I recently came up with a question. It is as you may know based on consciousness.

Let’s say I made a blueprint of myself, exactly the same person I am talking at the atomic level. Let us say the original me was inside a black box with no environmental influence, in 5 seconds and died afterwards. If I took the blueprint and replicated the scenario, everything happens at the same position.

What I wonder is: Is my consciousness transferred to the blueprint, or am I dead? If I am dead, what is the difference between me and the blueprint that makes me dead?

  • 3
    Hi, welcome to philosophy SE. These sorts of imaginary scenarios are not about philosophy as understood on this site (more academic topics from philosophical literature). We do not currently know how consciousness relates to physical body exactly, it is controversial, so the question is unanswerable, and exact replication "atom by atom" is likely impossible due to quantum indeterminacy anyway. For persistence of self issues see SEP's Personal Identity.
    – Conifold
    Jul 17, 2018 at 19:14
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    You can see also Consciousness. Jul 17, 2018 at 19:19
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    Don't delete your question. contrary to what was suggested above your question is perfectly adequate philosophically and is a Infact a popular subject matter in philosophy of mind.
    – nir
    Jul 18, 2018 at 3:11
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    @Peterj, I really don't understand the attitude of you and conifold. this is a classic philosophical question, and thought experiments are a regular and legitimate tool in philosophy.
    – nir
    Jul 18, 2018 at 11:05
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    In that five second interval, jump into the black box and ask the guy sitting there what he thinks the answer is. (To wit, suppose your two arms were identical "at the atomic level". Now cut off one of them.)
    – user19423
    Jul 18, 2018 at 14:17

10 Answers 10


Some previous answers mention the teletransportation paradox. Yes, that is the right place to go. The other right place to go is the field of personal identity writ large. In the last half century there has been so much literature on this question, the question of what constitutes a unique human being, that the stack-exchange answers which invoke consciousness, or quantum effects, or lob some other theory, even the ones that are philosophically consistent, will give you a very small sliver of the territory of the field, and are likely wrong. I would check out the SEP page on PI, for starters.

To give my own sliver: Parfit, the most famous author in PI, claims (to simplify) that (i) We are not human beings, and (ii) That does not matter.

Serious chops to you for coming up with this question. The teletransportation question is one of the big thought experiments that has driven the literature on Personal Identity.


Conifold is being a bit harsh. It's very unlikely quantum indeterminancy would be relevant at the cellular level. Regardless of the practical issues, this idea and it's variations are philosophically interesting, and draw out useful contradictions between our intuitions of identity, and their implications.

It is called the https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teletransportation_paradox and can be considered a variation on the Ancient Greek https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus - an ancient Chinese nundrum of perennial interest.

We know that variations in a small number of genes account for all of human variety. Different brainwaves account for all of your mental states, with some augmentation of braincell connections (and probably some amount of 'hard-coded' memory). These pose serious difficulties not just for capturing the organisation of your cells, but the precise instantaneous activation of those cells, probably not just across the brain (see Anil Seth's TED talk on the interaction of brain and body). A further problem is that memory seems to be stored non-locally, as described by https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holonomic_brain_theory suggesting everything would have to be exactly right, or nothing would be.

If you could make a perfect copy of yourself, how long would they stay the same person, how quickly would they diverge into the equivalent of an identical twin? It is in the nature of brains and biology to amplify divergences. Recognising what had happened, would be a powerful formative event. Whether the copy knew or not would be important. Would the copy be the same, as the person who was destroyed was going to become? How could you ever know that without two unverses? We may live in Many Worlds, and so have all the universes we need though..


If there is a physically identical copy of you, is that you ?

It is qualitatively identical to you - exactly similar to you - but that does not mean that it is you. If I produce a qualitatively identical reproduction of the Mona Lisa, then it is exactly similar to the original but it is numerically different from it and is not the Mona Lisa. A physically identical copy can stand in a relation of exact similarity to an original but it cannot be the original.

Put the point like this. If the physically identical copy is to be not merely exactly like you - qualitatively identical - but to be you then everything true of it is necessarily true of you and vice versa. How can that not be so, since qua identical there is no difference between you ? You are one and the same thing. But everything true of you (X) is not true of your physically identical copy (Y). You (X) are the product of the sexual congress of two persons at a particular time (or of a specific instance of IVF). The physically identical copy (Y) is not the product of that congress or of that IVF : it is a copy of the product of either event, namely of you but it is not you. It has a different history : so there is a truth about you, X (concerning your origin), which is not a truth about your physically identical copy, Y (which has a different origin) and by the same token a truth about your physically identical copy, Y (concerning its origin), which is not a truth about you.

On this basis it seems to me quite evident that a physically identical copy of you is not you.

  • I'm not sure if originality is what making me.
    – rus9384
    Jul 25, 2018 at 11:01

The point is to decide what is you. But prior to that we must ask for whom is it to decide this. People can have disagreements, especially on this topic, but it seems for me, this is not that easy topic.

Why do you think that you, more preciously your body including brain and all the memory inside it, is you? Because you have capability for this and use this capability. Of course, there are some other relevant points like your ability to control yourself, which is an important factor.

