Are we all the same person?

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Offline Philosopher

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Are we all the same person?
« on: 05/07/2016 15:48:26 »
I realize this is a science forum, and this question is rather philosophical than science.
But isn't philosophy simply doing logical deduction on things that can't be proven?
No one knows what happens after death but doing logical deduction we can make predictions going from plausible to less plausible.
Anyway, I understand if the mods delete this topic, but I would highly appreciate it if I could explain this theory to scientists and see what the response is.

I don't know whether we are all the same 'person', but the point is the theory is based in logic and I would really want to share that and see what you guys think of it.


I am going to start with this thought experiment  since it best visualizes the overall theory.

It does not ‘proof’ the theory in any immediate way. However in the short chapters that follow, I will try to show that there might be no difference between this thought experiment, and how conscious life in universe works.

The apartments thought experiment

We have a drug which is capable to regulate to which part of the brain a person can read/write memory.

We put Bob in the following building; It consists of a central room with a bed, and surrounding it are 10 different apartments which Bob can access from the central room.

Each of these 10 apartments are different, and has different things to do in them.

We will label the apartments with numbers 1,2,3 etc.
Bob will live a day in apartment 1, then goes to sleep in the central room, after which he spends a day in apartment 2 and again sleeps in the central room.
He does this with all the apartments after which he starts again with apartment 1 and continuous this loop during the experiment.

Depending in which apartment Bob will live in the next day, he will be given the correct drug so that he can read/write the memories of that specific apartment. Memories of different apartments are not saved in the same part of the brain.
Because of this when Bob participates with the experiment, he only appears to be experiencing the life of only one apartment.
When he lives a day in apartment 1, and goes to sleep, the next thing he knows is that he once again needs to go to apartment 1.
When Bob experiences apartment 5, it seems to him that he only experiences apartment 5. When apartment 5 is boring or has bad living conditions he can say it was just bad luck that he ‘collapsed’ with apartment 5.

Also when Bob participates with the experiment, there isn’t a chance that he is going to die doing it. It is not that because there could’ve been 11 apartments, 10/11 of him will survive, and there is a 1/11 chance that Bob will die and be in some sort of ‘eternal nothingness’ because apartment 11 does not exist. In essence Bob can’t ‘collapse’ with a non-existing apartment.

We can also expand the experiment:

Bob can communicate with the different apartments via email and we could give each apartment a different  job, for example Bob from apartment 1 is a mailman, apartment 2 is a cashier, apartment 3 a taxi driver etc.  Each will have different salaries, coworkers and friends. In essence each apartment will have their own live.

A system could be set up so money made on the job can be exchanged between apartments. For example the other apartments could chip in to give apartment 5 a more comfortable life.



What is consciousness? Or at least what do we know about it?

consciousness is created in the brain by a system of about 80 billion neurons working together to logically compute incoming signals (those of our senses) and generate a proper output (our muscles etc.) to keep its biological robot alive.

Our brain is in essence a computer, it needs to logically compute incoming signals, and generate a proper output.

Conscious experience is the reflection of that logical computation. Or is at least highly correlated in concerns of what the logical computation is processing. In other words, conscious experience is dependent on the information encoded within the logical computation.

There is also no reason why humans at some point aren’t capable of creating a computer which is conscious. Unless a God is required to add the extra ingredient of consciousness, what nature can do with the laws of physics, humans can do with the laws of physics.


The entire reason why I believe we might all be the same person has to with the ‘experiencer’.

I want to start with a quote from neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris:

 “I’m not arguing that consciousness is a reality beyond science or beyond the brain or that it floats free of the brain at death. I’m not making any spooky claims about It’s metaphysics . Wat I am saying however is that the self is an illusion. The sense of being an ego, an I, a thinker of thoughts in addition to the thoughts. An experiencer in addition to the experience. The sense that we all have of riding around in inside our heads as a kind of a passenger in the vehicle of the body. That’s where most people start when they think about any of these questions. Most people don’t feel identical to their bodies. They feel like they have bodies. They feel like there inside the body. And most people feel they are inside their heads. Now that sense of being a subject, a locus of consciousness inside the head is an illusion. It makes no neuro-anatomical sense. There’s no place in the brain for your ego to be hiding. We know that everything that you experience – your consciousness emotions and thoughts and moods and the impulses that initiate behavior – all of these things are delivered by a myriad of different processes in the brain that are spread over the whole of the brain. They can be independently erupted. We have a changing system. We are a process and there’s not one unitary self that’s carried trough from one moment to the next unchanging. And yet we feel that we have this self that’s just this center of experience.” – Sam Harris

