RE: Sincere Questions on Identity

From: Harvey Newstrom (
Date: Sat Dec 15 2001 - 14:05:41 MST

Samantha Atkins wrote,
> Sorry. This breaks the posited conditions that the copy is perfect.

(I like to write long posts addressing different points. Sometimes I wonder
if people just skip such long posts. I don't want to post a lot of small
posts. I wonder if using subheaders in my post will make it easier to scan
for ideas. Comments?)

Exact Copies:
The copy question often involves the theoretically exact copy experiencing
the exact environment. I think this is impossible. There are difficulties
in science when measuring the position of particles precisely without
modifying them. We cannot control random Brownian motion of atoms and
molecules bouncing around by themselves. We cannot control air particles or
background radiation. Even before we can finish creating a copy, it's
molecules would be moving and changing from moment to moment. I do not
believe that an exact copy is possible. Anybody who require precise exact
copies will be disappointed.

Exact Environments:
This means that sensory input and environments cannot be duplicated exactly.
Coin flips may be different for the two copies. Random stomach gurgling or
skin itches will be different. Their hair will randomly toss in different
directions. They never could get the same random dust particle under one of
their contacts at the same time. If they wash a contact under a stream of
water, it wouldn't dislodge the irritating particle at the precise same
moment. So the concept of an identical environment for the two copies is
conceptually interesting, but irrelevant to the real world. Both copies
will immediately diverge and start experiencing different events.

Exact VR Sensory Input:
The suggestion of VR seems to imply that we can feed sensory input from one
to the other. This is even more problematic. One copy would have to be
implanted with sensory recording devices throughout their body while the
other would have to be implanted with sensory feedback devices throughout
their body. This functional difference would make the copies structurally
different. Moreover, the concept would only work if all sensory playback
could be replayed in real-time with resolution equal to that of reality.
This would require massive amounts of bandwidth with no delays or bit errors
ever. Thus, VR seems to introduce more problems than it answers.

Desirability of Exact Copies:
Finally, I doubt that an exact copy would desired, even if it were possible.
The copy discussion stems out of the immortality discussion. We are trying
to find ways to replace our dying bodies with new immortal bodies. Exact
copies would die in the same way as the original. We would want to transfer
ourselves into different and better bodies. Thus, I think the complicated
methods being proposed to produce exact copies is moot. Different and
better copies are much better for our purposes. Why copy our wrinkles or
disease? Why not exclude imperfections, damage, viruses, and DNA damage
while copying? These seem to be obvious choices, but would modify the
context of the copy discussion. Rather than talking about exact copies, we
would be talking about recreating similar yet profoundly different copies.
Discussions about these different copies and how to migrate our
self-identities to these copies would be of more importance to our goals.

Harvey Newstrom, CISSP <>
Principal Security Consultant, Newstaff Inc. <>
Board of Directors, Extropy Institute <>
Cofounder, Pro-Act <>

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