[ExI] Is a copy of you really you?

Ben Zaiboc ben at zaiboc.net
Thu May 28 07:57:10 UTC 2020

On 27/05/2020 23:48, bill w wrote:
> Well, answer me this:  can any machine of any kind, computer or not. 
> make a perfect copy of anything?   Perfect down to the atomic level.

Well, apart from getting into definitions, for my scenario an atom-level 
perfect copy probably isn't needed, just normal biological processes 
that go on all the time, plus some way of making a human body do what an 
amoeba does when it splits into two (and yes, that's the hand-wavey bit 
that all thought experiments must have, otherwise they'd be real 

The crucial part of this idea is that it's not the usual 
make-a-copy-leaving-all-the-original-parts-as-they-were, it's a 
multicellular version of what happens normally in many single-celled 
organisms like the amoeba. It feeds, builds up enough stores of the 
right kind of molecules, then each structure in the cell replicates so 
there are two identical-enough-for-biology versions, which then move 
randomly to one side or another of the cell, which then divides down the 
middle. Each resultant daughter cell is composed of a mixture of the 
original mother cell's parts and the newly replicated parts.

It's as though we had a sentence, duplicated each letter, then randomly 
swapped half of the letters
with their twin, forming two new, identical sentences.

This is a sentence.
This is a sentence.

There, I just did it. Let's say I swapped the positions of every second 
character (so the h, s, i, etc., on each row comes from the other row). 
Now, which is the original sentence, and which the copy? The question 
doesn't make sense, does it?

Now, here is another sentence where I've just deleted then retyped every 
second character:

This is a sentence.

This is just like the normal process that goes on in biological tissue 
all the time. Right now, billions of individual proteins in my body are 
being broken down and replaced with identical proteins. This has no 
consequences whatsoever for my identity, as long as the fidelity of the 
process is reasonably high (because enough malformed proteins would 
disrupt the functioning of my cells).

The only difference between this and the scenario above, is that above, 
there are two sentences at the end of the process. So if that was a 
person, instead of a sentence, or an amoeba, what consequences would it 
have for their identity?

Ben Zaiboc

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