If your memory of an experience is erased [...] then the experience might as well have not happened.

Why? If I have to choose between "happy for an hour, then memory-wiped" and "miserable for an hour, then memory-wiped" I unhesitatingly choose the former. Why should the fact that I won't remember it mean that there's no difference at all between the two? One of them involves someone being happy for an hour and the other someone being miserable for an hour.

death robs you of your past, present, and future making it as if you had never

... (read more)

If you know you will be memory-wiped after an hour, it does not make sense to make long-term plans. For example, you can read a book you enjoy, if you value the feeling. But if you read a scientific book, I think the pleasure from learning would be somewhat spoiled by knowing that you are going to forget this all soon. The learning would mostly become a lost purpose, unless you can use the learned knowledge within the hour.

Knowing that you are unlikely to be alive after 100 years prevents you from making some plans which would be meaningful in a parallel u... (read more)

What makes us think _any_ of our terminal values aren't based on a misunderstanding of reality?

by bokov 1 min read25th Sep 201389 comments


Let's say Bob's terminal value is to travel back in time and ride a dinosaur.

It is instrumentally rational for Bob to study physics so he can learn how to build a time machine. As he learns more physics, Bob realizes that his terminal value is not only utterly impossible but meaningless. By definition, someone in Bob's past riding a dinosaur is not a future evolution of the present Bob.

There are a number of ways to create the subjective experience of having gone into the past and ridden a dinosaur. But to Bob, it's not the same because he wanted both the subjective experience and the knowledge that it corresponded to objective fact. Without the latter, he might as well have just watched a movie or played a video game.

So if we took the original, innocent-of-physics Bob and somehow calculated his coherent extrapolated volition, we would end up with a Bob who has given up on time travel. The original Bob would not want to be this Bob.

But, how do we know that _anything_ we value won't similarly dissolve under sufficiently thorough deconstruction? Let's suppose for a minute that all "human values" are dangling units; that everything we want is as possible and makes as much sense as wanting to hear the sound of blue or taste the flavor of a prime number. What is the rational course of action in such a situation?

PS: If your response resembles "keep attempting to XXX anyway", please explain what privileges XXX over any number of other alternatives other than your current preference. Are you using some kind of pre-commitment strategy to a subset of your current goals? Do you now wish you had used the same strategy to precommit to goals you had when you were a toddler?