But let's look at this from another side. What if your body and the brain is merely under remote control, e.g. brain in a vat? But you can never experience this brain, only the remote controlled body, which is decided by this brain to be you. This brain does not even consider itself to be a part of you.

Now regarding the replication of you. Assuming the first scenario in which the mind is fully contained within the body, replicating it will result in the same mind state which decides who are you. Including memories, meaning this replicated person will think that the person who will have decided to create him/her is his/her past self.

In the second scenario creating a replication is neither sufficient nor necessary (and in the first case it's not necessary as well). You would need to cheat the agent who decides to be you. How to do that, of course, is a very broad topic depending on the given model, so I won't go deeply into it.


This was covered pretty well in "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe".

Squirrel Girl gets into a machine that creates an identical copy of herself, up to the point where she is copied.

Squirrel Girls A & B have a memory of sitting down in the machine with an empty seat to her right.

Squirerl Girl A has a memory of waking up with a copy of Squirrel Girl to her left.

Squirrel Girl B has a memory of waking up with copy of Squirrel Girl to her right.

Therefore, Squirrel Girl B is the "original" Squirrel Girl, and Squirrel Girl A is the copy.

In your scenario both you A and you B have a memory of being put in the box. You A has no memory of being outside the box after that point. You B has a memory of appearing outside the box. Your brains are different as of the moment of copying, so you are no longer identical and are not the same person, and in all likelihood, original you (You A) is dead. You B is free to mourn the loss and then take over original you's life, as you aren't using it anymore.


Philosophers have been pondering these questions for a long time. Here is a beautiful explanation from a bbc (I think) program with Derek Parfit, a philosopher who is known for his book Reasons and Persons on this subject matter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS-46k0ncIs

Cheers for pondering these questions at 16. Don't let anyone discourage you.


Let me start by clarifying a term you used. A blueprint is an ink and paper copy of something. I am going to assume you meant an identical molecular copy (IMC) of you, at a given instant of time (T0). We are going to assume the "copying" is possible (at least as a thought experiment) and not dwell on its impossibility.
So at T0, there exists only you.
At T0 + 1, there exists you and your IMC.
Lets define your conscience as a program in your brain, which obviously was copied into your IMC when it was created.
So, now at T0 + 5, you die.
At T0 + 6, there exists only your IMC copy.

Although the IMC has all the life experiences and knowledge you had, up to T0, it is NOT you! You are dead!
Your IMC would be similar to your identical twin that was forced to experience and learn everything you did, and then at T0 you were separated. You then die, while he continues on.

So, a copy of your conscience continues to exist while it is modified by your IMS's new experiences and knowledge.

  • So what is the difference between me and the copy? Jul 23, 2018 at 23:58
  • @EliasKnudsenYou are dead and the copy is not.
    – MmmHmm
    Jul 24, 2018 at 1:22
  • Don't forget about how the copy should feel, knowing your plan, its execution and knowing that you are dying in a black box next to him. I think, that if the copy was successful, he should think that he was alive whole your life, but have extra knowledge (of the experiment) that his experience is not real. Existential dread incoming in 3...
    – Ernis
    Jul 25, 2018 at 8:25

Existence is metaphysical and it doesn't matter how advanced the technology is. it will always be.

You are assuming that consciousness is something that can be transferred as if it were some sort of soul and the brain was a receptor of it. This has not been proven.

That would depend on the reality you are experiencing. If you are experiencing the copy then yes but remember the "me" thing is a creation of the mind (ego). They could make 5 copies of the same of "you" and all of them would believe they are the original.

Perhaps there is only one consciousness in many different places in space and time but the mind can only experience one mind and body.


No. Another copy of you will be another human with their own consciousness distinct from yours.

Even though both of you might be exactly the same at one point in time, you will differ at a later point. That is just the randomness in the universe which impacts atoms which make you up, and hence yourself as a whole.


As some other answers have pointed out, your question concerns the teletransportation paradox; it was featured in the film The Prestige, where a magician performs teleportation-tricks by the use of a machine that duplicates copies of himself.

This question is presently unresolved, due to a lack of knowledge on exactly how consciousness is generated by the physical brain, and how "continuity" of consciousness is affected by memory. If consciousness is merely an epiphenomenon of the brain, and if identical memory can be regarded as "continuity" for consciousness, then there is a reasonable case for the view that a physical copy of you is you. (However, the idea that the consciousness "transferred" to the other body would be dubious; it is more accurate to say that everything is duplicated and then the original is destroyed.) Conversely, if consciousness has some distinct characteristics that are not determined from the physical structure of the brain, or if identical memory is insufficient for "continuity", then there is a good case for the view that a physical copy of you would have a distinct consciousness that is different to yours.

In regard to this question, it is worth noting that there is a difficult limitation in falsifying either view. So long as the new being is conscious, and has your memories, etc. (from your physical brain), that being will feel like he is you and will have the same memories of experiences as you. The copy will be unable to determine if his consciousness has continued via transfer from you, or if it has just come into existence, but with a stored memory that is a copy of your memory. Even if there is a distinction between these things, it is unlikely that it is a distinction that can be perceived directly by introspection, and so it is likely that the matter can only be resolved by a detailed scientific account of what consciousness is and how it is generated.

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