Re: Does a copy know?

Geoff Smith (
Tue, 16 Sep 1997 14:11:39 -0700 (PDT)

On Tue, 16 Sep 1997, John K Clark wrote:

> On Mon, 15 Sep 1997 Geoff Smith <> Wrote:
> >Yes, you are a different person after 5 minutes, even if you haven't
> >moved.
> So you die ever 5 minutes and a copy is born, if so then this "dying"
> business doesn't seem to be any big deal.

(that's what Buddha basically said, but I'm not so sure I agree)

If you juxtapose a person now, and that "same" person 5 minutes from now,
they will not be exactly the same. If I use your definition of a person
as "the behaviour of a chunk of matter", then these are two people are
not the same, since I cannot expect you to behave exactly the same way in
5 minutes as you do now. I use the definition you cited last time: "I am
my thoughts and emotions", then again these people are not the same since
obviously their thoughts are not the same after a period of five minutes.

> >What I am trying to say is that if two objects, whatever they are,
> >exist simultaneously in different locations, they are not the same
> >object
> But I am not an object, I am not a noun, I am an adjective, I am the way
> matter behaves when it is organized in a John K Clark way. At the present
> time only one chunk of matter in the universe behaves that way, someday that
> could change.

Where does the boundary of your person end? Or, to use your wording,
what are the limits of your "chunk of matter"? Does this chunk of
matter include the E. Coli in your gut, the air in your lungs, the water
vapor of perspiration coming off your skin? Am I to hold you personally
responsible for the behaviour of the E. Coli in your gut?

> >It's not that the copy has moved, it's that the original has *not*
> >moved.
> I don't see how position could be relevant to consciousness, the brain has no
> way of detecting it's position, only senses can do that and they need not
> come from the same place as the brain.

I think our debate is mostly because we are working on two separate
projects. Your project appears to be to define yourself to yourself.
Defining yourself as your thoughts and emotions works well, if this is
your project. My project, on the other hand, is to create a universal
definition of a person. Obviously, your definition of a person is not
useful for an outside observer. I don't know what your thoughts are. All
I can observe is your current structure, and your history of structure and
actions. Maybe these two projects are immmiscible, what do you think?

> >I agree that we are our thoughts, but the duplicate has had no
> >thoughts, only *memories* of thoughts.
> But memories of thoughts is all you or I or copies or originals have. There
> is no way to tell you were not created 5 minutes ago complete with memories
> of being a child, and no reason to be concerned if you were. I think that
> when you're talking about information, and that's what we are, the
> distinction between copy and original becomes meaningless. Do you have my
> original post or just an inferior copy?

I assume I have the original post, but you never know... ;-)


Say I run a race, and I win, and the award ceremony is tomorrow. Right
after the race someone drugs me and makes a duplicate of me against my
will and knowledge. Now, I go to the ceremony, so does my duplicate, and
the prize can only go one person(of course we are different people now
since we have diverged at the point of duplication) Who does the prize go
to? Now is the distinction between original and copy meaningless?

(BTW, for the above question, the rules of the race permit no ties if the
photo-finish has only one person crossing the finish line, so you can't
cop out that way ;-)

> >the original will theoretically still have some of the atoms that
> >participated in the chemical reactions that made those thoughts in
> >the first place.
> How could that be relevant? Science can not tell one Hydrogen atom from
> another, good thing too because we constantly recycle our atoms, a year ago
> your atoms were in plants and fish and birds and cows.

Ok, I concede, this is not relevant. ;)

Let me try again... If time was/is a navigatable dimension, and one
navigated it backwards(sorry, why word choice is a bit poor, here), one
would see that the duplicate has little or no history, while the original
quite obviously does. This is why I don't think you can hold the
duplicate responsible for the actions of the original.

> >If I somehow (another thought experiment) have the exact same thought
> >as you (I'm not sure how you'd go about measuring that) at exactly
> >the same time, are our two persons converging.
> Yes.

Whether I agree with it or not, this is a pretty cool concept, probably
best exemplified by couples who wear matching jogging outfits ;)

> >And if this continues, to the point where ALL our thoughts and
> >emotions are exactly the same, have we become one person?
> Yes.
> >Did I die?
> No.
> >Did you die?
> No.
> >How can two people become one when both of them still exist?
> Because nothing has been lost. If I append your post and my post to the same
> text file both posts still exist but there is only one file.

I guess I agree, but I don't like your analogy. In your post analogy, the
two post are converging in location, not in structural similarity. Maybe
I just have a hard time seeing convergance in similarity as a full
convergance. There are still too things, even if they are the same in

> >To differentiate, I would again have to look at history of action
> I don't know why I'm the way I am. Nobody consciously understands the
> fantastically complicated history that in a universe billions of light years
> across and billions of years old somehow brought one particular sperm and one
> particular egg together at one particular instant, but consciousness is what
> we're concerned with so I don't see how the mysterious history of how I got
> to be the way I am could make the slightest difference to my consciousness.
> The only important thing is that I am the way I am.

With this philosophy, I assume you judge a person by a clean-slate policy?
Do you think people are not responsible for past actions because it
doesn't matter how they got to be the way they are, it's just the way they
are now?(that was awkwardly phrased, but I think you understand my