My initial purpose in discussing copies on this list was as an analogy for
the copies of an observer in other branches of the multiverse, to make a
point about the significance of absolute versus relative measure in the QTI.
However, the discussion has obviously taken off in a different direction,
and it appears that now we are not talking about thought experiments, but
about something that might become a reality at some future point in human
evolution. But while we have been discussing the rich philosophical issues
raised by this possibility, and touched on some of the social issues in a
world where copying is common, nobody has really talked about how these
copies will actually be made. It seems to me that our old workhorse, the
Star Trek teleporter, even if theoretically possible, would be a
fantastically difficult thing to make. Any civilization advanced enough to
be up to the task of building one would have long ago developed much easier
methods of copying and transferring minds by going all electronic (or
photonic, or whatever), so that atom for atom duplication of a biological
entity would be a pointless exercise.
It therefore seems likely that if copying minds is to be commonplace and
easy, the minds will be uploaded humans or AI's on a computer network. This
would change *everything* that has so far been said about copies and their
relationship to each other and to the original. When I think about whether
concern for the welfare of one of my copies is selfishness or altruism, I do
so from the point of view of a poor unmodified human who experiences a
single track, unidirectional stream of consciousness unfolding linearly in
time and relying on memory to hold it all together. But if I were a computer
program with ability to rewrite my own source code (or have someone else do
it), that all goes out the window. I would be able to merge with other
people, spin off sub-personalities, enhance any attribute or ability I
liked, just *decide* what philosophical or other belief I wanted to hold,
make myself altruistic on Mondays and selfish on Tuesdays, edit my memory so
that things happen in a different order, assimilate any experience that I
fancy, be basically content with life but with a cynical edge and a mild
yearning for old-style human limitations, and so on and on...
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