The Copy Paradox

John K Clark (
Tue, 18 Nov 1997 10:30:32 -0800 (PST)


"Nick Bostrom" <> On Sun, 16 Nov 1997 Wrote:

>"Mental state" is a bit ambigous.

Bit yes ambiguous no. Unless the holly rollers turn out to be right the human
brain must be equivalent to a Turing machine and the human mind equivalent to
what a Turing machine does. What a Turing machine does is determined by the
state it's in, and that depends on whether it sees a 0 or a 1 on a paper tape.
How could anything be less ambiguous than that?

>I think the traditional line of thinking goes like this: The thought
>"Mary loves John." involves the same concepts as "John loves Mary.",
>namely the concepts "John", "loves" and "Mary". Nevertheless the two
>thoughts are quite distinct.

You're using the word "concept" in a somewhat more restrictive manner than I
was, but that's OK.

>rather than saying that you are a collection of concepts, you have
>to say that you are a collection of conceps cum a structure defined
>on that collection.

If I use your implied definition of "concept" then I certainly agree.

>And I don't think it makes literal sense to say that this collection
>cum structure is an adjective -- it would be more correct to say
>that it was a proposition.

Perhaps, but the important point is that it's not a noun.

>At this point I may also ask you if you don't think that feelings
>and values and desires enters in what constitutes being you?

Certainly, but I don't think it's " mental state" that's ambiguous, I think
it's the dividing line between, concepts, thoughts, feelings, values and
desires. These are just fuzzy categories we sometimes find convenient to put
our various mental states into.

>Moreover, in order to be a human being, it is not enough to be a

True but unimportant. The important part is the person, a human being is just
a bag of protoplasm.

>One also has to belong to the human species, and whether one does so
>presumably depends on one's ancestry and one's biological
>constitution, not just on one's thoughts or concepts.

What's so great about belonging to the human species? A human being is an
animal so of course it must be biological, but the same is not true of a

In my opinion at the present time the most valuable thing in the universe is
3 pounds of gray goo inside the head of a particular bipedal ape descendant,
others may have a slightly different opinion. The reason this goo is so
valuable is that it's rare, in fact it's the only object in the universe that
acts in a johnclarkish way. There is no law of physics that forbids 2 or more
objects acting that way, the fact that there's only one is just a historical
accident. Things change.

John K Clark

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