Let's say you're a soldier in a science-fiction war. Everything is relatively similar to how wars are fought today, except that when you die, your likeness and memories are imprinted onto a flash-cloned husk, thereby creating a near-exact replica of you. From the clone's perspective, you died and then woke up in the cloning facility. From your perspective, you're dead (whether or not you have a perspective at that point is unknown, but beyond the scope of this question).

There have been many (somewhat unsatisfying) explanations of this system, such as how in a society where raw materials and energy are plentiful, the time to train a soldier is much more valuable than the molecules that make them up. In my case, the explanation is it's a way to get past an imposed limit on the maximum number of combatants in a battle. Either way, I'm not as worried about why it's done as what it would mean to the people it's done to.

For instance, how would an individual react knowing that if they die, they will be replaced? For some people, it might be kinda nice; after all, someone'll still be taking care of the wife and kids. But that brings up the second part of my question, how would people react to these clones? And the third, How would clones react to themselves?

I used the example of this process being done to soldiers, though I suppose the possibility exists for anyone in a dangerous job, or with the foresight to get memory-tracking implants and a full body scan. This might be similar to the problem of uploading your conciousness to an AI, though for now I want to stick to the constraints of "the original is most assuredly dead, and the copy is most assuredly not the original, though for all intents and purposes the two are indistinguishable."

EDIT- I may not have been clear enough about this, I'm not too worried about the science behind it, the cost of it, or the uses of it. I just want to know what people will think of it.

And let's also assume that no one is making multiple duplicates of a single individual. I suppose there can be flaws in the system (good for a laugh or two), but for the most part I'm just worried about one guy who is a copy of another guy who is now dead.

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    $\begingroup$ Have you seen The Prestige? Or the slightly lower-quality film, The Sixth Day? I'm sure there's lots of other examples that deal with this sort of question. I would say that a person's response would depend on the individual, in particular his views on the afterlife and the mind-body problem. $\endgroup$
    – KSmarts
    Mar 2, 2015 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ Rather than 'The Sixth Day', I recommend the Doctor Who episodes, 'The Rebel Flesh' and 'The Almost People' for reactions to clones. For reactions OF clones, I highly recommend the book series en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Lords_of_the_Diamond. Long story short, each of the clones thought they were the original until they figured out they were screwed. Then they pretty much all decided, "Screw him." $\endgroup$
    – IchabodE
    Mar 3, 2015 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ As has been noted, this is theoretically similar to the copy-erase concept for teleport. If the brain state is transmitted from the original to the copy is there a continuity of personhood? There may be but I don't know how easy it would be to persuade me to step into that teleporter. $\endgroup$
    – glenatron
    Mar 3, 2015 at 10:52
  • $\begingroup$ Watch out for basilisks. $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2015 at 21:37

8 Answers 8


First and foremost:


On average, people take death and near death experiences very bad. Your newly spawned clone will be crawling on the floor in a pool of his own tears, sweat, vomit and urine, paralyzed with fear and memories of the pain, unable to do anything. It will take a while, so don't hold your breath until he's ready to go back to the real world. Give him a couple of years under special care, maybe they'll fix him. Most likely they won't.

Now that we have the obvious out of the way, let's think deeper.

Accidents WILL happen.

Even now many people, especially inexperienced drivers, think themselves immortal. They speed, DUI, break all kinds of traffic laws, until some good soul has to scrape them off a tree with a spatula.

With such scientific proof of immortality, people will care even less about their own safety. Fatal accidents will happen on daily basis, property damage costs will sky-rocket, and the world of insurance agents will never be the same again.

Mass produced slaves

Slavery is another problem from our world, that will increase dramatically thanks to the new technology. Even as we speak, thousands of people world wide are forced to work to near death in different kinds of sweatshops.

The only thing that stops their owners is the fact, that once a slave dies, you have to replace him, and it costs money. With your tech, you can just make a thousand copies of one trained slave and work them to death. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Happy reunions

I've left the positive note for the end: no more broken hearts. No more parents burying their children. No more widows. You can spend your life happily with your loved ones and never experience loneliness and despair, no matter how bad things go.


The 6th Day

I'm not sure if you're aware, but there is a Schwarzenegger movie touching that subject. The title is The 6th Day. In my opinion - harmless flick, fun to watch and mock with some friends, but if you're interested in writing similar story I suggest to watch it.

