Re: personal identity

Robin Helweg-Larsen (
Wed, 07 Jan 1998 23:58:19 -0500

Wei Dai wrote:

> Here is my tentative philosophy of personal identity: anyone who remembers
> being me is me. By "remebers being me" I mean he/she/it has a memory of my
> current thoughts and perceptions from my current perspective.
> Some examples: I am the person typing at this keyboard a second ago, but
> he is not me. If I become unconscious and wake up with total amnesia, the
> person who wakes up is not me. If he recovers his (my) memory, then he is
> me again. A copy of me is me, an upload of me is me, even a simulacrum of
> me made from scratch by a Power is me, as long as it has sufficiently
> authentic memories of being me.
> With this definition, there is no conflict between growth and identity.
> Any transformation, as long as it does not erase my memories, perserves my
> identity. To me this philosophy is simply and intuitive, and seems to be
> free from inconsistencies and paradoxes. What do you think?

If all the information (including memories) in your brain and body could be
read off into a computer (uploaded), would that computer memory be you? What
if the original brain and body were destroyed in the uploading? What if they
were left intact?

What if the uploaded memories were fed into a fresh body? What if identical
copies were fed into several fresh bodies? What if the original brain and
body were not still around? What if they were? Would you be the original (if
it existed), the program, or one or more of the copies?

The program would not change, but the original (if it existed) and the copies
would diverge away from it and from each other. Which would be you?

Robin HL