In my setting, the founders of the first transhumanist state, The Consensus, are considered to be somewhere between interesting and wise historical figures to some and are to others something akin to a cyberpunk version of an ancient pantheon. So claiming to be one of these people, a group according to some traditions as small as 10 people, according to others as big as 200 (both definitions are valid, the 10 were the solid core, any others were influential side characters during the solar system era) can be quite beneficial.

Ending the solar system era The Consensus split into the Solaris Confederacy, which stayed behind on Mercury and the emerging Dyson swarm, enforcing the 1000 year-no-interstallar-colonisation-edict on baseline humanity and the Gardener Initiative, which proceeded to colonise the Milkyway and beyond.

As the 25 colonisation fleets left the solar system, those esteemed elders and many others sought to be aboard and to enforce the edict. Luckily this was no problem, as duplication via mind-uploading had been technically viable for two centuries. So versions of each of these founders and often earlier copies where on every fleet and in the solar system. Each time a new star was reached almost everyone stayed there and went forward to the next stars and so on.

This leads to the situation that there is a humongous and still exponentially growing group of people who all have a legitimate and recognised claim to the fame of being one of the founders. Making matters worse, a lot of the founders early lives are widely available as implantable memories or simulation experiences for educational and entertainment purposes. Those are usually marked as such, but the marks could be removed easily by someone dedicating a lot of time and resources to the task.

The basic structures of most human societies are somewhat similar. Almost every settled system has a presence of Consensus Authority, who control the solar laser arrays and some stations. They are still culturally close to each other. Other societies in the systems were mostly founded by those who wanted to try a different social model. This has created many different, yet still somewhat related societies.


How can an imposter be differentiated from the group of people whose claim is legitimate?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Do what the French did, kill them all and let God sort them out $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Apr 7, 2019 at 22:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why don't fingerprints work? Retinal scans? Iris scans? I'm not certain that I understand why the question assumes that identification is so hard. BTW, the question uses both concensus (probably some sort of "common register") and consensus ("common opinion") -- may want to pick one. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 7, 2019 at 22:12
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Your backstory is really getting in the way of giving you an answer. I apologize for being blunt, but your story is where creative writing belongs, your question must be clear, concise, and objective. (a) How many "founders" were there, really? (b) How many of the founders actually traveled with the fleets? (c) How does "duplication" work? do you use clones? babies? does the original personality get lost after the copy? (d) How much time from the first launch has passed? VTC OT:Unclear until you separate your question and its necessary facts from the backstory. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Apr 7, 2019 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ 'posthuman' to me also kind of signifies that the human body is not necessary anymore as a substrate - would that be true? Also: Is there any reason that the founders should have special privileges besides fandom? Currently the human mind can be simulated (badly), but in no way copied - you seem to imply that such copying is then possible - is this process somehow regulated? Then you could have a blockchain (yay!) logging all copying actions, so everybody could go back and look at their (and everybody elses) 'ancestry'. $\endgroup$
    – bukwyrm
    Apr 8, 2019 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ Also also: Do you really think that identity theft would be a problem in a world where you can run into yourself (who is also a complete stranger as you two now have differing memories, relationships, goals, etc.)? $\endgroup$
    – bukwyrm
    Apr 8, 2019 at 11:06

4 Answers 4


I believe there may be methods available to distinguish the imposters from the genuine article, but it’s unclear how meaningful this distinction would be.

There are three basic kinds of identification available:

  • Something you know (for example, a password). In the scenario you’ve postulated, where all memories are copied and shared, this would not appear to work. It’s possible that memories are imperfectly duplicated, in which case it may be possible to distinguish an imposter from a genuine founder with great effort. (Memory forensics?)

  • Something you have (for example, a key). If the genuine founders all possess something unique, and which cannot easily be copied or stolen, then this is proof of identity. Coming up with something that can’t be copied is hard (photographs of door keys can be used to reproduce the keys, for example), but not impossible — you may want to look into how credit card chips work for a robust modern example. Bonus points if the “something they have” is literally implanted inside them to mitigate the possibility of theft.

  • Something you are (for example, your fingerprints). Assuming the technology isn’t around to spoof a person’s fingerprints, iris, DNA, or other physical features, these may provide clues as to a person’s identity. Given the level of transhumanism in your setting, though, it seems that these aspects of identity will be a lot less unique than they used to be.

Obviously you could mix and match approaches, in situations where one factor isn’t proof positive of identity. This may wind up being an exceptionally difficult problem to solve, and it’s possible you’ll wind up with people whose claims to being a founder are doubtful, but can’t be proven or disproven with certainty.

It’s worth asking, though: in a society that is capable of duplicating memories and spreading them around as a form of entertainment, notions of identity and individuality are likely somewhat antiquated. It’s possible that Consensus-influenced societies simply don’t care about this question as much as we might. In particular, the idea of personal claims to fame might be less important — maybe the important thing is that some individual decided to assume this identity, and that is the unit of meaning the culture responds to. Of course, this is your perogative.

Thanks for the interesting problem!


The capability to perform mind upload implies the capability of modifying that same mind. It goes almost without saying that your posthumans would have extra 'features' from your point of view.

Better memories, better recall, improved visualization, and ancillary routines. For example, when looking at a QR code they might be able to read it as if it was normal text. And since mind uploading implies cloning and possibly impersonation, the verification problem would have arisen since the beginning - not for the founders alone but for everybody.

So the "solution" could be to supply every human being with a dedicated asymmetrical cryptographic routine and a private key with perfect recall. This "private area" would never be shared or copied onto an implantable memory (there would even be safeguards against that - mind rape and memory robbery could be things after all).

Once you do that, verification is quite simple actually:

"So see, Sam, I'm Joe Bloggs."
"You are? Computer! Get me the public key of Joe Bloggs."
<the public key flashes onto Sam's mind's eye>
(Sam performs the mental gymnastics required to encrypt a text)
"Very well Joe, what's your decoding for 'Alpha Steel Blue [...] Gold Bravo'?"
"Let me think... it's 'Delta Copper Diamond Red...'."
"That's correct. Welcome, Joe!"

(a set of 256 common short code words allows transmitting a 128-bit crypto block using 16 words, "decoding" another set of 16 of the same words, in such a way that only the person in possession of the correct key can do it - barring unforeseen advances in cryptography, quantum computing and a crypto-cracking neural implant).


A person could be identified by how he thinks.

blade runner https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1jXmJmmj3o

The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs, trying to turn itself over. But it can’t. Not without your help. And you’re not helping. Why is that, Leon?

In Blade Runner, the replicants are identified because they do not have the same emotional response to provocative questions that (adult) humans do. A finer approach to this same sort of identification could get very granular, identifying an individual because of emotional responses, thought patterns, and the like. In Blade Runner they used various biometric assays. In your world they would of course use functional MRI, assaying the brain and its working directly and without the need for a flesh interface. The identification process might take a while to be certain.

Having killed a cat in my youth and uploading an experience of having killed a cat gives the same knowledge of what happened. But the traces that experience leaves in a mind will be very different.


It would appear unlikely that they could be differentiated unless historically there was always some sort of indelible verification password installed into every copied mind. Without that, the imposers can always provide a valid answer to any question (assuming the "implantable memories" that they could download are an accurate mind-state of the founder being impersonated).

You could use quantum password technology to provide an indelible and un-copyable password system.


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