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Thread: What and who are we? (sentience, identity, multicellular)

  1. #1 What and who are we? (sentience, identity, multicellular) 
    Forum Cosmic Wizard icewendigo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    If in the future with improved technology you were unwillingly locked in a vat on the first floor of a lab for a month, and were told that someone else you dont know (or care about much) was in a connected vat on the second floor. And were further told that over the next month each person's cell will gradually be switched to the other's body. And you are told you must choose which body, the one on the first floor or the second floor gets to live as one or the other may potentially die during the experiment and one is sure to die at the end of the experiment. Which would you choose to live or which would identify yourself to be?

    If one cell its easy.

    All but te brain cells are transfered and you have the other persons body but your brain and memories, my guess is most people will go for that.

    If all cells are transfered, and recombined the exact way they were, my guess is alot of people will opt for the other floor.

    The harder question: But if you are told that brain cells will be slightly altered and reassembled in such a way that each body keeps the memories and most of the personality of the person in the original vat (vat 1 has vat 2's body and cells but all memories of vat 1 person), then which would you choose to live or identify as?
    The cells and genetic code, or the memories and personality?

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  3. #2  
    Forum Bachelors Degree
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    From a 'selfish gene' point of view, perhaps it should be expected that once more than 50% of your DNA is in the other person's body, you should begin favouring its survival over your 'original' body, which now contains less than 50% of your DNA. However, this disregards human consciousness and potential for altruism (although altruism can be considered to serve the 'selfish gene' under some circumstances, here it is not known whether or not the other person is kin or the extent of homology between genomes. So it can safely be assumed that any altruism displayed is a result of human compassion and sacrifice, independent of kin selection).

    From a selfish point of view - I would agree that if only the intact brain had been transferred, one would be tempted to save the other person's body that has my brain, probably because - as far as I am aware - the brain is responsible for the generation of personality. However, here you do risk adopting a body which may be deformed or plagued with disease! This should be considered against the health of your 'original' body. Some might say that this last point is irrelevant, because even if you do keep your original body, you will have lost your hallmark personality. However, if you chose this option, you would also have to live forever haunted with the memory that you effectively murdered another person.

    As for the more difficult question, the memories wouldn't be all that important to me. More important than memories is the way that you think - fundamental to personality. New memories can always be formed. Also, if you did choose to preserve your original memories and personality over your original cells and genome, your conscience would again be stained with the knowledge that you were personally responsible for the demise of another person's personality.

    It's an interesting conundrum, since it throws up questions about self-identity and altruism as well as morality. Firstly, you would have to decide what makes you, 'you'. And then, are you prepared to sacrifice yourself or the other person?

    Personally, and I can't be sure of this until I am stuck in a vat in a Laboratory :wink: but I think that I would try and wait until 50% of the cells and genome had been transferred and also 50% of the memories/personality - and then choose to save either body. This way, both people sort of get to live. Akin to a very peculiar sort of reproduction.


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