Re: The Copy Paradox

Harvey Newstrom (
Thu, 13 Nov 1997 16:07:24 -0500

Hal Finney wrote:
> Certainly a physical copy would not be enough. But things are different
> if you are talking about an exact mental copy. It can be argued that
> identity is fundamentally a matter of patterns of processing. Reproduce
> the pattern, and you reproduce the identity.

Thanks for you feedback. I find it facinating when intelligent people
seem to have actual differing opinions that are not based in differences
of belief in certain facts. I have seen these arguments before, and I
believe in all the same technical capabilities that you seem to
describe, but my conslusion of personal choice would be different than

I have heard the idea of copying to avoid death many times, but it still
seems to be a semantic smoke-and-mirrors trick where the copies is
merely "labelled" the same as the original. My experience is different
between me and my copy. I still experience the universe from the
viewpoint of my original body. The fact that a copy is made does not
change my experience that I am still within this body. Danger still
scares this consciousness. Pain still hurts this body. And I continue
to try to avoid the death my physical container. My experiencial
viewpoint does not magically transfer to the new copy like a mystical
soul. I still continue existing and experiencing withing the original
body. If you kill this original body, I will feel the pain, I will
experience the loss of consciousness, and then I will stop experiencing
anything at all. Why would I allow that? Just because a doppleganger
that looks just like me says, "Trust me, I'll carry on in your place."?

If I copy you perfectly, would you give up your freedom and become my
slave, happy in the knowledge that "you" (your copy) is still free?
Would you not try to avoid physical pain because it had been explained
to you that "you" (your copy) still exists without pain? Would you take
a cut in pay as long as "you" (your copy) still received a full salary?
Would you become celibate and nonjealous, happy in the knowledge that
"you" (your copy) is now having a long-term sexual relationship with
your spouse? Is not death merely the ultimate inconvenience, permanent
pain, or permanent lack of pleasure? Would you really not mind being
killed, just because you are assured that "you" (your copy) will be
allowed to live?

I see these examples as similar questions on a continuum. I'm not sure
why that last one would be any different than the former ones. I still
see the original as trying to avoid pain, gain pleasure, and avoid
death. Knowledge of what some other body is experiencing that I am not
experiencing does not influence my desires for the future.

Your other examples are all very good. They all are different ways of
expressing the same copying example, and they all have the same problem
for me. They require copying, the creation of a dupliate, and then the
destruction of the original afterwards or simultaneously. As long as I
am still experiencing myself inside the original, about to suffer that
destruction, I don't see the advantage in having some distant copy that
I am merely told exists.

Harvey Newstrom  (