Mark Peaty writes (in part):
So back to the question: can I be copied? Answer: More or less yes.
Next question: Is the edition of me that gets copied then flushed away
committing suicide? Answer: Yes
Next question: If the copying did not destroy the original of me then who is
the new edition of me in Beijing or wherever? Answer: [and this is simple] He
is my identical twin brother. That is the easy philosophical answer. His legal
status will depend on what the law has evolved to prescribe about the situation.
And there we have it! THAT was the answer I have been looking for for years
actually, ever since reading Reasons and Persons [well ... reading most of,
because the first half or one third of the book is VERY dry]. Twin brothers, or
triplets, whatever. What could be conceptually simpler than that?!
MP: And here I was going to quibble: The first two dot points above relate
processes of ASCRIPTION. This is important. This is still true but I don't care
any more. I just wandered off to commune with nature and spent some time
running fantasy scenarios in my mind- 'tutorial' type scenes with me holding
forth - and the whole thing has slotted into place. As follows:
* Assuming that it is in principle feasible to 'copy' a person and either
store the data obtained without deterioration or transmit the data without
noticeable loss, then when that data is used to reconstitute a medically and
legally acceptable facsimile, the new copy is NOT the original it is his/her
identical twin brother or sister.
* In this scenario, if the original which is copied ceases to exist at the
place of copying, he/she has died. If the copying took place without
destruction of the original then he/she is [ceteris paribus] the same person
and unchanged. The legal status of the new twin will be the subject of common
or statute law provoked by the invention of the new technology.
* In a discussion with one of my son's friends just now we agreed that the
'Star Trek' version of the teleporter is a rather odd beasty in which not just
the information/data concerning the structure and dynamics of a crew member's
body was sent to a destination but the actual atoms of the body were sent also.
This might seem like a tidy sort of solution to someone who didn't want to
think too deeply about it, but the sending of the original's atoms would add an
enormous overhead to the system, firstly the amount of energy required to
accelerate all the particles to something close to the speed of light would be
enormous, and secondly it would not change anything significant because it is
not the fact of it being those particular atoms which is important but which
kind of atoms and exactly where should they be. So when 'Scotty' or whoever
beams them up, they die on the planet's surface and their identical twins are
created in the spaceship.
* This whole scenario actually works to support the contention of Steven
Lehar that the identity of a thing includes its location and that this fact is
a reflection of how our brains work in creating the phenomenal reality of our
Is there anything about how you are feeling to day that makes you sure that
aliens didn't come during the night and replace your body with an exact copy?
Because that is basically what happens naturally anyway, although it isn't
aliens and it takes months rather than overnight: almost every atom in your
body is replaced with another atom, put in roughly the same place. If the
discarded atoms were kept rather than sloughed off, exhaled etc. you would see
that your identical twin of a few months ago had died and no-one even noticed,
because it happened gradually. Other than in the speed and scheduling of your
death, how does destructive teleportation differ from normal life?
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