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Let's say you know some guy. And you told him that he was going to be copied and both him and the clone moved to an area where there are no external factors.

After telling the man this, the man is copied and both are placed in an area where there are no external factors and they are positioned facing each other such that each person observes the other exactly the same. You can imagine they are placed in a vast infinite white room with no sense of position other than the ground keeping them up. Both men are identical in the sense that they are composed of the same types of atoms and molecules. They look the same, they have the same current neural state.

Would both of them think, speak, act and move exactly the same? Would it be impossible for them to take turns speaking unless a third party intervened? If during the conversation they got angry and started fighting could one of them ever win? Or would it be like fighting your reflection in the mirror?

I suppose this question also involves the extent to which free will plays a role.

Sorry if this is not the right site for such a question. I figure it's mostly philosophical. This question has been bugging me and my friend.

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    Based on your description, I would say there is only one man there... specifically "they are composed of the same atoms and molecules ... they have the same current neural state." This relates to the problem of indiscernability and identity. This seems to be an error in science. – virmaior Jul 11 '15 at 2:21
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    The questions that follow are all not very good fits for philosophy.SE because they do not seem to have clear answers even if they are "philosophical" in the broadest sense. But I'll wait and see if the community starts to agree with this assessment. – virmaior Jul 11 '15 at 2:21
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    @virmaior The questions that follow are really there to help better visualize the thought experiment and how I define communicate. I realize that this question in general may be too broad. I am mostly looking to see what people think of the communication aspect. For example, someone I talked to said that perhaps the two men can come up with a way of taking turns to speak even though both environments are identical from each observers perspective. And how that would work both with and without free-will. Also can you expand on what you mean by "This seems to be an error in science." Thanks – Epic Byte Jul 11 '15 at 2:36
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    Identity is a word that has many meanings. Two things cannot be identical and different in every respect. Your though experiment seems to want them to be different and identical at the same time in every respect. – virmaior Jul 11 '15 at 3:33
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    Depending on what brain state is defined to include, it would seem to include a particular arrangement of cells and currents in the brain. It might even involve the spacial location of the brain due to quantum effects. If we thought two brains perfectly matched in this respect, they would actually be the same brain. – virmaior Jul 11 '15 at 3:39
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Because the two copies must breath air, the two would instantly become physically different.

This is because, although their lungs may be identical to start with, the air they breath will contain different distributions of oxygen atoms and therefore their bodies would absorb different numbers of oxygen atoms the moment they breath.

Thus, they are identifiable as two separate individuals and would act accordingly.

EDIT See my comments below, in reply to your comments. I should have edited these comments into this answer.

EDIT As per you request, I have copied my comments into my answer.

How one answers this depends on whether one believes that reality is entirely material and determinate. If you hold such a view, then in the absence of any external forces all of the trajectories and the observable behaviour of the particles which make up the two copies would continue to evolve in exactly the same manner in accordance with the applicable deterministic laws. Therefore, any action taken by one of the copies would simultaneously be taken by the other. They would act in exact unison - saying “hello” simultaneously and continuing in unison.

On the other hand, if you do not believe that reality is material and deterministic, then there is room for variance in the absence of external forces. For example, free will, chance, etc..

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    @EpicByte If there are not external factors of this sort, then there is no air, no light, etc. Would they not be frozen in time, unable to think or communicate in any way. For example, your copy is an external factor (relative to you). Would you not be able to see him/her? – Nick Jul 11 '15 at 14:25
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    @EpicByte I think I better understand your thought experiment now. I have to go out right now, so I'll update my answer later today to say "No, they would parrot each other exactly and be unable to communicate successfully", for reasons I shall try to explain. – Nick Jul 11 '15 at 14:45
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    Yes sorry if my wording was confusing. I'd really appreciate an answer to this and would gladly accept it as the other answers haven't really answered the question. – Epic Byte Jul 11 '15 at 14:55
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    @EpicByte How one answers this depends on whether one believes that reality is entirely material and deterministic. If you hold such a view, then in the absence of any external forces, all of the trajectories and the observable behaviour of the particles which make up the two copies would continue to evolve in exactly the same manner in accordance with the applicable deterministic laws. Therefore, any action taken by one of the copies would simultaneously be taken by the other. They would act in exact unison - saying “hello” simultaneously and continuing in unison. (continued ...) – Nick Jul 11 '15 at 18:30
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    (...continued) On the other hand, if you do not believe that reality is material and deterministic, then there is room for variance in the absence of external forces. For example, free will. – Nick Jul 11 '15 at 18:31
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Identical twins exist naturally - exact genetic copies. What does not exist naturally is humans growing up in infinite white rooms; this exists only conceptually in a thought experiment. The following also does not seem physically possible:

Both men are identical in the sense that they are composed of the same atoms and molecules. They look the same, they have the same current neural state.

