IEET > Rights > CognitiveLiberty > Personhood > Vision > Virtuality > Philosophy
IEET Audience Split on Personal Identity
Sep 15, 2013  

We asked “If your mind was perfectly copied to a new body…” who would the mindclones be, and who would own your stuff?  The 165 of you who answered were almost perfectly split three ways on this old debate about personal identity.

A third of you agreed with each of these positions:

“You would both be “you” and have joint ownership of your stuff”
“It would be a new person, without any claim to your stuff”
“Neither - Personal identity is just a useful illusion, as is ownership of stuff”

personal identity poll

New poll: “Are you eager to try Google Glass?”


This one’s a tricky question for me.  There’s a lot of relevant factors left unstated, so it would make sense for there to be a split like this. 

I have to eliminate the “illusion” answer though.  Identity is an abstraction of the self as it is separate from others, but it certainly exists.  You can’t point to any part of the body (or even say that it entirely resides within the body!) and say that’s where identity is exclusively located, because it’s a composite of many parts, both physical and abstract.  However, for the point of argument, I’ll stick to talking about the part of identity that defines the observer “self” since it is the easiest to isolate and track. 

The biggest factor is how the copy is made.  If you were to 3D print off a perfect facsimile of your own brain, and the two brains were never connected in their thoughts, then in essence, you have a mind clone separate from yourself.  However, if the brains were connected together at some point, then the new brain would serve as a container for an addition to your own mind during that time.  If that connection were later severed, then you’d have an interesting case of identity being split between the individual bodies.  For sake of simplicity, I’d just leave it up to the individuals to decide who’s who.  In all likelihood, the other components of identity would determine to what extent the two halves would still be considered a single individual. 

Brain transplants would have the same identity issues.  If I was in either situation, I’d draft a legal document, and hire a lawyer to help, before I would try anything that would create that kind of ambiguity. 

TL;DR version: Identity is complicated, and there are no easy answers.  Asking for an easy answer just gets you a split response set.

By the time brain download, and copy into a duplicate body, is feasible, the question of ownership will be a moot point.
In a society of abundance, capable of molecular fabrication, you just duplicate whatever you, or your copy (in my books I call it alternate) want. Even your wife or husband.
In addition, the two brains could be in sync and be one individual living two lives.
My science fiction series ‘living dangerously in utopia’ contemplates and explores these scenarios.
Especially in the books ‘It is all in the Mind’ and ‘The Restlessness.’

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