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SmashTheState's avatar

I have a matter duplicator. May I kill you?

Asked by SmashTheState (9617 points ) December 23rd, 2011

I have invented a device which can make perfect duplicates of any object, including living things like people. All I need to do is put a big pile of raw materials into the hopper (pizza crusts, apple cores, and potato peelings are all I need for humans), and out pops whatever object I need duplicated.

As an experiment, I would like to make a perfect duplicate of you, perfect in every way. It will have all of your memories, think just like you, and go about your life. Then I will shoot the original you, since we can’t have two of you running about.

My question is, have I committed murder? After all, I haven’t killed anyone, you’re still out there paying taxes and making babies and looking at shitty porn. No court in the land could convict me; all I’d have to do is point to you: Look! Still there!

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34 Answers

King_Pariah's avatar

Oh, we’d frame you for my murder. And then being officially dead, oh sounds like so much fun! And you wouldn’t have the other me to point to.

everephebe's avatar

Ever heard of this thing called forensics? You’d get caught.
I and I wouldn’t be happy about being shot. Why can’t we have two of me running around huh?

SavoirFaire's avatar

If I have two discs containing the same information, it is still possible to destroy one even though the other remains in existence. They are numerically distinct entities, after all, and so it would be incorrect to say that they are the same disc merely because they have the same contents. Similarly, creating a duplicate of me creates a numerically distinct entity. Thus it could still be murder to kill me while a copy remains.

Male's avatar

So the physical bodies are identical, but what about the mental conscience?

I would say it’s murder.

jerv's avatar

Under one condition; knock me out first so that I can bullshit myself into thinking I just took a nap.

FYI – Car Wars by Steve Jackson Games had some interesting laws regarding cloning, as you can read here. However there were three US Presidents at one point in that timeline due to anarchists causing multiple clones to be activated.

SmashTheState's avatar

In a recent question, people seemed entirely sanguine with the possibility that anaesthetic works by killing you, then creating an entirely new person from the stored memories of the person who died. In fact, they even disputed that death occurred at all, since “they” clearly woke up from the anaesthesia with the same memories and sense of identity, even though the narrative of their experience had been completely severed. Why is it any different here? Your duplicate thinks exactly the same way you do, has the same memories, and in fact believes itself to be you. From the perspective of the duplicate, it is you. Why does it bother anyone to be shot dead as long as there’s a perfect duplicate of you which thinks it’s you?

jerv's avatar

@SmashTheState Why do you think I asked you to knock my ass out first? Hell, give me three bottles of La Fin du Monde or Don de Deiu and I will knock myself out!

fundevogel's avatar

“In a recent question, people seemed entirely sanguine with the possibility that…”

I am incapable of acknowledging any definition of “sanguine” that doesn’t involve large amounts of blood.

augustlan's avatar

The difference here is, there isn’t any incentive for us to allow you to kill us. In the anesthesia question, we’re talking about necessary surgery, and what we’re willing to go through in order to get it.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@SmashTheState The obvious answer to why the different responses is that you have different people responding to the two questions. So far, the people who have answered both questions don’t appear to have changed positions.

Furthermore, the previous answer concerned a hypothetical: we are told to assume a view that we might not accept as descriptive of reality and asked what we would think if the world was really like that. On this question, however, we are allowed to assume that the world operates as we think it does.

That killing occurred was a stipulation of the previous question. It is not a stipulation of this question. There was never a chance for two coexisting entities previously, there is now. There is also the difference between a free choice and an imposed death. These are all relevant factors when choosing how to describe a situation (not the least because killing is not the same thing as murder).

cookieman's avatar

Have you seen Multiplicity?!
Ain’t no such thing as a perfect copy. :^)

Blackberry's avatar

We need more people like me, so no, you may not. :P

ragingloli's avatar

It is only a perfect duplicate if the original perishes at the precise moment, to picosecond precision, the duplicate is finished.
Besides, I do not like to get shot, so no,

SmashTheState's avatar

What if you had a life-threatening medical problem, and I offered to shoot you in the head, toss your bloody corpse into the hopper, and use your body as raw material to create an entirely new, healthy duplicate of you with your memories?

ragingloli's avatar

In that case I would have to crush your windpipe.
If you killed me before making the duplicate, all the short term memories and probably the medium term memories as well (we are talking about several days, even weeks, of memories), would be instantly and irrecoverably wiped out.

CWOTUS's avatar

People are also pretty blasé, more or less, about knowing that every drop of water they drink has been flushed through the kidneys of other beings at some other time. (And people in New Orleans are drinking water that has been flushed through the kidneys of everyone in St. Louis relatively recently, and seem to be okay with that.)

It doesn’t then follow that if you offer someone a jar of piss that they’ll be okay with drinking it.

You’re ignoring “process” here in favor of your very reductionist views of what happens during anesthesia, and what it takes “to make a human being” and have the thoughts, emotions, memories and sensations that we have. Do you really believe that it might be possible someday – maybe with nano engineering, for instance – to “assemble a collection of molecules in a certain arrangement” and then “transfer all of the invisible stuff” so simply?

