RE: Sincere Questions on Identity

From: Harvey Newstrom (
Date: Fri Dec 14 2001 - 07:16:05 MST

John Clark wrote,
> If the external world can not objectively determine if you are the copy or
> the original, and if internally you can not determine subjectively if you
> are the copy or the original then it means it doesn't matter if
> you are the copy or the original.

You are right, as far as you go. But I think the phrase "doesn't matter" is
incomplete. It doesn't matter "for some purposes". It doesn't matter to
"external people." We can't really debate if something is "good enough"
without defining good enough "for a particular purpose." If you want to
replace me with someone else who will post to this list like I do, the copy
is good enough and it doesn't matter. If you want to meet my goal of making
my current self live forever, making a copy does not add any longevity to me
or the copy. If my current self gets killed, having a copy doesn't prevent
its death. For my purposes of extending my current lifespan and preventing
the ending of my current lifespan, it does matter and the copy is not good

> That's because your twin knows subjectively he is not you, something that
> wouldn't happen with a copy.

Wrong. The way I know that I am not my twin is that I am inside a body I
call "me" here. My brother is in a similar body over there. I can never
confuse the person "here" with the person "there". Even if other people
can't tell us apart, I never get confused as to which body I am in. I have
always been in the copy I call “me”, and never have considered that other
copy to be “me”. Having more similarities with my twin won’t change my

I think we have a relativity problem. The word “me” applies to anybody we
want. You are using the one pronoun “me” to point at two people at the same
time. It is no wonder it is confusing. Not only are they exactly alike,
but you call them by the same name. This problem only occurs to outside

Internally, each copy can easily distinguish itself from the other. The
self is always “here”. The other is always “there”. Each copy that wakes
up experiences an attachment to only one copy that it considers itself. The
other copy, no matter how exact, is always seen as being some “other” over
there. The copies themselves will never get the two confused.

They are exactly alike in all ways to all external viewpoints. But their
internal viewpoints are separate. Their self-identify mechanisms point to
two separate bodies. They do not self-identify the same person as “me”.
They each have chosen a separate nomenclature. They do not agree on which
is “me” and which is “you”. Just like a person looking in a mirror, they
are duplicates but reversed. What one considers “right” the other considers
“left”. What one considers “inside the mirror” the other considers “outside
the mirror”. Like a reverse writing in a mirror that is atom-by-atom
exactly like the original, one can be read easily by a copy while the other
seems alien and backwards.

I propose that for my purposes only, the concept of “me” is defined not just
by any body, but the local body being inhabited. “My” body responds to my
commands while “other” bodies don’t. “My” body supplies me with sensory
input while “other” bodies don’t. “My” memories are directly accessible to
me, while “other” memories aren’t. “My” self is always here, while “other”
selves are always there. I am in direct thought-controlled communication
with “me”. It is this access or functionality that defines “me”. Not my
memories, not my looks, not my personality. All these will change, but my
relative perception of me-here-now will never change. That is my automatic
self-detection criteria. Even if I wake up in an alien body, with no
memories, and a completely different personality, I will think I am “me” and
wonder where I am.

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

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sat May 11 2002 - 17:44:26 MDT