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    $\begingroup$ Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom includes this type of 'mechanic.' The characters seem to treat it just like one would backing up your computer (perfectly normal and you never remember to do it when you should). $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2015 at 4:18
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding PTSD - I'm pretty sure that if getting a soldier back into the fight was the primary goal of an army, then said soldier would probably be filled with drugs (both when deployed and when "respawned") to mitigate the effect of PTSD. At the very least the drugs would limit the physical pain of dying on the battlefield to prevent shock. That still leaves the psychological issues, but if everyone knows everyone's expendable then the psychological trauma connected with war might also be mitigated... $\endgroup$
    – MBender
    Mar 3, 2015 at 8:52
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    $\begingroup$ Often in the PTSD matter, the "memory" will rewind a few minutes, so people don't remember their own death. Just a small memory loss and you wake up in a chamber. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2015 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ The PTSD problem can easily be circumvented if we assume a backup system like in 2012rcampion's comment: make a backup just before entering the battlefield, die and wake up without ever having entered the battlefield, as far as you know. $\endgroup$
    – 11684
    Mar 3, 2015 at 12:22
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    $\begingroup$ On the other hand I can imagine some armchair generals sitting in a luxurious lounge, drinking expensive whisky, smoking good cigars, who just handwave PTSD problem and think that remember your own death is a great experience, because you know what to avoid next time. I mean, last time I checked many veterans still don't get proper care after returning from war because many people high in the food chain just ignore the problem.I don't see that changing in the future. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2015 at 17:59

The thing is, you can write books on just a tiny subset of the question you asked, so this will by necessity be a very fragmented, partial answer. But regardless, I'll list the problems as I see them, in my perceived order of importance.

Legal and Social Ontology

Regardless of whether the imprinted clone IS you or not, the question arises on whether the law considers the clone you or not. Would the genetic-memory tleilaxu doppelganger impostor perfect clone be legally considered the same person, have access to your bank accounts, and be welcomed to sleep with your wife/husband and tug your children in at night? Since you state that for all intents and purposes the two are indistinguishable it is likely that they will.

If society, judges or even your wife cannot tell the clone from the original (even down to scars, moles and chest-hair?) perhaps the impostor new you will be welcomed 'back' as if it were you. Of course, this could be made to sound even less appealing if your memory-implant were to accidentally send an early death signal so the duplicate sleeps in a warm bed by your partner while you're slowly dying in a ditch from an infected stomach wound.

But say that's not the case (no legal rights, no social acceptance) and you are the clone. In your memory one second ago, you were bravely facing overwhelming odds to push back the Zerg on the battlefield, just as a charging Mutalisk ... and then there's bright light, and the vat door opens. The first experience you have is the woman you recognize as your beloved wife, spitting in your face and calling you a wretched impostor, one that will never measure up to her true husband, who died so bravely. You have no money, no acknowledged education or certifications. You're screwed.


Can there be only one? Or do you have Cloning Vats, where the greatest minds, the finest soldiers, the most faithful servants are multiplied a thousand-fold and release[d ...] to usher in a new era of glory. Perhaps there are thousands of you on the battlefield. Moreover, can the experiences of this multitude be reintegrated into one mind at the end (after the clones are murdered discarded)? Would this mind experience a blurry blend, some as-yet-unimaginable perspective, or perhaps live a thousand subjective days (in what order?) or (simpler) have no memory of the event?


Does the clone feel the memories as alien impositions? Are the memories vivid, or blurry faded things? Are the neural pathways (randomly built in a natural body during in-utero development) really the same? Is there atomic-level precision, or merely in the rough outlines? Would the new being have a body the same age, with the same afflictions (say a bad back?) or a purified new body? Would that change who you were? Would a rejuvenated you be content with, say the 80-year-old-invalid that is your husband?

Are the 'spares' mind-blanks, or do you simply keep them in a cage and forcefully overwrite them when it suits you (i.e your primary is growing frail)?


Is the cloning instantaneous, or does it take months to cook, during which you are dead to the world? Obviously if the perceived self were to lose half a year each time around, people would be careful about dying, whereas if it's flash-speed, it might be chosen as a convenient means of transport, rather than schlepping a meatsack half-way around the world.


How much does it cost, in today's money? \$10? \$10,000? \$10,000,000? \$10,000,000,000? Obviously, this will have important implications on when, why and how respawning is performed.

  • $\begingroup$ I can't tell if this is your answer, or if you want me to provide all the answers to your questions first... $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2015 at 2:08
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    $\begingroup$ Neither. As a worldbuilder, you'll have to ponder them and their consequences so that you can build a plausible world. That, after all, is the purpose of the site. It would not be as much fun if someone else gave you all the answers. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2015 at 2:10
  • $\begingroup$ That is a beautiful way to put it. But I might just answer my own question now. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2015 at 2:24
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but with some hints as to what others (more or less experienced in worldbuilding) would think about when faced with it, and how these thoughts would affect their suspension-of-disbelief. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2015 at 2:25
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    $\begingroup$ Answering your own question is actively encouraged, according to at least some of the mods and high-rep users around here, so feel free! $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2015 at 2:34

You are immortal. You're effectively a demigod. Being killed only takes you off the field and out of the battle.

