Re: Sincere Questions on Identity.

From: John Clark (
Date: Thu Dec 13 2001 - 11:32:24 MST

Dickey, Michael F <> Wrote:

> Getting copied in a destructive manner is different from getting whacked on
> the head and waking up a few minutes later in a few key areas 1) getting
> whacked on the head does not destroy you

But that's what we're arguing about, I would maintain that getting copied in a
destructive manner and then being rebuilt would not destroy "you" either.

>2) and the mechanism that houses your consciousness never changes.

That is certainly untrue, getting hit in the head so hard you black out must
make big (temporarily it is to be wished) changes in your brain.

>Living through a session of complete neural cessation also does not involve
>the changing of the physical mechanism housing the consciousness.

Not so, expect huge chemical changes, probably physical ones too.

> I can be reasonable sure that when I go to sleep at night I don't die for a
> few reasons 1) Hooking me up to any kind of machine that measures brain
> activity would never measure any absolute cessation in activity

Not in normal sleep but it would under deep anesthesia. When you go to the
hospital to have your tonsils removed are you the same man when you walk out?

>The molecules and atoms that make up my mind and house my
>consciousness are never observed to change form or shape during the
>course of the evening.

I don't understand this obsession with atoms, there are no scratches on a
hydrogen atom to tell one from another, they are far from unique, if they
can't even give this interesting property to themselves they can't confer
it to us.

> I can also be reasonably sure that I was not murdered last night

Yes, you can be reasonably sure you were not murdered last night,
of course you can't be absolutely sure of anything. I think.
Anyway a more interesting question is if you were murdered last night
and replaced by a "copy" is there any rational reason to be upset about
it this morning? I can't think of any.

>As I pointed out in my original response to this, replacing one atom at a
>time is far different from replacing all atoms at once. [...] The RATE of
>the replacement is the key difference.

So there must be a fastest permissible rate, if the copy is made 50% too fast
does it make it 50% you? Or perhaps it works like a switch and if the copy is made
.00000001% too fast it's not you at all. And then there is the problem that Einstein
tells us that there is no one true objective rate of change, it depends on the
observer. Perhaps you could say it's you if at any one time you don't change
much, but if I make the "any one time" a nanosecond and then blow you up with
dynamite you won't change much.

>if a copy is made with a passive scanning system and we are both revived,
>do we perceive the same thing?

You could be perceiving the same thing, it depends on how the experiment is set up.
If you are not seeing the same thing then the memories of the two of you will be
different and you will no longer be copies. You'll each go your separate ways.

>should I be destroyed, copied, then resurrected, the instances could indeed
>be observed. The destroying, the massive room sized scanner moving and
>spinning around my head, and the room sized molecular construction system
>creating a copy of me.

It's funny you should say that, a few years ago that very thing happened to me.
Here is what I wrote to the list back in 1996 asking how I should proceed.

I need some advice and it's not the sort of thing I can write to
Ann Landers. About a year ago I started building a matter
duplicating machine. It could find the position and velocity of
every atom in a human being to the limit imposed by Heisenberg's law.
It then used this information to construct a copy and it does it all
in a fraction of a second and without harming the original in any way.
You may be surprised that I was able to build such a complicated machine,
but you wouldn't be if you knew how good I am with my hands. The birdhouse
I made is simply lovely and I have all the latest tools from Sears.

I was a little nervous but I decided to test the machine by
duplicating myself. The day before yesterday I walked into the
chamber, it filled with smoke (damn those radio shack
transformers) there was a flash of light, and then 3 feet to my
left was a man who looked exactly like me. It was at that
instant that the full realization of the terrible thing I did
hit me. I yelled " This is monstrous, there can only be one of me",
my copy yelled exactly the same thing. I thought he was
trying to mock me, so I reached for my 44 magnum that I always
carry with me (I wonder why people think I'm strange) and
pointed it at my double. I noted with alarm that the double also
had a gun and he was pointed it at me. I shouted "you don't have
the guts to pull the trigger, but I do". Again he mimicked my
words and did so in perfect synchronization, this made me even
more angry and I pulled the trigger, he did too. My gun went off
but his gun jammed. I buried him in my back yard.

Now that my anger has cooled and I can think more clearly I've
had some pangs of conscious about killing a living creature,
but that's not what really torments me. How do I know I'm not
the copy? I feel exactly the same as before, but would a copy
feel different? Actually there is a way to be certain, I have a
video tape of the entire experiment. My memory is that the copy
first appeared 3 feet to my LEFT, if the tape shows the original
walking into the chamber and the copy materializing 3 feet to
his RIGHT, then I would know that I am the copy.

I'm afraid to look at the tape, should I be? If I found out I
was the copy what should I do? I suppose I should morn the
death of John Clark, but how can I, I'm not dead. If I am the
copy would that mean that I have no real past and my life is
meaningless? Is it important, or should I just burn the tape
and forget all about it?

      John K Clark

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