#89 Identity

#89 Identity

This philosophical comic is inspired by a couple of recent drunken conversations about personal identity. I still say teleporters that work this way are death machines!

Also for the record, you don’t actually have to travel to a distant planet to find the best pistachio ice cream in the universe. It’s right in South Beach, in a wonderful little Indian Restaurant called Guru. If you’re ever there check it out!

Discussion (11)¬

  1. Colin Matthews says:

    I remember that from Radio Lab!

  2. Mark says:

    That guy in the fuchsia shirt is totally me. You should’ve given him a beard.

    I love fuchsia!

  3. chaos872 says:

    Anyone who cant psychologically cope with living with a precise molecule-by-molecule replica of themseves walking around deserves death.
    Its simple math
    I am Awesome
    therefore more of me is just More Awesomeness.

  4. Psymon says:

    “Even if it was a perfect copy, that doesn’t change the fact that I, personally, would still be dead.” –Sam Starfall

  5. chaospet says:


  6. I love this brilliant cartoon, which I’ve just discovered. Mind you, the question is too easy until you engage with the difficult bit – which is talking to a, um, post-operative teleportee.

    ‘Man, I went into this little room, and there was a flash and the door opened and I was on this amazing puce planet, and there was this, well kind of a cross between a leprechaun and a jellyfish who gave me literally the most INCREDIBLE pistachio ice cream! Then they sent me back using the same box. No, seriously it was ME, I mean you wouldn’t say I was a different person if I went to the corner shop and came out again, would you? Well it was like that. Even my wife says I’m the same person. The ice cream is really something else. Sure you don’t want to try it?’

    Well, would you try it? Perhaps there’s a follow-up cartoon somewhere I haven’t discovered yet …

  7. chaospet says:

    I agree, that sort of discussion pushes the intuitions the other way, and things get murky fast.

    Did you ever see The Prestige? If not, then I recommend checking it out; towards the end you get a great little discussion of just this sort.

  8. I didn’t, but I was at a friend’s house last night who had it so I have now – thanks for the recommendation. Makes you wonder how many other famous philosophical problems could form the nucleus for blockbuster films. I can’t see how Zeno’s Arrow Paradox would translate, for instance, but the Unexpected Exam has possibilities, and the Trolley Problem must already have been made countless times.

    It occurs to me somewhat irrelevantly that – in the original form, without the nasty twist of drowning duplicates – in a Buddhist conception, the question doesn’t arise. It’s a core teaching that there is no mystical ‘self’ in which your identity is located, the self that Sam Starfall is worried about. There is merely a continual and contingent series of moment-by-moment becomings, conditioned by the kamma/karma or action of previous moments. If the laws of physics dictate that one of these becomings is on Planet Pistachio, so be it!

  9. chaospet says:

    The most recent Batman movie has some excellent Trolley-ish scenarios, good stuff.

    Yes, there is the Buddhist strategy of simply denying that there is a “self” (at least in any sense that would give rise to worries about identity over time). In the spirit of the most recent comic, I prefer the opposite strategy. Panselfism – at a fundamental level, *everything* is me!

  10. mjgoins says:

    Yeah it’s a death machine, but it’s still a teleporter. The new you would be walking around wondering why the old you was so down on teleporters.

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