Eve Online has this as a key feature. With the caveats;

  1. that your memories and knowledge are scanned at the moment of death, then magicked - because Science(TM) - across the universe to a cloning facility and downloaded into a fresh clone,
  2. the cloning process isn't compatible with everyone or is prohibitively expensive to keep it out of the hands of the masses.

People are still going to try to avoid pain, injury, and death. These are ingrained in us through thousands of generations of evolution. It'll take just as long to breed it back out. In fact, that may never happen unless losing the fear of death confers a survival advantage.

It may be possible to suppress this with training, or experience. Forcing people to experience death in the safety of a hospital/laboratory might be a sufficient way to train soldiers for combat.

Some people won't be able to handle it well, or at all.

On the other hand, some people will. Many people have experienced violent and traumatic experiences, been knocked unconscious, and woken up in a hospital bed some time later without any psychological harm. Example: sports injuries.

However, sports attract certain kinds of people. Thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies. There may be a self-selection factor here that means people volunteer for this are more likely to take repeated death well.

These people are your target group for cloning.


The only thing that limits your power is control of the cloning process. If you, as an individual, are held under the thumb of a corporation or government who controls the cloning facility then you're slave to them.


However, if you're in control of the facility (or on good terms with a person/organisation that controls one) then you're able to do whatever the heck you want. You'd only fight in battles that you were interested in.

I'd imagine that any group of immortal soldiers is going to recognise this very quickly. As will any government/corporation. There will invariably be a cold-war between the two where they jokey for control of the soldiers' future.

Eventually, someone will slip-up, and these soldiers will become 100% independent. At this point, you have huge problems. What do you do with people you can't control, and can't kill?

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    $\begingroup$ I knew there would be an Eve Online mention somewhere! I think what would really improve your answer is to address the edited question. I just want to know what people will think of it. Lore-wise - NPC's seem to regard the "capsuleers" with envy, fascination, hate, gratitude.. depending on their own experiences and personal viewpoints. They all seem to agree that having them as enemies is dangerous. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2015 at 19:56

I'd say that it is the arrangement of molecules that make the person. All of us gain and lose molecules all the time. We eat, deficate, and shed skin. However our general arrangement of molecules and DNA stay the same.

Our mind is constantly changing. The you of five minutes ago is gone now and will never exist again unless you find some way to preserve that exact arrangement of cells and connections.

If everyone accepts this psychological standpoint, then that's your answer. However if you're still in the transition phase, then inevitably there will be people that believe that a clone is not the same person. We'll call these people "OBOP" (One Body One Person). That person would be shunned and rejected by all OBOPs. There would likely be OBOP demonstrations outside of cloning clinics.

Legally, there would probably be laws against making multiple clones of the same copy of a person. That way they could treat the individual as the same person, as s/he knows everything about their "original" self. The OBOP people obviously wouldn't like this.

If we assume that this is a military application, then the body would most likely be kept on file, and updated just before each mission. If in a civil application, then the body would most likely be updated every night if available in the home or every week if you have to go to a special place. Let's assume the mind would be scanned and transmitted the moment before a brain stops working, or a little before if that is too traumatizing.

For the individual, there most likely wouldn't be a difference in their perspective. One moment they're dying, the next they're waking up in a module. So from they're point of view, they're being replaced... by themselves.

For their family, if military, would they even have to know? If they did know, they might have the mentality that "Johnny beta acts exactly the same way that Johnny prime would if he were here, so Johnny is Johnny." On the other hand, they might not be able to accept that Johnny beta is the same as Johnny prime in every way that makes Johnny an individual, and would reject him. That would be a risk of using cloning.

From the clone's point of view, it is that person. They have the same memories, life experiences, way of thinking. The clone would probably be thinking "Well I know what not to do this time." They'd probably be okay with it, as they did sign up for it. There might be some measure of PTSD, but that can be addressed multiple ways, including the selection process and a method of training, to name but a few.

Human slavery wouldn't be a thing. If we have the technology and resources to make copies of human beings regularly, then why would we have human slaves? Robots would be so much cheaper (probably) and more efficient. In fact you could probably go from a bunch of metallic power and information to a functioning humanoid robot in less than a week.

This is a really good question in that it delves into the philosophical realm of "What is a person and what makes them an individual?"

  • $\begingroup$ I definitely like this answer, and it got me thinking, coming home as a clone might be a lot like coming out as gay (at least in modern society). $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2015 at 14:30

There is much the same problem with teleportation. Let's compare the two:


I am going off what seems to be the most accepted method - it's not the only one.

  • You are taken apart into molecules
  • Information about these molecules is sent across some network to the destination
  • The teleporter at the end recreates you using this information.