3.1 Visualizing the experiencer

What is the experiencer? It is literally what the word says it is, it is not the experience itself, it is what experiences the experience.

The best way to understand the experiencer is to visualize it by doing a couple of thought experiments:

Getting born

The philosophy around getting created can be much more broadly discussed, but I plan to leave that out of this post.

I want to do the following thought experiments because helps in visualizing the experiencer:

American scientists create a conscious computer and it tries to calculate the chance of being born. When the computer imagines a scenario in which all aspects that led to his creation are no more, then he doesn’t imagine to have become for example a child getting born, or a conscious computer created by the Chinese.

However when he imagines a scenario in which all aspects that led to his creation are the same, except one or two small things. For example what if the scientists gave the computer a little bit more RAM memory? Would ‘he’ have experienced the calculation? Or ‘somebody else’?

On top of that there is a spectrum between both scenarios.

This is the same as asking the following: If the egg cell that created you were slightly different, would ‘you’  experience the conscious calculation created by that biological robot?


There are different words and expressions to describe this ‘experiencer’; the ‘ego’, the ‘self’, ‘a thinker of thoughts’.

Another word that we can use is ‘person’ as we are about to see in the next thought experiment.
On Big Think (a YouTube channel) the following question was proposed to physicist Michio Kaku:

“if quantum teleportation could teleport a whole human, would that transported human really be the same person or just an exact copy?”

Let us analyze that question, and do a couple of thought experiments with it.

Bob will teleport from Earth to Mars. He will be destroyed on earth, and recreated on Mars.
We will call Bob before teleportation Bob1, and after teleportation Bob2

From the perspective of Bob1 there is a clear difference between actually being Bob2 or not being Bob2
When Bob1 isn’t Bob2, he imagines to die, he imagines this ‘eternal nothingness’.
This scenario is similar to Bob1 simply dying, and another person getting created. Bob1 doesn’t imagine to then experience that person.

However when Bob1 is Bob2, this ‘eternal nothingness’ is replaced by conscious experience.

Will the experiences of Bob1 and Bob2 be experienced by the same person?

Maybe there are even technologies that are currently possible that can kill a ‘person’.

For example have we ever stood still and think about the possibility that the person before and after narcosis is the same? If you have ever been under narcosis and you have memories from before that surgery, where those experiences experienced by you? Or somebody else?

This is the same question Bob2 should ask. Did the teleportation really work? It seems like it, but he can’t know for certain that ‘he’ experienced his childhood.

From the point of evolution there seems also no point in making sure the experiencer/person isn’t killed. How can we be sure this isn’t the only day that you will live? Maybe deep sleep kills the experiencer and this morning when you woke up you actually got ‘born’ and next time you go to sleep you die. You biological robot will wake up tomorrow, it’s brain will make these complex logical computations that create experience and it is thinking it is a day as usual, while instead a new ‘person’ got born just a couple of minutes ago and he has only one day to live.

Conscious computers

Lawrence Kraus and other scientists agree that one day we will be able to create conscious computers.
When we have these computers we will probably start thinking about the ‘person’ and when you kill it.
After all, it could be quite easy to ‘teleport’ a conscious computer to mars. The data of the computer is simply send to mars and put into the same robot/machine. But will we now have killed a person? Will the experiences of the robot on Mars be experienced by the same experiencer? Or a different person?

Could you open up and repair a conscious computer? Or dismantle it and export it?

Are you your baby?

