The Clone Paradox

I had a really profound thought. Some of you might be familiar with the swamp man and philosophical zombies. This is related, but different.

Suppose in the year 2040 someone decided to clone me, atom to atom, perfectly (let’s say even to the exact quantum state, for argument’s sake), for shits and giggles.

Assuming that consciousness is a product of brain structure and processes, ala Francis Crick’s “Astonishing Hypothesis”, that person should not only have the same personality and appearance as me, but will also have the exact same memories. And since he has the exact same memories, it can be concluded he actually experienced those things in the same way I did.

Here’s the really really weird part. This would mean that my clone, from his perspective was actually “around” before he was even created!

Taking this a step farther, as far as I know I could actually not exist right now in physical form, but may actually be a currently non-existent clone of the person I think I am from the future! Since, after all, the clone would have experienced my life from his perspective every bit as much as I did.

The reason this is a paradox is because the clones would have experienced events that took place before they existed. However, it’s not really a paradox from the viewpoint of physics since the cloner used information from the past (the physical structure of the cloned person which contains their memories and subjective feelings about their memories) to create the clone. It’s only paradoxical from the clone’s perception.

What I would say is actually happening in this case, is the clone was the same person as the clonee until the duplication happened, in which they started to diverge and became two different, but very similar people. But if that’s the case, who is the original person? Were there two consciousnesses inside of the same body at the same time due to an event (the cloning) that hadn’t even happened yet?

We’ve done this argument many a time before on the SDMB. Imo, what happens is that you have two individuals who now believe they are you, instead of the usual one (or occasional, none).

This leads us to the uncomfortable conclusion that we, as individuals, are nothing more than a thing that remembers being the same thing yesterday, so someone will be along shortly to tell me how some sort of immaterial property of continuity is the really important thing.

I don’t follow this bit. The clone doesn’t experience anything prior to being created, he only has memories of having experienced those things. You could say that maybe you are a clone that was created right now, complete with memories from the last however many years, but you can’t say that you are currently just the remembered experiences of a clone to be created in the future.

There’s no difference between memories and experience, the past is gone and no longer exists, except in your memory.

Which is what makes all the various amnesia states so interesting.

You have surgery. No anesthesia is used; you are tied down and experience pain beyond belief. But you are given an amnesiac drug and have no memory of the experience. Is that ok?

You left out the key weaseling that both individuals are indistinguishable to a third party and that, therefore, they are both the same person.

In those previous threads, it has been noted that if we operate from the first person perspective, the clone may believe he is me, and even share my memories, but he is mistaken.

Exactly. If the memories are the same, the clone would have to actually experience them, or else it wouldn’t be the same.

I don’t buy into the idea that a person can be cloned so precisely that their actual memories copy over as well. However, if it were possible, there would be absolutely no detectable experiential difference between the original and the clone. For all practical purposes, in this scenario, the clone HAS experienced everything the original has.

The way I would put it is this:

If you make a perfect copy of Mijin (note: my username), complete with Mijin’s memories, then that person has as much claim to call themself Mijin as I do. And indeed, I wouldn’t even call myself “Original” Mijin versus “Copy of Mijin” since I think such labels would be meaningless.

However, that person isn’t me, as can easily be demonstrated by sticking a pin in him and noting that I do not feel pain. We are now two, entirely separate entities.
And if you now kill me, I don’t live on.

There’s a pretty big difference during the present experience. The OP’s fifth paragraph is nonsense.

If god existed, then he could have created the entire universe including the sun and earth with all its geologic and fossil remains exactly as they are and all of us with all our memories just five minute ago and we would have no way of knowing. In fact, from an entropy point of view such a situation is more likely than what we believe, which is that universe was created in a big bang and a state of essentially 0 entropy and has evolved to the present.

But for the OP, there is no way of distinguishing the clone from the original. There is no original, really. This is a common theme of transporters. Beam me up, Scotty.

From the perspective of someone other than the clones, the first one is the original. It’s doesn’t matter if they’re atom for atom copies. The first one is the original. I don’t understand how there would be any disagreement. It’s not even an interesting question.

From the perspective of the clones, it doesn’t matter which is the original. They’re the same. Therefore, again, a completely uninteresting question.

