X-Message-Number: 23821
Date: Tue, 06 Apr 2004 12:44:20 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Teleportation Conundrum

Eric Morgen, #23816, refers to a "teleportation conundrum" 

Basically, future technology is able to transmit information about you to 
Mars and rebuild an exact copy of you there, meanwhile destroying the 
earthbound original. Do "you" survive? If the answer is yes, then what if 
there is some mistake and the original is not destroyed? You then have two 
claimants to being "you"--so which is the "real" you (if any)? My answer 
would be to accept that "you" do survive, but also, that an individual 
could fission into two or more people, each with more-or-less equal claims 
of being "original." (To go a little further, if somehow the two could be 
psychologically identical, that is to say, exact copies experientially, I 
would consider this to be one individual multiply instantiated. The one 
person would, in this case, be in more than one place at once. But this one 
would fission into more than one as soon as any experiential differences 
developed among the different instantiations.) I would also view any person 
as just one possible continuer of past versions of him-/herself, rather 
than the only possible continuer, with the expectation that other 
continuers may well exist too. This last conclusion, bizarre though it may 
seem, may be forced on us if certain scientific theories hold up, such as 
the many-worlds formulation of quantum theory. There our reality is 
constantly splitting into near-copies, and we along with it. One person is 
constantly becoming many, each equally "original." Something to think about.

I also think Eric does a good job pointing out difficulties with David 
Pizer's unique awareness sensor (UAS) theory. In fact we do have a 
replacement of the matter in our brains, in the course of normal 
metabolism. After a few years there is hardly any of the original material 
left, yet what is there, including the new material, is usually thought to 
constitute the same person. (A person can be tried for a crime decades 
after the event, for instance, and I haven't heard of anyone getting off 
the hook by claiming they were only a replica of the one who did it.) Eric 
also brings up the somatic theory of personal identity, similar to but 
possibly more general than the UAS theory, in which the person remains the 
same as long as the physical and psychological changes are no more than 
gradual. So the person would remain the "same" under a slow exchange of 
matter, even if the original material was finally completely replaced, so 
long as there were no long periods of unconsciousness during the process. 
(Perhaps this is allowed in the UAS theory too.) If someone became comatose 
for a long enough time, though, and then recovered, there could be a nearly 
complete exchange of matter while the subject was unconscious. Would they 
still be the "same"? If they would, it would seem to imply that the same 
person would also result from replacing the whole, original body with a copy.

There is a case that approximates the long-term coma victim, described at 
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2003-07-09-coma-usat_x.htm. Terry 
Wallis was near-comatose for 18 years yet finally recovered normal 
consciousness, in 2003. He thought Reagan was still President, and so on. 
Was he the "same" person he was in 1984, before the auto accident that 
caused his problem? Was he less the 1984 self in 2003 than someone else who 
had normal awareness during the intervening years, even though his sense of 
being his earlier self may have been much greater and more immediate?

Personally, I think the somatic theory is barking up the wrong tree, 
because, for instance, it would identify as the "same" someone who could be 
very different from an earlier original, so long as the changes were 
gradual. This brings up an interesting thought experiment. Say that ETs 
with advanced technology have conscripted you for some studies they intend 
to perform. They will hand you over to one of two groups of their 
researchers, the psychologists or the physiologists, the choice being up to 
you. The psychologists will gradually transform you into someone with 
completely different memories and personality, with no recollections of 
being "you," but with no sudden jumps in the process either, whether 
physical or psychological. The physiologists will just anesthetize you and 
perform experiments on your body until it eventually is sacrificed without 
regaining consciousness. Before doing this, though, they will make an exact 
copy, and when all is done, activate that copy, which will be in full 
possession of your memories and faculties, and feel it is fully you. 
Assuming all operations are painless, and other factors equal, which 
alternative would you choose?

My choice without hesitation would be the physiologists.

Mike Perry

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