Re: The copy paradox

Brent Allsop (
Tue, 4 Nov 1997 11:50:40 -0700

Clemens Pittino <> asked about the copy paradox:

> If you digitize your brain, you can copy it exactly. Who am I, if I
> would let run my mind on 2 hosts ?

There are many forms of the copy paradox idea. The most
popular deals with the idea of a "transporter" in the Science Fiction
Stories of Star Trek so I'll give what I feel to be the answer to this
issue based on the transporter idea.

For discussion purposes, I'll use the names Dup and Trans.
Dup1 walked into a non destructive transporter and walked out of this
same machine unchanged, yet scanned. Then an identical Dup2 walked
out of the reproducer part some distance away from this scanning
machine. Trans1 walked into a similar scanning machine but was
completely taken apart atom by atom before an identical Trans2 was
constructed out of different yet identical stuff some distance away.

The problem of what it would be like is similar to the problem
of other minds. Of course if you are Dup1 you will be extremely
annoyed at the way Dup2 continually says he is the real Dup. And of
course you wouldn't want to be Trans1 because he was destroyed even
though Trans2 claims he is the same. If you were Trans2 you would
have no way of directly consciously knowing or remembering that Trans1
was destroyed and believe that you were the original transported
Trans. Also If you were Dup2 you would believe that you were the
original Dup and Dup1 would equally annoy you by claiming he was the
real Dup.

The primary answer is, if you are the same, you will not be
able to tell the difference between the two, including the particular
feelings and memories being felt by the two now separate copies. If
you were dup1, you would feel exactly the same as dup2.

"Then what is it that is you?" one may ask. I believe, it is
your state or shape. If you organized the proper stuff(*1) into this
proper shape it would be you. Whether it was done a googol years ago,
whether it was done in a googol years from now or whether it was done
in a newly created similar universe different and completely separate
from our own and whether it was done a googol times here today. (Even
though you may have to be like God to be able to do this or at least
to come up with the complete information required to duplicate someone
that was say cremated 1000 years ago.) This shape of you is self
existent. This fact about you can't be created by any God nor
destroyed by even the universe ceasing to exist. It is a logically
necessary fact that you can exist. Your existence proves this.

Dup1 and Dup2, after living a day, their state would start to
diverge. Hence, they would become different people. This would be
similar to the way you are different than the you that existed
yesterday because of your new memories and other changes. To the
degree that we are the same as our parents, we are the same person.
To the degree that we are in a different state, we are different

One of the primary reasons we are unsatisfied with such an
answer has a lot to do with the philosophical "problem of other
minds". We simply can't "eff" what it is like to be us, and we
thereby can't know if our copy is really indistinguishable from
ourselves. Maybe the copy is some unfeeling (or "absent qualia")
zombie simply acting the same? If we can solve the problem of other
minds by discovering what qualia and consciousness really are
objectively we can eliminate such dilemmas or "conundrums", or
"paradoxes". We simply must be able to "eff" the ineffable. Such
(mind melding?) will solve all these problems.

I believe that we will be able to some day augment our brain
with generic qualia experiencing machinery similar to that which we
have now that can reproduce the consciousness going on in others
brains, by monitoring and duplicating whatever activity is producing
such, in our own brains. To me such direct conscious communication or
"effing" is a much easier thing to do than the duplicator/transporter
we are talking about. Discovering what qualia/consciousness are and
then effing such in this way is surely easier than creating a
duplicator. (Maybe we'll have to wait until God gives us such "mind
meld" technology? ;) If you have such an augmented brain you will be
able to connect up with or monitor the other Dup in such a way that
you are conscious of both what you are experiencing and what the other
Dup is experiencing. Such would solve the problem of other minds,
eliminate the "conundrum" or the "paradox", and allow you to say yes
that other Dup is indeed the same as me. ("Your different than me
because thats not the way salt tastes to me!", you may say when
monitoring my brain with your newly augmented brain.)

So, there is no copy paradox, or even problem of other minds,
if we can achieve the ability to eff what others are experiencing.

(*1) If you insist on something mysterious or ghost like being
included in this "stuff" that you are made of the argument still
applies although at a slightly different level(*2). If one of you
exists it simply proves it is possible for you to exist. I think you
could create another identical universe with the same set of souls no
matter what the soul is. I believe it will be possible to duplicate
whatever it is that is us. Even if you have to be like God to do it.

(*2) Unleas of course you believe in some sort of you that is not
duplicatable. But this is an extremely pessimistic view since if your
not duplicatable then you are probably also not fixable or improvable
and you will forever be stuck with being less than or equal to what
you are today.

Brent Allsop