences those new things, that knows more than I do, is not me.

You haven't actually shown any incoherence. What you've shown is that we can think of the lives of persons as a series of numerically distinct but psychologically continuous stages. But the word "I" may not refer to person-stages but to the whole person of which those stages are parts or tokens. What it means for "you to die" is for there to be no more person-stages psychologically continuous with your current person-stage. We can still use the same vocabulary, more or less. This goes for any object that changes over time. My Venus Fly Trap isn't numerically identical with the thing that was in my kitchen yesterday, but they're still the same plant.

Which mind-moment should be created? Are we obligated to create both? What if there are a million possible mind-moment successors? Are we obligated to create all of them?

Why is this a "should" question? No. Still no.

Also, are we obligated to create on the best/happiest/most fulfilled successor mind-moments? It might seem so in a classical universe, but in many worlds, wouldn´t doing so result in horendous duplication of effort?

Explain.

You haven't actually shown any incoherence. What you've shown is that we can think of the lives of persons as a series of numerically distinct but psychologically continuous stages. But the word "I" may not refer to person-stages but to the whole person of which those stages are parts or tokens. What it means for "you to die" is for there to be no more person-stages psychologically continuous with your current person-stage. We can still use the same vocabulary, more or less. This goes for any object that changes over time. My Venus Fly Trap isn't numerically identical with the thing that was in my kitchen yesterday, but they're still the same plant.

The point being that the only thing in the picture that can be considered a unitary object is the mind-moment. Subsequent, related mind moments are not the same thing. They are similar, and they remember being the previous ones, but they aren´t the same person.

Why is this a "should" question?

Because creating a new mind is a positive action. We must be careful about the minds we actually create, because we are responsible for what that mind does, and how it feels. A mind which never exists is unremarkable. If we chose to create one, we should be sure it is the right thing to do.

The point being that the only thing in the picture that can be considered a unitary object is the mind-moment. Subsequent, related mind moments are not the same thing. They are similar, and they remember being the previous ones, but they aren´t the same person.

I understand, they're not the same "mind-moment" but it doesn't follow that persons are "unitary" objects. Very few things are unitary objects over time. There is nothing incoherent about having words that refer to objects that undergo change.

Because creating a new mind is a positive action. We must be careful about the minds we actually create, because we are responsible for what that mind does, and how it feels. A mind which never exists is unremarkable. If we chose to create one, we should be sure it is the right thing to do.

To create a new "mind moment" I just wait. Even if I care about the distinction between positive and negative acts (which I think isn't a popular distinction here) "not killing myself" does not strike me as a positive action. The word "choice" doesn't seem right here since it isn't like I can reflect on whether or not to "create" a new mind-moment without, in fact, creating one. The word "create" doesn't seem right either. If an object undergoes change we don't say that the object created a new object.

In general, our ethics seem to apply to persons not person-stages. Facts about persons, like that they are collections of psychologically continuous person-stages can generate paradoxes with ethical implications (the existence of simultaneous copies being one). But it doesn't follow that what we're really concerned about is the stages. Take promises. We have a norm that it is wrong to break promises. But if you insist that the person that made the promise doesn't exist anymore (merely because the same mind-moment doesn't exist anymore) the norm collapses. I suspect this is going to be true with nearly all of our ethics because our norms evolved to deal with persons, not anything else.

The point being that the only thing in the picture that can be considered a unitary object is the mind-moment.

What do you mean by a unitary object? All the phrase suggests to me is certain subatomic particles, believed to not be made of anything smaller. But a mind-moment is a highly complex thing.

If you've not read Derek Parfit's Reasons and Persons, you should; he discusses this and related topics.

but it is fairly obvious that Little Lucas isn't around anymore.

You appear to have "solved" the bulk of the problem by assuming it away. If you carve a statue from a stone, the stone continues to exist. As the earth slowly gains mass due to the accretion of interstellar dust, it remains itself. There's a very meaningful sense in which any tree or other living organism is continuous. There's no doubt that the current Lucas is different from Young Lucas, but that could be (and basically has been) accomplished by modification and growth of Young Lucas.

I think the human mind is predisposed to think in terms of discrete people identities (either one person, one identity, or one person, one series of discrete identities), and has trouble comprehending this type of partial change. Thus, I think that, "Is young Lucas dead?" is a wrong question.

I think the human mind is predisposed to think in terms of discrete people identities, and has trouble comprehending this type of partial change.

It seems to me that human minds aren't so disposed. Humans normally think of themselves in 10 years as still themselves. A person will identify strongly with minds wholly unlike their own if they share a history, such as a mind that was utterly distorted by drugs.

Both of those views are problematic, and both were intended by that statement; the original language has been clarified.

Because we think, "One person, one identity," we get stuck at two extremes: I'm always one person, or I'm a continua of different people. Reality lies between the two, and does not fit comfortably with our intuitive understanding of personhood.

I agree that it is useful to group a casually related set of mind-moments under the label of "one person." I just don't think that this grouping of convenience makes those mind-moments the same. Each is a unique experience.

