I have always had this thought experiment that troubled me. If I could clone my body and my mind down to the exact molecules and atoms (which means there are two of my bodies that are exactly the same, with the same memory and mind), which of the current two bodies do my current consciousness go?

At first glance it may seem obvious that my consciousness would persist in my "original body". But from the perspective of the clone, he would have the exact same experiences and memories until the moment of cloning, where he is suddenly "teleported" into a "new" body in a new location. From his subjective mind, he would have the exact same experience up to the moment of cloning. So does the me that would continue to reside in the "old" body.

My current consciousness (before being cloned), then, would have no way to differentiate between these two destinations. Since the experience and memory of the two minds are exactly the same leading up to the point of cloning. Does that mean the chance of my consciousness being transferred into a new body vs. continue to reside in 'old' body is exactly the same?

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    Assuming "consciousness" is a function of the body, like its shape, the question makes no sense. There will be two identical "consciousnesses", none more "original" than the other, just like there are many identical shapes. And assuming "consciousness" is separate, body cloning makes no difference.
    – Conifold
    Feb 11, 2020 at 8:38
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    How do you know that a mind consists of atoms that can be cloned? How do you know that a consciousness "goes" to a body"? How do you know it has a "destination"? You seem to be both saying that consciousness is physical and that it isn't. Feb 11, 2020 at 10:43
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    I feel you're confusing consciousness with mind. It is fair to assume your mind is different from mine, but with consciousness this cannot be assumed since most experimental researchers say there is only one consciousness. Indeed. they propose consciousness is all there is. .
    – user20253
    Feb 11, 2020 at 10:50
  • The very loaded assumption that your consciousness is a thing that can "decide" to "go" anywhere is very puzzling and needs clarification.
    – armand
    Feb 11, 2020 at 23:19
  • I'm referring to the subjective experience of the mind as consciousness. So when the cloning happens, there would be two potential subjective experiences: 1. Having all the past memories, and after cloning the mind still perceives itself being in the same body. 2. Having all the past memories, and after cloning the mind perceives itself in the cloned body. So before cloning, there are no way to differentiate where one's consciousness would go, since all the experiences and memories up to that point is the same. Feb 11, 2020 at 23:35

1 Answer 1


Welcome, Johnson Zhou. Assume for the sake of argument that your consciousness is a product of your body. Then assume also that you are Mr X. If Mr X is cloned down to the state of each particle, then Mr Y is created with a quantitatively different body - it can be individuated from yours in space/time - but a qualitatively identical consciousness. Mr X's consciousness remains in Mr X's body. Mr Y does not have Mr X's consciousness but an exact replication of it. You do not have two bodies; you have one body which has been replicated in another body which is not quantitatively identical with it.

The qualitatively identical consciousness which has been created in Mr Y will, ceteris paribus (all else equal) immediately begin to differ from Mr X's since it will have false beliefs about its body, principally the false belief that its body has existed for as long as on the basis of its memory beliefs it thinks it has.

  • And how do you know you are the original? Yet another discovery of omphalism. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omphalos_hypothesis
    – puppetsock
    Feb 11, 2020 at 16:58
  • The question is a metaphysical one of who one is and of the persistence of consciousness, not an epistemological one of knowing who one is. That at least is how I took the question. If you understand the question differently, I look forward to reading your answer.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Feb 11, 2020 at 17:29
  • How do the copiers know which is which? "Do you people even watch the show?"
    – puppetsock
    Feb 11, 2020 at 17:33
  • Thanks for your answer! I'm still rather baffled over how the consciousness before cloning would have the potential to be suddenly "teleported" into another body. Then qualitatively speaking, the cloned body would still have the same experiences up to that point, which means there's a chance that the consciousness would be "teleported" into another body. I understand on a quantitative level that the bodies and consciousness' are inherently different. But on the subjective level of the consciousness, it has the possibility of being transferred upon cloning! Feb 11, 2020 at 23:31

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