Re: The Copy Paradox

Hal Finney (
Thu, 13 Nov 1997 14:07:05 -0800

Harvey Newstrom, <>, writes:
> 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?

This is not quite what I mean by a copy. I want my copy to have real-time
updates of my current mental state. It's not good enough if a copy was
made a few minutes ago and now I am faced with some problem. Likewise
there is no way that I can be a slave and my "copy" be free, because
obviously his mental state does not match mine.

Instead, let me go to sleep, render me unconscious, make a copy,
and destroy the original, letting the copy awaken. Now there is no
experience which the original has that the copy does not share.

> 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 would not do any of these things, except possibly the last one, and
only in the kind of situation described above. Only in that case is there
the practical possibility of having the copy be an exact mental duplicate
of the original. In all the others, the copy and original diverge, and
there is no longer a copy of the person who is having the bad situation.

> 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.

Hopefully my explanation will have clarified this. I agree with this part,
but the problem is not that copies don't share identity, it's that the
copies are not being kept identical and hence that identity is no longer

> 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.

So how do you view the upload examples? Imagine yourself an upload.
Do you consider yourself to have died if your program is:

- Paused for a moment?
- Saved to disk and reloaded?
- Saved to disk and reloaded to a different computer?
- Suspended, sent across a network, and restarted on a different set
of network nodes?