If I had two pieces of French Toast that were exactly, atom-for-atom, identical. How could I tell which one I ate first?

I fail to see where the intrigue originates.

The core conceit of replicating a biological being down to the exact memory state is a non-starter for me. It implies we can capture, store and restore consciousness states, and I don’t see that happening. Fun for a TV show like Dollhouse but not much else.

From an nomenclature standpoint, we typically refer to the original as X and new examples as X’, X’’. Wouldn’t that apply in this thought experiment? And, to be clear, for the purposes of a thought experiment, if such cloning could happen, okay - but minute they were both aware, the clones would diverge in experience and they would become increasingly differentiated as individuals, so identifying would just become a convention of naming, not a genuine difficulty.

However, within the world of AI, a digital conscienceness could be replicated, a trope used in countless stories.

In what way, though? Time doesn’t actually “flow” - our consciousness just moves through it, giving us the illusion that we are living in a dynamic 3D universe as opposed to a static 4D universe (or 9D and 10D if you’re one of those string theory suckers). If you could copy someone’s physical state perfectly (which I realize is probably impossible, but that’s irrelevant being it’s a hypothetical thought experiment) they would in fact, I’d argue, perceive all of the original person’s previous life as if it were their own, because if they experienced it in a “fake” or after the fact and vague way it wouldn’t be the same memory. The copy would have the same memory networks and (presumably) the same qualia about how it feels to have those memories, so you could say they did experience the original person’s past in a true way or otherwise they couldn’t have the same atomic structure in their brain.

The consciousness would be transferred, but it wouldn’t leave the original person, it would duplicate itself and be distinct from the original from that point in time on.

Yes but the past is only the past up until now. The clone created in 2040 has memories of a past that extends all the way up to 2040. The OP doesn’t, he only has memories that extend to now, sometime in October 2015, therefore he is not a clone created in 2040. He could of course be a clone created now, but that is not what he said.

I could in theory be a clone made in 2040 though, because if you replicated a human being perfectly, you would also replicate their memories and thus their experience of living in a past. If you arranged their molecules the right way you could even make it so they had a false subjective experience of living a lifetime in Middle Earth, though of course in practice you’d probably need more computing power than there is in the whole Universe to accomplish such an informational feat.

I don’t remember being born, so I guess I never was?

No. Never mind the clones. Your memories, in 2040, of the present time, will not be the same thing as your present experience. Just like your memories, now, of being twelve years old, are not the same as currently being twelve years old.

You’d be creating the experience of having lived in a “past” leading up to a present. Not the same thing.

I’m also not sure this is true. It’s an assumption, and it follows a certain logic, but is there any science that would prove it beyond a reasonable doubt?

I don’t think it’s that simple, because you interact with other people, and leave bits of things behind, while picking up other bits of things.

I mean, I suppose the clone could also have all your exact immunities you’d picked up from every microbe you’d ever been exposed to, and every parasite you carry (we all carry lots), including identical gut bacterial, but those things would have to be exactly identical, because they dictate how we react to certain foods we eat, and even influence our personalities (there have been studies that gut flora transplants affect personality).

If you’ve ever seen the movie Rashomon, you know that people don’t experience the same event the same way-- heck, even conjoined twins don’t always report experiencing an event the same way. Then, there’s the experience of the camera, which will be different from any single person’s memory. So there is a lot of difference between memory and experience.

Anyway, I think that even if the clone at conception is identical to you, it will begin to diverge as soon as it is created. As I said, even conjoined twins do not have identical life experiences, so much less do non-conjoined identical twins. They may be totally identical at some point, down to their gut bacteria and their memories, because at some point in utero they are truly tabula rasa, but everyone knows a set of identical twins, and knows they are tow very different people. After a year, your clone will no longer be like you.

Elizabeth Loftus, one of the foremost experts on memory in the world, has noted that memory is a process of remembering and reinterpretation. So even if at the moment of creation, you and your clone report a memory exactly the same way, after say, a year of life experience, the clone may have different twists on some of your shared memories. (As good an argument as ever for statutes of limitations, BTW.)

So, you and your clone may at some point be exactly alike, but you will not remain alike. If you are destroyed at the moment the clone is created, the clone will go on to be something different than what you would have become. Possibly something very similar, but not exactly the same.