  • You die; your molecules are no longer part of a 'human'
  • The implants in your body use the residual electrical energy to tell the cloner to recreate you
  • The cloning vat puts your molecules back together using stored information.

In both of these situations, the end result is not you. This is true no matter what anyone says; the molecules that make you up are no longer the same molecules.

There is every possibility that these clones and teleported people (hereinafter collectively referred to as "clones") would be accepted into society: they would be able to seamlessly take the place of the former person they represent. Their DNA is identical, as are their fingerprints, earprints (yes that's a thing), memories and neuronic connections. They could easily share the same passport.

Many people would come to see them as a good thing. After all, it means you never have to go through unexpectedly losing a loved one or family member. You can just call in a clone and everything will be fine... won't it?


  1. Overpopulation
    The planet is already struggling to support the number of people we have on it. It is estimated that it can only support an absolute maximum of 10 billion people. If people start using this technology to create immortality, we have serious problems. This could, however, be relieved using another colonised planet.

  2. Mutations
    Although the problem of genetic mutations during the cloning process is almost nonexistent, the software and hardware running these machines are vulnerable to hacking, destruction, or just plain bad coding while running. It is almost impossible to eliminate every bug; what if someone's memory gets mutated and they don't remember their family?

These clones, while technically possible, are still not ideal: there are always going to be problems that prevent them being 100% effective. That said, it would be possible to achieve a fairly high effectivity.

  • $\begingroup$ Also, no mutation = no evolution, which can be harmful to us as a species. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Mar 3, 2015 at 18:25

I understand your question to be about the social acceptability of this phenomenon as much as anything. Others have raised the philosophical question of personhood, so what would society think of it? I think that if it was only ever available to the military, that would create some stronger divisions, but:

A Chance At Immortality

The opportunity for practical immortality would have a massive effect on society- it may be reserved for soldiers or other significant figures to start with but the value of escaping death ( even if there are doubts regarding whether the technology will work for the individual ) would prove irresistible to people. Cloning an older person's mind into a younger body would be an unbelievably popular commercial proposition among the rich and powerful. Dictators and oligarchs are able to rule indefinitely rather than being limited to a human lifetime. The company that offers this technology commercially would be enormously profitable.

Religious Friction

If you think abortion or euthanasia are tricky religious questions, think what survival through cloning might do for our religions. If the afterlife is... life? There would certainly be confusions of faith, deep theological considerations and schisms across many religions. However, if the technology becomes more ubiquitous, this thinking might die out when the people who hold strong to the idea of not artificially extending their life, while the cloneborn outlast them.

For a really interesting - if slightly different - angle on this ( and a super great read ) I recommend Dan Simmons' Hyperion/Endymion novels.

A Divided Society

Those who choose (or can afford) to live on through cloning become a class of their own. In fact they have effectively defeated the last element of evolution affecting our species so the uncloned would gradually diverge until some degree of speciation occurred with the cloned being as they had been when they lived, while new generations of regular humans change in small steps over time. Of course, the cloned may start to request engineered changes and before you know it we are in a world of crazy post-humans, which is a super-fun place to be writing sci-fi.

For further reading that touches on the effects of this in different ways you might look at Peter Hamilton's Fallen Dragon and Anne Leckie's Ancillary Justice.


Are you being replaced though? Most science fiction cultures that have this concept consider the clone to be just as valid a real "you" as the original.

There's a conceptual and cultural shift in thinking about the nature of a person and an individual that needs to happen - but when it does then you go into battle knowing that if you die you will be brought back to life. From your perspective the fate of your original body does not matter, you are still you.

Of course things get even more tricky once you start splitting people into multiple copies of themselves, and then those start dying. Do you reintegrate the memories, have new people, not integrate them at all but keep the original? Lots of questions there...

  • $\begingroup$ That's all the very thinking I'm trying to avoid. You will never convince me a clone of myself will 'be' me (and such thoughts must remain in the back of everyone's minds), and there are way too many questions about concurrent clones to deal with in one question. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2015 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ I'd say that most science-fiction with a system like this just ignore the issue so they can focus on the story. $\endgroup$
    – KSmarts
    Mar 2, 2015 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ @KSmarts that's the exact reason I'm asking about it here. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2015 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ @KSmarts There is an answer. The answer is that society (including the person dying) would consider the clone to be a continuation of that person. There is nothing particularly special about the exact molecules that make up you. After all you gain and shed them every moment that you live. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Mar 2, 2015 at 22:09
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    $\begingroup$ @TimB I would just like to point out that humans do not act rationally, and no one thinks documents have souls. You raise the valid point that clones might just be accepted by society, but I don't think the proof of that point is as obvious as you think. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2015 at 18:56


This video based off Planetside 2 gives one idea of what it might do to people. Basically how people would get lost and lose track of what it means to well, fight for life.


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