Every Implementation of You is You: An Intuition Ladder

I was re­cently ar­gu­ing in /​r/​tran­shu­man­ism on red­dit about the vi­a­bil­ity of up­load­ing/​fork­ing con­scious­ness, and I re­al­ized I didn’t have any method of as­sess­ing where some­one’s be­liefs ac­tu­ally lay—where I might need to move them from if I wanted to con­vince them of what I thought.

So I made an in­tu­ition lad­der. Please cor­rect me if I made any mis­takes (that aren’t by de­sign), and let me know if you think there’s any­thing past the fi­nal level.

Some in­struc­tions on how to use this: Read the first level. If you no­tice some­thing definitely wrong with it, move to the next level. Re­peat un­til you come to a level where your in­tu­ition about the en­tire level is ei­ther “This is true” or “I’m not sure.” That is your level.

1. Clones and copies (the re­sult of a med­i­cal pro­ce­dure that phys­i­cally re­pro­duces you ex­actly, in­clud­ing in­ter­nal brain state) are the same thing. Every in­tu­ition I have about a clone, or an iden­ti­cal twin, ap­plies one-to-one to copies as well, and vice versa. Be­cause iden­ti­cal twins are com­pletely differ­ent peo­ple on ev­ery level ex­cept ge­net­i­cally, copies are ex­actly the same way.

2. Clones and copies aren’t the same thing, as copies had a brain and mem­o­ries in com­mon with me in the past, but for one of us those mem­o­ries are false and that copy is just a copy, while my con­scious­ness would re­main with the priv­ileged origi­nal.

3. Copies had a com­mon brain and mem­o­ries, which make them in­dis­t­in­guish­able from each other in prin­ci­ple, so they be­lieve they’re me, and they’re not wrong in any mean­ingful sense, but I don’t an­ti­ci­pate wak­ing up from any copy­ing pro­ce­dure in any body but the one I started in. As such, I would never par­ti­ci­pate in a pro­ce­dure that claims to “tele­port” me by mak­ing a copy at a new lo­ca­tion and kil­ling the source copy, be­cause I would die.

4. Copies are in­dis­t­in­guish­able from each other in prin­ci­ple, even from the in­side, and thus I ac­tu­ally be­come both, and an­ti­ci­pate wak­ing up as ei­ther. But once I am one or the other, my copy doesn’t share an iden­tity with me. Fur­ther­more, if a copy is de­stroyed be­fore I wake up from the pro­ce­dure, I might die, or I might wake up as the copy that is still al­ive. As such, the fork-and-die tele­port is a gam­ble for my life, and I would only at­tempt it if I was for some rea­son com­fortable with the chance that I will die.

5. If a copy is de­stroyed dur­ing the pro­ce­dure, I will wake up as the other one with near cer­tainty, but this is a par­tic­u­lar dis­crete con­se­quence of how soon it’s done. If one copy were to die shortly af­ter, I wouldn’t be less likely to wake up as that one or any­thing. I am there­fore will­ing to fork-and-die tele­port as long as the pro­ce­dure is flawless. Fur­ther­more, if I was in­stead backed up and copied from the backup at a later date, I would cer­tainly wake up im­me­di­ately af­ter the pro­ce­dure, and not an­ti­ci­pate wak­ing up sub­jec­tively-im­me­di­ately as the backup copy in the fu­ture.

6. I an­ti­ci­pate with less like­li­hood wak­ing up as a copy that will die soon af­ter the pro­ce­dure—or for some other rea­son has a lower am­pli­tude ac­cord­ing to the Born rule—as a con­tin­u­ous func­tion, and also it’s en­tirely ir­rele­vant when the copy is in­stan­ti­ated in my an­ti­ci­pa­tion of what I ex­pe­rience, as long as the copy has the mind state I did when the pro­ce­dure was done. How­ever, con­scious­ness can only trans­fer to copies made of me. I can never wake up as an iden­ti­cal mind state some­where in the uni­verse if it wasn’t a re­sult of copy­ing, if such a thing were to ex­ist, even in prin­ci­ple.

7. Con­ti­nu­ity of con­scious­ness is com­pletely an ar­ti­fact of mind state, in­clud­ing mem­ory, and need not strictly re­quire ad­ja­cency in space­time at all. If, by some com­plete mirac­u­lous co­in­ci­dence, in a galaxy far far away, a per­son ex­ists at some time t’ that is ex­actly iden­ti­cal to me at some time in my life t, in a way a copy made of me at t would be, at the mo­ment t, I an­ti­ci­pate my con­scious­ness trans­fer­ring to that far away not-copy with some prob­a­bil­ity. The only rea­son this doesn’t hap­pen is the sheer un­like­li­hood of an ex­act mind state be­ing du­pli­cated, mem­o­ries and all, by hap­pen­stance, any­where in space­time, even given the age of the uni­verse from be­gin­ning to end. How­ever, my con­scious­ness can only be im­ple­mented on a hu­man brain, or some­thing that pre­cisely mimics its in­ter­nal struc­ture.

8. Copies of me need not be or even re­sem­ble a hu­man be­ing. I am just an al­gorithm, and the hard­ware I am im­ple­mented on is ir­rele­vant. If it’s done on a microchip or a hu­man brain, any im­ple­men­ta­tion of me is me. How­ever, simu­la­tions aren’t truly real, so an im­ple­men­ta­tion of me in a simu­lated world, no mat­ter how ad­vanced, isn’t ac­tu­ally me or con­scious to the ex­tent I am in the re­al­ity I know.

9. Im­ple­men­ta­tions of me can ex­ist within simu­la­tions that are suffi­ciently ad­vanced to im­ple­ment me fully. If a su­per­in­tel­li­gence who is able to perfectly model hu­man minds is us­ing that abil­ity to con­sider what I would do, their model of me is me. In­deed, the only way to model me perfectly is to im­ple­ment me.

10. In progress, see Da­cyn’s com­ment be­low.

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