SAM MORRELL


ASTROPHYSICIST

My Take on the Continuity of Humanity.

February 17, 2010   |   Reading time: ~4 mins

Hey everyone who may read this, I shan’t bored you withe obligatory ‘sorry I haven’t written in a while’ and hop right into this post. There’s a part of me I don’t tend to show very often and that’s my philosophical side, for this post I figured I’d embrace it as it’s provoking me to actually write this post.

Recently, I was discussing my girlfriend’s AS Level philosophy with her, the essay was based on the the continuity of the human being and that if various situations took place whether the being that came out the other side would be the same person. As an example, any Star Trek fans will know about the ‘Transporter’, for those who don’t I’ll explain the concept. The Transporter is a device that seemingly converts a human being entirely into energy, sends them across a distance, and then reassembles them from energy to matter at the other end. We were arguing the for the brief second that the transport took place the person who was being transported wouldn’t exist. Another flaw in the concept is that the person wouldn’t actually be transported and are actually being cloned.

Let me explain my reasoning, the actual phyiscallity of a person cannoit be transported, it’s the template of the person that’s being transported, the actual being of a person is being destroyed at one end and precisely recreated at the other end, though the person is identical, is it the same person. Also, theoretically, though the energy used to recreate the matter is different, the matter is in theory 100% identical to what went in the other end…. so, though it’s made of different stuff, the person it made of exactly the same stuff.

It’s an interesting question isn’t it? To try and explain this we have to define something. What makes a human being and what makes it the same person from one minute to the next? There’s two schools of thought on this matter, some argue that it’s a persons physical self that defines a person, but some argue that it’s a persons mental self that defines themselves. So, what makes a human being? There’s a probelm with this though, both a human’s physical state and mental state are constantly changing… from one minute to the next cells are dying and being replaces, memory engrams are being created and memories are being stored. How can something that is constantly changing be classified as the same thing.

The human condition is a fascinating topic to me, at what point does a complex colony of milions upon milions of individual bateria and cells become defined as one individual person, or any other lifeform or that matter? My Personal opinion… both the mental physical aspect of being human make up a person, both their physical being and the sum of their memories and experiences make up the whole, by that reckoning the continuity of a human being is highly quesitonable as both are constantly changing. However if we reckon of the sum of a person’s memories defining a person then even in the extreme ‘Transporter’ scenario that was presented, the person still remains the same as the sum of their experiences and memories remain in tact. It was at this point in my mindless ramblings that my girlfriend interjected and stated ‘What about someone who has amnesia or is slighlty old and loosing their memory, if they can’t remember a memory does that still make them the same?’. It was then that I pointed out that just because they can’t remember the experience, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen to them and the memory engrams exist. Experiences and Memories remember, both.

Well, there’s my quick whirlwind take on things, I appoligise if my ramblings make little sense but this was somewhat of a mind-dump for me. I just had ideas that seemed to make sense lumped in together so that’s what I did. Remember, if you have an opinion on the topic comment down there… and if you like what you read, let me know, there’s plenty more where this came from… the void of my mind is a complex and confusing place. 😉

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Comments

Alex Dawn

February 18, 2010

Intresting Ideas though not the first time I've heard the teleport problem but never from a philosopical view, I've read a book by a man who believes every instant of time is its own seperate universe and that at any two instances you are not the same person... quite weird but intresting...

Sam Morrell

February 18, 2010

Yeah, I can see why someone could think that, since a person is both their physical self and the combined sum of their experiences and memories, both our phyiscal selves and mental selves are never same from one second to the next. The question is how far do we analyse this? lol