Re: Can I kill the original?

From: Dan Fabulich (
Date: Wed May 10 2000 - 00:58:26 MDT

Not all Harvey Newstroms are not the guy who wrote:

> > True. As I have suggested in a variety of disclaimers, if you're
> > committed to this goal intrinsically, then there's no convincing you.
> > However, I'd expected that you DIDN'T hold this goal intrinsically, but
> > only extrinsically, that is, you hold it in light of some other beliefs
> > that you have, so if those beliefs turned out to be false, you'd drop the
> > goal.
> This is the problem that this discussion usually degrades into. You don't
> really believe that deep down I believe what I say I do. You are therefore
> not debating with me, but with a strawman viewpoint that you think will make
> your point better. However, when I read your point, it doesn't directly
> apply to my discussion, and we end up talking past each other. (It has been
> interesting and thought-provocing anyway!)

I think that's oversimplifying my view... I believed that you had the
goal, but I believed that you had different reasons for having the goal
than you actually did.

I was just about to give up on the point when one last argument occurred
to me:

The reasons why someone would be interested in this question are
simple. You might be thinking about performing a destructive upload
(especially if that's the only option available). You might be
thinking about using backups to make sure "you" don't die. You might
be thinking about the possibility of immortality-for-free in some
Tiplerian situation.

One reason why someone might be comfortable with all of these is if
they believe that they are their own copy set, rather than their
consciousness stream or their atoms. I believe this. Thus, I reason
that destructive uploading is OK, because "I" would survive the
upload. I think that backups would help me to remain immortal,
because "I" wouldn't die so long as there was a working backup
around. I think that, if some Tiplerian point does exist or can
exist, and I am simulated in it, "I" would then exist for the rest of
(subjective) time at the Tiplerian point.

If this were the only argument in favor of these positions, and that
argument were made to fail, then there would be no argument in favor
of destructive uploading, backups, or Tiplerian immortality.

However... According to your own definition of "you," Harvey, "you"
are almost certain to die. Simple medical immortality is not enough;
eventually, if you're not careful, you'll get caught in an accident of
sufficient magnitude that "you" will not be able to recover, no matter
how advanced the medical science is. Even if you think that "you"
would survive a gradual replacement of your neurons with
nanotechnological replacements, you necessarily bear a substantial
risk of death so long as you are a finite being that can be blown up.

You have already suggested that you would be willing to die for your
brother, and you have suggested some reasons why you might be willing
to do that. I argued that these reasons would extend to your copy.

So, consider the following situation: Suppose it turns out to be the
case that you are doomed: you are going to die within the next five
minutes, and you know this. Your brother's life is also threatened,
however; he will also die in the next five minutes UNLESS you
sacrifice yourself one minute ahead of time, in which case, he'll be
saved. (Suppose also that your brother cannot make this sacrifice for

It seems to me that by almost any standard of morality, you ought to
make this sacrifice. You ought to give up your own life in order to
save his, because your death is already imminent.

If you bought that argument, then let's try it again with a copy.
Suppose you and a copy of you are in the same asymmetric situation I
described above. I'd argue that, for all the same reasons, you should
be willing to make this sacrifice for your copy: you should die so
that he can live on.

You may already see where this argument is going. YOUR death is
imminent in a way that the death of your upload is not. Your copy can
live a substantially longer life than you can if you make that

The only change we make for destructive uploading from the earlier
case is that your sacrifice brings the copy into existence rather than
saves his life; however, in light of the imminence of your own death,
I don't take this to be morally relevant. I take it that there's a
substantial chance that you'd make similar sacrifices to save an
unborn son of yours.

The blunt end of this argument is this: you make it an intrinsic goal
of yours to preserve your own consciousness stream. Fine. However, I
argue that you should also make it a goal of yours to preserve the
consciousness streams of your copies, and that, under certain
circumstances, (especially the imminence of your own death,) the goal
of keeping alive your copy or copies may trump your goal of keeping
yourself alive.

Of course, there's no question of you making a sacrifice in the case
of Tiplerian immortality; that's either going to happen, or it won't.
But it does provide a good argument for making and keeping backups,
and even allowing yourself to die (under extreme circumstances) in
order to make sure a restoration of yourself lives a longer life than
you will continue to lead.

So, even if you don't think that you can just kill "yourself" and be
replaced with a copy, under extreme circumstances, circumstances which
you happen to be in right now, you should nonetheless do just that.


      -unless you love someone-
    -nothing else makes any sense-
           e.e. cummings

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