So, I think the thought experiment breaks does rather quickly.

  • Interesting thought. I never said anything about humans growing up in the white room though. I only added that to help visualize what I mean by no external factors. I should have made that more clear. I disagree that a thought experiment breaks down just because said experiment is nearly impossible to produce physically. After all it is a thought experiment. Perhaps your answer can expand more on that. And if you could perhaps please include what you think would happen if such an experiment were possible. – Epic Byte Jul 11 '15 at 2:23
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Very interesting topic, premise, and discussions (both, answers and comments). I have thought about it myself, wondering about twins and if it would be possible to be identical in all aspects. What would it take to be identical?

Your premise attempts to eliminate all external factors, and all differences occurring naturally. That's what I wanted to do as well but the problem will still revolve around perception and identity. When you duplicate the person, as perfectly as you can imagine (same atoms, molecules, neural and quantum states, synchronization in time, etc), in that moment you are actually creating the most significant and fundamental difference in perception

You can try to eliminate all external factors ("infinite white room with no sense of position" - which is great btw!) and reduce all elements as much as you can imagine, you still create an unavoidable conflict the moment you place them "facing each other" because they immediately start perceiving each other - external factors with inherent differences ("their world" is no longer perfectly identical)

You may want to add new rules and conditions to your initial premise stating that they will move exactly the same, and exactly at the same nanosecond, symmetrically, but you cannot eliminate the most basic element - difference of perception and identity (looking at a real life mirror will still conjure distinct reactions and feelings)

The only way to enforce the idea to the point of perfection in identity is to reduce differences in perspective: in order to be driven and motivated to act exactly the same (as you imply when you attribute them with the same neural state and as I thought about it as well), you must make them PERCEIVE the same environment - the exact same external stimuli. That's only possible when they exist in the same physical space, and have the same sensory receptors: light, sound, touch, smell (all of them)

Only at that point you can achieve perfect identity, but you'll end up with the same person, having the same existential experience. If you're willing to accept this impossibility, there will be no need to communicate because they have the same thoughts. They cannot argue or fight with each other - it'd be like arguing with yourself. You can also argue with yourself, but it has to be sequentially (in time). You can have regrets, feel guilt, blame yourself for your actions but it's futile to hit yourself over the head - what's done is done (who's wins - your future or your past?)

Overall, it was a very good thought experiment: it compelled me to engage even though I don't feel relevant in this field with so many brilliant minds :)

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    I enjoyed reading your answer. I disagree a little here though, maybe you can expand: "...("their world" is no longer perfectly identical)..." I would argue that the "world" as observed from each person would be observed identically. For example, person1 sees person2 directly in front. Person2 also sees person1 directly in front. The observed world from both people is still the same. What's interesting is the role position plays in defining uniqueness. Are two atoms of the same type unique due to their position in space and time. – Epic Byte Jul 12 '15 at 5:11
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    They need to communicate, because they don't know they are identical - they can see that they are physically very similar, but nothing more. And if they speak, stop, speak again absolutely synchronously, that would be an experience so alien that they wouldn't believe that an identical person is sitting opposite of them - they would believe it is a robot, or a hologram, that is programmed to mimic their every move and does so very quickly. – gnasher729 Jul 13 '15 at 0:30
  • @EpicByte Are two atoms of the same type unique due to their position in space: I think so, even if it's the only variable between them it's enough to make them distinct (timing being perfectly synchronized as well). To illustrate the difference in perception of identity with a concrete example: If I have my duplicate in front of me, we both lift our right hands: I know my right hand is mine and my duplicate's right hand is not mine, even if it is simultaneous – paul bica Jul 13 '15 at 3:18
  • @gnasher729 I agree with your deduction about the very strange experience, but if they occupy different physical spaces it wouldn't get to that point because they do know they're NOT identical (see my reply to EpicByte above). Given that knowledge, they will have different interpretation of the world, reactions, and conclusions: one might believe the duplicate is a robot, the other might believe they see a hologram. So their replies would be different, even if simultaneous, they would say a different phrase (1 of 2) – paul bica Jul 13 '15 at 3:40
  • (2 of 2) Occupying a different space, they wouldn't be able to communicate properly - each of them would need a second person to reply to, the second persons would have to take turns communicating the replies (desynchronization) to each other, then to the duplicates. The duplicates, thinking differently, will have a new and distinct response, reply simultaneously, and each 3rd party would have to extract the different responses, exchange them taking turns, and so on – paul bica Jul 13 '15 at 3:52

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