Re: Does "identical" mean "one"?

Harvey Newstrom (
Sun, 19 Jul 1998 02:00:42 -0400

Eugene Leitl <> wrote:
> Two systems in the same quantum state are indistinguishable. You can
> find the outline of a proof for that in the appendix of Tipler's
> 'The Physics of Immortality'.

Agreed. This is what I mean by identical.

> I don't understand which 'counting'
> you refer to, but that proof says there cannot be any measurement
> procedure to distinguish one object from the other. Finis.

What about measuring location to distinguish multiple copies? If you have an H2O molecule at your location, and I have an H2O molecule at my location, how many do you count? They are "the same", "identical", "indistinguishable", etc. Are viewing "the same" molecule in the sense that there is one molecule? Or are we viewing two of "the same" type of molecule?

> Of course this is pretty useless, for no macroscopic objects occupy
> the same quantum state.

Of course. Random molecular motion means that nano-built objects with the exact same atomic configuration as each other will immediately start to diverge at the molecular level. Their function and basic macro-level design may remain, but they cannot be "exactly" the same down to the position of every atom.

> But we are talking about the user front end,
> right? If _I_, the user, cannot distinguish between an object, and
> a copy, then it is meaningless to make the distinction between them,
> obviously?

For utilizing a single object there is no difference and any of a number of copies may be used because they are indistinguishable. In this sense, it is meaningless to distinguish between objects.

For utilizing multiple objects, there must be a way to distinguish between them to count or measure the total number of such objects. The distinguishing factor is usually by location. Calculations involving total number, amount, volume, mass, energy or usefulness must have an accurate count or measure of objects. Two gallons of fuel may be indistinguishable, but there is a difference between having one gallon of fuel and two gallons of fuel. For this requirement, claiming that "it is meaningless to make a distinction between having the first gallon of fuel and having the second gallon of fuel" would destroy the system.

The counting or measuring of the total number of objects is important. Some people are equating "a reference to two identical indistinguishable objects that are the same" with "two references to the same identical indistinguishable object". This confuses the total count of objects, and we end up arguing over how many people, how many walls, how many bodies, etc. These are the two cases I am trying to distinguish.

> Addressing your position re discontinous (destructive)
> uploading. Current physics seems to forbid realtime in vivo scans with
> enough resolution without destroying the object.

Very good point. It seems that the question of whether this method would work is moot since we can't try it anyway. I'm personally glad, because I did not approve of this method. I think better methods are available.

> So there is no
> original to compare for harvey-nature, so we have to devise some other
> metric for harveyness.

I have no problem with where this is leading. If we do not end up with two Harvey's, then I am not worried about one being destroyed later. Any connection of the old and new body that transfers data or atoms from the old to the new, building a new body while the old one is used up, sounds like a perfect description of uploading to me.

> So you can check some operation signatures:
> high-level ones (behavioural),

I think this is best.

> fMRI/MEG/EEG/firing pattern, fingerprint, etc. etc.

I think these only apply to the old body and brain. The new body does not need to keep these same attributes for the consciousness to be the same. A computer would have electrical or photonic energy signatures, and not the bioelectric ones. The fingerprints would be whatever we designed on its appendages.

> Obviously the metric for harveyinity is not
> boolean, but fuzzy (reality is always messy, right?).
> [lots of fuzzy stuff snipped]

Actually, I have a very fuzzy definition of myself. If I suffered total amnesia, I would not commit suicide. I would want to live on, even if it meant starting from scratch. I think it would still be me, just starting with a clean slate. A lot of my subconscious processes and human consciousness or whatever, would still apply. I would have basic communications functions and would start learning and experiencing life right away. My relationships to my family, career, and other things would have to be relearned, but I could try to re-aquire them. Although it would be a great loss, it would not be a total loss which is death. If an upload even captured these minimal basics of me, while my conscious memory and data was radically altered, I would still call this me. I would prefer to preserve as much data as I can.

> Summa summarum I think your attitude towards preservation (or failure
> thereof) of persona in an discontinuous upload is not rational. I,
> too, have felt emotional discomfort with discontinuous uploads in the
> past. Being a question of faith (does it harvey-nature, or not?), it
> is best addressed from a point of faith; at least I have found it so.

Too many people have attributed this belief to me. I have NEVER questioned that the new upload was a Harvey. I am sure that it is. My problem is that in the duplication scenario, the old body still contained a Harvey, and I didn't want it killed. I have no objection to uploading, and believe the methodology for uploading can be described today. I just don't think that putting a bullet through the brain of a living, active Harvey is a good idea in any case. I prefer the upload scenarios that do not contain this attribute.

My rule of thumb:
- Killing the old body still containing Harvey is "bad". - Creating the new body containing Harvey is "good". The copy-and-kill scenario contains *both* attributes.

Harvey Newstrom                                   <>
Author, Engineer, Entrepreneur,              <>
Consultant, Researcher, Scientist.           <ldap://>