A lot of people with that idea have gone into psychiatry. That’s one of the principle reasons that psychiatry has such a godawful reputation these days.

phoebusg's avatar

Anyone that has played eve online may know the way the game deals with death – in its science fiction setting. When your spaceship pilot dies in his pod, a clone is instantly activated – and you’re again alive. All skills/memories/etc are updated between the current body and backups, and you can have more than one.

But they’re kept inactive until they’re needed…presumably before the ship dies, the last updates to memory/personality/etc are synchronized with the clone about to go live.

Now, to answer the question – I side with the crowd that responded that the copy is a distinct entity from the moment it exists and is active – since consciousness requires it to be active.

Thus with the eve online fictional solution, you can have a full storage of clones waiting – after your current body is deactivated. But that said, for a brief moment, you’ll have a disappearing consciousness in one body (the one disintegrating in some probably horrific explosion) – and the activating clone. How much of the information would be lost? You still have a potentially different tangent of an entity lost.

LostInParadise's avatar

The two copies are distinct and will become more distinct as they accumulate different experiences, just as identical twins are distinct. Neither copy will know if it is the original, which is really a mute point. I say that killing one is murder, regardless of whether you can get away with it.

Sunny2's avatar

I’ve never met a question here that made me feel sick to my stomach. This one has.

talljasperman's avatar

Would I remember being shot and suffering while dying?

MilkyWay's avatar

Two @everephebe ‘s running round = two perfectly beautiful sexy voices…
Can’t you make more than one clone? Please?

judochop's avatar

Do it! Hell,I would have one of my minions steal your machine, duplicate it and leave you with the dupe. I would then, when angry duplicate large groups of people that annoy me, including myself and then base jump with no chute. It would be like groundhog day, every day. Sorta….
Man, there are lots of things I would do if I knew I’d still be alive tomorrow, even if I died tonight.

Smashley's avatar

Sure you “die” when you go under anesthesia, the same as when you go to sleep every night. There is no real “soul” or “agent” behind our bodies. The self is just a useful concept for keeping this biodegradable meat sack running. That said, I’m fiercely protective of my own imagined self, because, hey, that’s just what I do. So no, do not kill me.

The copy, though identical, simply isn’t ME, even if it’s identical in every way, inside and out. I’m ME, even if I’m the copy.

augustlan's avatar

Regarding your most recent question in this thread, @SmashTheState: If that were the only way to survive the life-threatening medical problem, I’d let you shoot me. I’d prefer that you put me under general anesthesia first, though.

KoleraHeliko's avatar

Of course. It makes so much sense. This is why it’s legal to kill someone who has a twin, because there’s someone else out there with the exact same DNA.

bea2345's avatar

But the duplicate would not be me. It would be my twin, or my double, but it would be a different person. No, you may not kill me.

PhiNotPi's avatar

When you get down, way down, into the nuts and bolts of our existence, everything about us, from our physical features to the electricity flowing in our brain, is made of matter. If you could truly duplicate my entirety, you would end up copying the electrons and molecules that make up my brain waves. You would copy the structure of my synapses, which make up my memories. You would copy all of the structure of my brain, which is the hardware of consciousness. You would copy my body, from my organs to the free radicals floating around in my cells. What am I besides this? It has been proven that every particle, every electron, proton, neutron, in the entire universe are exactly, perfectly the same. If you can truly copy me, from all of the outside points of view, the copy might as well be me. Oh, the depth.

ninjacolin's avatar

sounds like shitty teleportation.
essentially, you could wire a bomb to my chest with a remote detonator. Then I could travel the world somewhere far from your machine and you could push a button, then push the detonator, then I’d be instantly teleported back to your place and no longer wherever I was

ninjacolin's avatar

in fact, you may as well just make the on switch and the detonator work together as a cohesive single function. That means less button pushing for you, better bang for your buck.

AshLeigh's avatar

Can’t we both just live? I’d like to have someone who agrees with me. :D

KoleraHeliko's avatar

Also, I forgot to mention that myself and I have a system worked out for what will occur in the event of something like this. An unspoken set of rules that are understood and agreed upon by all of me. Science fiction makes you do weird things.

So anyway, if you didn’t kill me (the other one), then there’d be no issue with us sharing our existence.

flutherother's avatar

No you can’t. Even if the duplicate is an identical copy of me it wouldn’t have my identity, it would only have an identical copy of my identity and I don’t want to die. Even if no one else notices I am gone.

talljasperman's avatar

@SmashTheState I’ll consider it if you go first.

bea2345's avatar

But my copy would still not be me. It would be another entity entirely. It would not be occupying the same space. It would have the same relationship to me as would successive printouts of the same file have to the original. And that is not even a good metaphor for what is happening here. In a programme, the original is in the computer and the printout is a copy. You raise some heavy questions here: what am I?

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