I’ve been reading Susan Blackmore’s book, Consciousness: an introduction, and have come across a thought experiment that I’ve actually given quite a bit of thought on my own when contemplating consciousness transfer into computer hardware as a form of immortality by transcending biology. The experiment, first proposed by Derek Parfit, is used to determine how you view consciousness, from either an ego centered view or a view that the illusion of an ego is the emergent property or bundle of sensory inputs and qualia.
The experiment goes something like this. Imagine that you need to get across town and a crazy physicist tells you that he can transport you there instantaneously using his tech-tacular teletransportation device. How it works is that it scans every molecule in your body and sends that data to another terminal on the other side of town which recreates your body exactly the way you are. The catch is, in order to do this the scan also destroys your existing cells. Would you do it? An exact replica of you would step out on the other side exactly as you are right now. All your memories, thoughts, hopes, dreams, and bodily odors would be reproduced down to the quantum position of every proton of nitrogen in the urea of your moderately full bladder. If you wouldn’t because you feel that the replica that stepped out of the machine on the other side of town wouldn’t actually be the you contemplating this decision, that you would, in effect die and merely be a copy on the other side, then you are an ego theorist in terms of how your consciousness operates. If you don’t think there would be any difference as long as you came out exactly the same on the other side, that your consciousness would continue due to the emerging states of thought, sensory input and feeling, then you are supposedly a “bundle theorist”. Continue Reading