On Sun, Oct 21, 2012 at 6:25 PM, Jason Resch <jasonre...@gmail.com> wrote

> I think you are missing something.  It is a problem that I noticed after
> watching the movie "The Prestige"

In my opinion "The Prestige" is the best movie made in the last 10 years,
and this is one of those rare instances where the movie was better than the
book. Before the movie back in 1996 I wrote a short scenario that had
somewhat similar themes, this is part of it:

" About a year ago I started building a matter duplicating machine. It
could  find the position and velocity of every atom in a human being to the
limit imposed by Heisenberg's law. It then used this information to
construct a copy and it does it all in a fraction of a second and without
harming the original in any way. You may be surprised that I was able to
build such a complicated machine, but you wouldn't be if you knew how good
I am with my hands. The birdhouse I made is simply lovely and I have all
the latest tools from Sears.

I was a little nervous but I decided to test the machine by duplicating
myself. The day before yesterday I walked into the chamber, it filled with
smoke (damn those radio shack transformers) there was a flash of light, and
then 3 feet to my left was a man who looked exactly like me. It was at that
instant that the full realization of the terrible thing I did hit me. I
yelled "This is monstrous, there can only be one of me", my copy yelled
exactly the same thing. I thought he was trying to mock me, so I reached
for my 44 magnum that I always carry with me (I wonder why people think I'm
strange) and pointed it at my double. I noted with alarm that the double
also had a gun and he was pointing it at me. I shouted "you don't have the
guts to pull the trigger, but I do". Again he mimicked my words and did so
in perfect synchronization, this made me even more angry and I pulled the
trigger, he did too. My gun went off but due to a random quantum
fluctuation his gun jammed. I buried him in my back yard.

Now that my anger has cooled and I can think more clearly I've had  some
pangs of guilt about killing a living creature, but that's not what really
torments me. How do I know I'm not the copy? I feel exactly the same as
before, but would a copy feel different? Actually there is a way to be
certain, I have a video tape of the entire experiment. My memory is  that
the copy first appeared 3 feet to my LEFT, (if I had arranged things so he
appeared 3 feet in front of me face to face things would have been more
symmetrical, like looking in a mirror), if the tape shows the original
walking into the chamber and the copy materializing 3 feet to his RIGHT,
then I would know that I am the copy. But I'm afraid to look at the tape,
should I be? If I found out I was the copy what should I do? I suppose I
should morn the death of John Clark, but how can I, I'm not dead. If I am
the copy would that mean that I have no real past and my life is
meaningless? Is it important, or should I just burn the tape and forget all
about it?"

> you probably believe there is some stream of thoughts/consciousness that
> you identify with.

I can't conceive of anyone disagreeing with that.

  > You further believe that these thoughts and consciousness are produced
> by some activity of your brain.


> Unlike Craig, you believe that whatever horrible injury you suffered,
> even if every atom in your body were separated from every other atom, in
> principle you could be put back together, and if the atoms are put back
> just right, you will be removed and alive and well, and conscious again.


> > Further, you probably believe it doesn't matter if we even re-use the
> same atoms or not, since atoms of the same elements and isotopes are
> functionally equivalent.


> We could take apart your current atoms, then put you back together with
> atoms from a different pile and your consciousness would continue right
> where it left off (from before you were obliterated).


> It would be as if a simulation of your brain were running on a VM, we
> paused the VM, moved it to a different physical computer and then resumed
> it.  From your perspective inside, there was no interruption, yet your
> physical incarnation and location has changed.


> > what happens to your consciousness when duplicated?

When what is duplicated? Adjectives, like consciousness or Jason Resch, do
not duplicate in the same way that nouns, like brains, do. If I exactly
duplicate a iPod playing loud music the iPod is duplicated but the
adjective "loud" is not duplicated, but if I then change the loudness level
on one of them but not the other then the two differentiate. In the same
way If I exactly duplicate you and a cat as you consciously look at the cat
then your body and brain are duplicated but the adjective describing what
the brain is doing, consciousness, is not duplicated; however if I then
change one cat but not the other then the conscious experience and memories
formed by observing the cat will be different and the two of you will no
longer be each other but both will be Jason Resch.

> Initially, the sensory input to the two duplicates could be the same, and
> in a sense they are still the same mind, just with two instances

Two identical minds are not "in a sense" the same mind they ARE the same
mind period.

> but then something interesting happens once different input is fed to the
> two instances: they split.

Yes, now let me tell you of a thought experiment of my own.

An exact duplicate of the earth, and it's entire ecosystem, is created a
billion light years away. The duplicate world would need some sort of
feedback mechanism to keep the worlds in synchronization, non linear
effects would amplify tiny variations, even quantum fluctuations, into big
differences, but this is a thought experiment so who cares. In the first
two cases below the results would vary according to personalities, remember
there's a lot of illogic even in the best of us.

1) I know all about the duplicate world and you put a 44 magnum to my head
and tell me that in ten seconds you will blow my brains out. Am I
concerned? You bet I am because I know that your double is holding an
identical gun to the head of my double and making an identical threat.

2) I find out that for the first time since the Big Bang the worlds will
diverge, in 10 seconds you will put a bullet in my head but my double will
be spared. Am I concerned? Yes, and angry as well, in times of intense
stress nobody is very logical. My double is no longer exact because I am
going through a traumatic experience and my double is not. I'd be looking
at that huge gun and wondering what it will be like when it goes off and if
death will really be instantaneous. I'd be wondering if my philosophy was
really as sound as I thought it was and I'd also be wondering why I get the
bullet and not my double and cursing the unfairness of it all. My (semi)
double would be thinking "it's a shame about that other fellow but I'm glad
it's not me".

3) I know nothing about the duplicate world, a gun is at both our heads and
we both are convinced we're going to die. One gun goes off, making a hell
of a mess, but the other gun, for inexplicable reasons misfires. In this
case NOBODY died and except for undergoing a terrifying experience I am
completely unharmed. The real beauty part is that I don't even have to
clean up the mess.

The bottom line is we don't have thoughts and emotions, we are thoughts and
emotions, and the idea that the particular hardware that is rendering them
changes their meaning is as crazy as my computer making the meaning of your
post different from what it was on yours.

  John K Clark

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