Our brains are notorious for being the subject of some of the trickiest philosophical questions. Here we address the issue of identity.
What is your identity?
Your identity or 'I' feeling is the experience that you are in your head and not in the head of someone else. You consciously experience what is happening in your head, but you do not have direct access to what is happening in someone else's mind. It's a subjective experience.
We feel like we are the same person as yesterday or last year. In reality we change greatly. The molecules that make up us are constantly being replaced, but more importantly, the structures and patterns in our brains are also constantly changing.
We forget a lot, learn new things, our environment changes. A person can change dramatically in ten or twenty years, all the way from childhood to adulthood. If you have been keeping a diary for a long time, it is interesting to read back what you did and thought years ago.
Yet you still consider yourself that same person. It seems like there is a continuity in your identity. Even when you wake up from sleep, coma or sedation, you still feel like the same person, despite the fact that your consciousness has been interrupted.
Others also continue to see you as the same person, but for different reasons. For example, because you hardly change in the short term. But also people who have not seen you for a long time will still consider you the same person. Even if they can no longer recognize you by your appearance or behavior, they will identify based on your name, background, or shared memories.
Make a copy
Let's do some thought experiments. Suppose teleportation would be possible. The structure of your brain is scanned at very high resolution, much better than is currently possible. This information is used elsewhere to make an identical version of you. Meanwhile, the original (you!) Is being destroyed, so apparently you've been teleported.
Would that new version of you still feel like the same person as you? Probably yes, because all memories, personal characteristics, and skills are the same. And others will look at it that way, they see no difference. Can we then say that your 'I' lives on without problems in the copy? This is a bit more complicated.
Which copy has your identity?
Suppose you don't make one copy, but make two or even a lot. Then your 'I' would be in each of those copies. If you asked them, every copy would find that they have the same identity as the original person. But that seems impossible unless your identity can split up. How can you have the experience of being in multiple heads at the same time? In the one yes and the other does not make sense either. Then the consequence is that your 'I' is probably not in any copy.
Another point of view is if the original is kept while a copy is being made. Your identity would certainly still be in the original, if the scanning technology doesn't change you. It does not seem likely that the 'I' would also go to the copy.
The conclusion seems to be that each copy that is made has a completely different identity from the original person, even though they are identical at the time the copy is made.
Upload your brain and identity
Is your identity inextricably linked to your brain?
Another thought experiment is to move all the information in your brain very graduallyupload'to a computer. We assume that our mind is substrate independent, so it does not matter whether it is located in biological brains or, for example, in silicon chips. You replace brain cell after brain cell with computer hardware and software that simulate the precise structure and function of the brain. If you do this procedure gradually you will not notice it and your 'I' will continue to exist during each intermediate stage. The end result is that your brain is uploaded into a computer.
It looks like your `I 'is neatly located in the computer. If you now start making copies of your `silicon brain '(a lot easier than with the biological brain), you will run into the same problems again. Does it make sense to have a copy your brain as a backup for when you suffer brain damage or die? Probably the result would be a different person.
Could the 'I' be a great illusion?
If the 'I' is a completely subjective experience, can it be an illusion? Is the whole concept nonsensical?
The consequence of this is that you should have no problem with being killed yourself, provided that an exact copy of you is made elsewhere at the same time. After all, you move net on your own. However, your urge to survive would want to prevent your original from being destroyed at all costs.
But still. Living beings simply have a strong urge to survive. This is a logical product of evolution; species without that trait would quickly become extinct. Could it be that this urge is the only reason you would not agree to the above procedure, where you are destroyed while an exact copy is made?
I personally believe that a certain degree of spatial continuity is essential for the preservation of your identity. You can move it to another medium, but gradually. You cannot consider an exact copy that is made separately as yourself.
How do you feel about this?