[ExI] No link between original and copy? Denied!
florent.berthet at gmail.com
Fri Oct 29 00:33:12 UTC 2010
This is the classical uploading debate.
You are saying "I don't want to go through a destructive uploading because
that would be like making a clone of me, and then killing me. I don't want
my CLONE to live, I want MYSELF to live!"
This is the obvious intuitive response. This is what I thought some times
ago. But it's wrong. I'll try to be as clear as possible, but please keep an
To grasp this weird notion, you have to imagine different situations :
First, imagine that, during your sleep, all your atoms are instantly
teleported exactly one millimeter to your left. You wouldn't even notice.
Wouldn't you say the teleported you is the same as you? It's still you, just
one millimeter to the left, right? If I offered you a thousand dollars to
teleport you by 1mm during your sleep, wouldn't you accept?
Now, imagine all your atoms are instantly teleported one meter to the left
during your sleep. Surely the same principle applies, you would still be the
same person, just in a different place.
Ok, now imagine your atoms are teleported one meter to the left, but there
is a delay of one second between the moment you disappear and the moment you
reappear to your left. I don't see why that would change anything to the
previous cases, right ? You still wouldn't notice a thing. There would be no
Well now imagine, instead of a delay during teleportation, there is a quick
lag AFTER your reappearance where your initial self is still in the initial
place, but just for one second. Once again, I don't see what would be
different. In the end, it's still an unnoticed change in places.
However, this last case is no different than copying yourself and killing
the original, which is the notion you don't agree with.
So, where do you draw the line?
In fact, there is no line to draw. Your atoms are not special. You are
composed of the same atoms as trees. A carbon atom is identical to another
carbon atom. We could replace all your atoms by new ones, one by one,
throwing the old ones in a trash, and you would be the exact same being. So
specific atoms are not what makes you YOU.
But if it's not your atoms that make you YOU in a sense that you would
always put a priority on yourself rather than on your copies, what is it
that make you special?
Logically, the only thing left that could justify this behavior is the
continuity of consciousness. It's like saying "I am important to myself
because there is a continuity in my brain that makes me a singular person.
If this continuity is broken, I no longer exist."
Sure, the consciousness can be represented as a stream. But this stream is
not continuous. When you sleep, it slows down and fade, shutting off for
several minutes or hours, and then you wake up, feeling like the night only
lasted a few moments. There really is no continuity in this stream of
consciousness. We have the illusion there is one because obviously we can't
notice the absence of stream when we sleep of when we pass out, but in
reality, our consciousness is discontinuous. The most extreme example is the
one of comatose people, who can wake up after several years, thinking that
they just slept for a night. In these cases, their consciousness turned off,
and then, for some reason, it turned on again. You could argue that the
small electric activity that can still occur in their brain during coma is
what keeps the continuity on, but is this really so? We could imagine their
brain totally shutting off of all activity and then coming back again, but
even then, would we say they aren't the same person just because their brain
was just an inert mass for a period of time.
Then again, we could replace some of the neurons in their brains by similar
ones and they wouldn't notice. In fact we could replace a whole brain
hemisphere and they wouldn't notice. Heck, their whole brain could be
totally replaced by the exact same one (made with "new" atoms), and it
wouldn't matter to them in the moment of waking up. *The phenomenon of their
consciousness would be the exact same.*
So, to conclude, the fact that some particular atoms are in your brain is
not what makes you a unique original. And continuity is also irrelevant : a
brain can be shut down and turned on again without consequences. As
impossible as it may seem, to kill you in your sleep and to replace you by
your copy is no different than letting you sleep. There is no unique and
"real" you that is different than your copies, there are only patterns of
atoms that form a consciousness made of your thoughts, feelings, and
memories. These patterns can exist in any place, at any time, and none of
them is special.
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