Re: Is the fourth time is the charm?

From: Lee Daniel Crocker (
Date: Thu May 18 2000 - 12:53:05 MDT

> > > Question: I've been making and destroying a billion Harvey Newstroms
> > > every second since you were a one celled zygote, so you tell me, who
> > > is the original Harvey Newstrom?
> >Lee Daniel Crocker < Wrote:
> > For what definition of "original"?
> You tell me, it's not my term, Harvey is the one who thinks it's cosmically
> important, I think it's nonsense.

OK, then: an "original" is that instance of a thing which existed at the
point in time at which the process of "copying" commenced, where "copying"
is understood as the process of creating another instance of a thing that
shares as many properties with the existing thing as physically possible.
Note that this definition of "original" requires an act of copying to be
meaningful--no act of copying, no "original".

> >For what definition of "Harvey Newstrom"?
> Harvey Newstrom needs no such definition, he has something much much
> better, an example. Definitions are seldom important in life and certainly
> not in this case.

But he doesn't have an example (although his subjective impression of
the continuity if his consciousness might lead him to mistakenly believe
that he can point to a single lump of atoms as an example), but you've
just told him that you are in the act of creating copies at will and
destroying them--so now he knows that by the time he points to a lump
of atoms, there may be a different lump of them in the same place. Let's
say you're flipping a coin after each copying act to decide which one to
destroy. In that case, you are destroying half a billion "originals" per
second, and there is no single thing to point to. At each interval, the
then-existing object evolves its state in some way that depends upon the
state of all the previous Harvey-like things that have occupied the space
of your experiment, giving the impression of a continuity--a process--that
one might choose to identify and name, say, "Harvey Newstrom". If that
is the name of this process, then your question is meaningless, because
we haven't defined "original" or "act of copying" in terms of processes.
If the name attaches to the thing, then the question is underspecified:
you must ask which is the original with respect to a particular act of

We could, if you wanted, define "process-copying" a as the act of
thing-copying a thing that manifests the process. We then have two
things behaving in similar ways, and must now decide whether the name
of a process applies to the class of processes or to each particular
instance of that process running on different things. If "Harvey
Newstrom" is the name of an instance of a process, then that instance
which was being manifested in the "thing-original" lump of atoms whose
thing-copying predicated the process-copying, then it makes sense to
call that the "process-original" Harvey. These too, then, only apply
to a single act of process-copying; if you do billions of them, you
will have billions of originals.

We could of course define these things in other ways and get entirely
different answers. But I still don't see any real question here worth

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:11:23 MDT