We have u future Mars robot which is conscious. The robot is highly intelligent, it has a bunch of sensors as input signals and multiple mechanic arms and tripod like legs as output possibility’s. Its central computer processes the input signals and creates a proper output to guide it over Mars’s surface. Much the same way our brain logically computes its incoming signals to generates a proper output to guide its biological robot though the world.

We will call the original robot (A). As time goes by the robot is regularly being upgraded or changes depending on its purpose.

Some 20 years later the original robot is entirely gone and a new robot (B) is created.

Is robot (B) robot (A)? Did robot (B) experience robot (A)? Where the experiences of robot (B) experienced by the same ‘person’ as those of robot (B)

Asking this question is basically the same as asking whether you are your baby. Or whether you experienced you’re baby.

Woman can’t give birth to a grown up human, if that was possible, evolution had taken that direction.
Babies are biological robots that lay a foundation for a future robot yet to be build, one which can procreate.

3.2 What if there isn’t a person/experiencer?

At this point is  probably more clear what the experiencer is and how to visualize ‘a thinker of thoughts in addition to the thoughts’ and ‘an experiencer in addition to the experience’.

Like Sam Harris says, our current understanding of the brain points towards there(likely) not being an experiencer. There isn’t something extra in addition to the experience, a ‘person’, an ‘experiencer’, you could even call it a soul. There aren’t any extra properties in addition to the experience what science can see, and if you can’t see it, it should be assumed it isn’t there.

A universe without an experiencer looks similar to the apartment thought experiment.

In the experiment the experiences aren’t experienced by ‘different persons’. They are simply conscious experiences but each with different information in them. In nature this off course only occurs in separate bodies.

If you have the same apartment building Bob lived in, but you let 10 people live in them. From the perspective of the individual living in each specific apartment there is no different between this and the apartment thought experiment.

3.2.1 The illusion of the experiencer

These are what I think are the most important reasons we have the illusion of an experiencer:


When Bob has an experience (A) in which he thinks about what he ate yesterday (B)
This experience (A) is logical computation that exists. In it is visual and other information encoded recorded by (B).
(A) also knows that the recording of this information was coupled with experience.
Naturally (A) will think it also experienced (B) and the feeling of an experiencer emerges.

2.The body

In order for a logical computation to create conscious experience it needs to be of high complexity.     The most logical place to find the proper conditions for these computations to happen in a law based universe is in the form of life.

Because of this, conscious experience that share information, in other words, logical computations that share information. Are also always found in the same ‘body’ or evolution thereof.



There is still a big difference between 10 people each living in an apartment and Bob living in all apartments and that is that all these 10 individuals are conscious at the same time.

Physics tells us that time is an illusion;
 “For we convinced physicists, the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, however persistent.” –Albert Einstein

 “The past is not gone, the future isn’t non-existent, the past the future and the present are all existing in exactly the same way” - Max Tegmark

“there is just as much reality to the future and the past, as there is to the present moment”-  Sean Carroll

This means that sure you are conscious at the same time the person you are talking to is conscious. But you are also conscious at the same time your baby is conscious, and at the same time your 12 year old self is conscious.

Also note, what is the chance of being alive right now in a timeless universe.


If conscious experience is quantized it seems to me almost certainly true that you are ‘everybody’

Then we would live in some sort of static timeless 4 dimensional universe in which all if these quantized experiences exist.

Like Brian Greene says:  “Just as we think of all of space as being out there , we should think of all of all of time as being out there too. Everything that has ever happened, or will happen, it all exists.”



Simply put: ‘you’ ‘experience’ all experiences.

Conscious experiences are dependent on the information encoded within each computation and these logical computations only hold information about what seems one ‘person*’ (in fact one logical computation) at a specific moment in time and space.  Because of this the illusion of an experiencer is so strong. One that experienced your baby self ,your 12 year old self and you. But when your body dies and another baby gets born, won’t experience those calculations. They will be experienced by a different ‘person’. You will forever experience nothing, this ‘unimaginable eternal nothingness’

I realize that when I say ‘you’ experience all experiences that it might seem that I also believe in an experiencer, but I have simply no other way of putting it due to the limit of semantics and the fact I’m simply not that good in English.
« Last Edit: 05/07/2016 15:53:25 by Philosopher »