This interpretation is interesting and does seem to have merit. I suppose that from an evolutionary perspective, it is inevitable that any being advanced enough to have a concept of self would also identify its successor mind moment with that self.

This interpretation also complicates ethics. Traditionally, the way one treats others is expected to be at least quasi-utilitarian in nature, but providing for one's own future prosperity is generally considered a question of wisdom rather than morals. However, given that a person and his future mind moment are merely similar entities connected by a near-continuous transformation, rather than being the same entity, it would seem that there must be a symmetry between the moral implications of a person's treatment of others and of his own future.

Edit: Also, quantum suicide only works as intended if the mind is terminated within one mind-moment-span of the time in which triggering of the quantum suicide device becomes inevitable. Otherwise, it denies a successor to at least one mind moment.

providing for one's own future prosperity is generally considered a question of wisdom rather than morals. However, given that a person and his future mind moment are merely similar entities connected by a near-continuous transformation, rather than being the same entity, it would seem that there must be a symmetry between the moral implications of a person's treatment of others and of his own future.

Agreed. Caring in a deep and personal way about those future mind moments is nearly universal, but no more rationally compelling than caring about other mind moments. One might say that evolution has been keener to instill empathy for one's own future than for the mind moments of others. When it comes to considerations of rationality, the main difference is that, if you care for your own future but disrespect other people, others can typically retaliate in ways that hurt what you value. Whereas, if you care for other people but disrespect your own future, your future self is utterly powerless.

Calvin and Hobbes had a good line on the powerlessness of the future self, in the time travel series. But I suppose I should abstain from providing a link to material that probably violates copyright. So I'll just mention that at one point, Calvin's past, present, and future selves all argue, and one of them says "Go ahead and hit me - my future self will be the one who hurts."

It´s not that I don´t want to die, it´s that I want there to, in the future, exist happy, fulfilled mind-moments that remember being me.

Do you consider amnesia as bad as death?

No. I vastly prefer that minds derived from me remember being me, but it is better that a mind exist which is fairly similar to me than none at all.

I have a similar opinion to Alicorn's, but I would not use the term 'remember.' In the case of dissociative amnesia, there is a mind-moment which retains all my skills and all my general preferences, from which preferences about specific things could, in principle, be reconstructed. Thus, that mind-moment is much more similar to my current one than it is to a randomly-selected human mind, let alone a randomly-selected arrangement of the same mass.

Amnesia has the advantage that there's still a person around who my friends and family can (partially) recognize as me. Still, there perhaps should be less of a gulf between my reactions to (permanent, near-total) amnesia and to death.

That advantage doesn't seem fundamental. How about amnesia plus being dropped in a eutopian alien universe?

If this is full amnesia (both procedural and declarative memory), yes. It's as bad as killing me and replacing me with a clone.

[-][anonymous]12y 0

Or, if not amnesia, than a stronger version of it. Maybe amnesia plus being dropped in an alien universe; one that has no history in common with ours, despite being ideal for you in every other way.

I said basically the same thing in the sl4 IRC room ages ago, and yudkwosky disagreed and said he still believed in the thread of conciousness, and I asked why, and he said he was too busy to explain.

http://academicearth.org/lectures/body-theory-personality-theory I want to say something in the way of explanation, but the relevance is self-explanatory.

For what it's worth, this is exactly the Buddhist principle of "no-self", which, by my understanding, is a specific case of sunyata, the Mahayana Buddhist doctrine of "emptiness." Interestingly, sunyata seems to be equivalent or very similar to the notion of the Mind Projection Fallacy:

"According the Madhyamaka, or Middle Way philosophy which is central to Mahayana Buddhism, ordinary beings misperceive all objects of perception in a fundamental way. The misperception is caused by the psychological tendency to grasp at all objects of perception as if they really existed as independent entities. This is to say that ordinary beings believe that such objects exist 'out there' as they appear to perception...

Sunyata - translated as Emptiness - is the concept that all objects are Empty of svabhava, they are Empty of 'inherent existence'."

This is to say that ordinary beings believe that such objects exist 'out there' as they appear to perception...

That sounds more like a denial of sensory evidence than as a denial of the continuity of mind/self.

Yeah, that phrasing is misleading. It is more like a denial of objecthood and the subject-object distinction. Objecthood just arises from from our reification of our perceptions.

(Apologies for the made up words)

[-][anonymous]11y 0

I would now like to introduce the term mind-moment. I'm not sure quite how to define that, it may have to mean a single plank-time snapshot of a mind, or it might be as much as a couple weeks. I doubt that what I mean by this is anywhere near the upper bound I just gave, a more likely upper bound might be about a second - about the time it takes to notice something and realize something is going on.

I used to think that "mind-moments" was a good way to view personhood , but now I'm rather rather sceptical about it, because it's somewhat like trying to explain an objects movement in terms of one coordinate with one temporal coordinate; it wont tell you anything about the movement of the object. Similarly one "mind-moment" does not do anything, does not think, does not understand, does not react. I like to view it more like a process, not as moments in time. But hey my intuition might just be broken.