Pardon if this sounds like one of those "Jaden Smith tweets"

Say when you go to sleep all your conscious activities cease. Many times you won't even know how much time has passed since you went to sleep.

Now if someone replaces your long term memory (i.e. the memory events up to the moment you went to sleep) with someone else's memory then what would happen when you wake up?

Would you panic thinking like you are the other person in someone else's body?

It's like replacing a computers hard disk with another one so when you boot up the desktop would look exactly the same as it was but your software should be able to notice changes in hardware.

In another example, if by some means you make a copy of your entire neural network in your brain into a computer simulation, then would that simulation think that it's you? Or would it have a different personality depending on which way the simulation goes?

  • This is a widely held theory, but it needs some fine tuning, as pointed out by these objections plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/#PsyApp
    – user9166
    Oct 3, 2016 at 17:12
  • (Maybe we need a new close category for Jaden-Smithery. "We are closing this question because although it appears in a philosophical context and may have philosophical content, any answer would be useful only in universes inaccessible without a combination of illicit substances and excessive affluence." :)
    – user9166
    Oct 3, 2016 at 18:53
  • 1
    Could you rephrase this to be objectively answerable? As it stands, your question seems to ask for opinions, making any answer more or less equally 'correct'.
    – user2953
    Oct 4, 2016 at 9:40

1 Answer 1


Memory is certainly a big part of self and identity - as is your body. The ability to distinguish self from other and environment is also pretty fundamental to identity and individuation, agency, volition and such.

You might think of your deep background memories as the computer kernel, your neural networks as the system architecture and you long term memory as the non-OS data, etc... but computer metaphors only go so far. We simply do not have an adequate mechanistic understanding of how consciousness is achieved to address your suppositions satisfactorily.

As fodder for thinking on it, you might enjoy reading Kafka's Metamorphosis if you have not already.

Likely, when you woke up, you might notice that your body and location were different than when you went to sleep. The bodily difference certainly might be enough to freak out even the most surreally-minded... I imagine it'd be a considerable shock - at least the first time.

As for a simulation, if it were capable of consciousness, I would imagine it'd think it were itself soon enough after it got rolling.

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