Much effort went into creating sims, uploaded personalities obtained through destructive scanning of a person's brain. These efforts have largely been successful.

Whilst officially banned in the civilized world, the practice has gained significant currency, and terminally ill rich people now routinely travel to Transnistria, where you can still buy bullets by the bucket, semi-sentient anti-aircraft missiles, and yes, get a (sometimes dubious quality) mind upload done with no legal hassles.

The Sims are passing the Turing test with no issues, and for the most part (save for the occasional abomination), sound indistinguishable to living friends and relatives from the original. Increasingly, the sims are fighting to gain legal recognition as "Remnanters" - legal successors of the dead Person they used to be. However, problems soon crop up in dealing with identity. One can (and sometimes does) create multiple copies of the same uploaded personality. So Richie Rich travels to Transnistria, gets their brain "read" and creates a Richie Remnanter A, who is placed in an android body and walks the Earth again. A different version of Richie Rich, Richie Remnanter B, chooses to stay in a virtual environment running at 10x real-life speed.

I have thought of 3 approaches:

  1. Remnanter A and Remnanter B are now different persons and diverge exponentially from here on. This is the default path, but leaves thorny legal issues, such as which Remnanter gets control of what portion of assets.

  2. Somehow, only one Remnanter is allowed. This would be hard to implement technologically, especially with ruthless Romanian and Russian hackers and bio-engineers in charge.

  3. Remnanter A and Remnanter B occasionally sync up, creating a unified personality with multiple presences. This seems hugely technologically challenging, even more so if we want a (near-)continuous sync.

Which one of these (if any) is most likely to be the preferred path, and why? If you think another outcome is more likely, I would like to hear it instead.

Why Sims? It turns out that creating non-insane AIs is hard. In retrospect, AI research historians suggest, it should have been obvious that the possible Hilbert space of insane dysfunctional minds is much, much larger than the space of sane minds, and without the finely tuned evolutionary help of millions of subjective years of evolution, one is highly unlikely to stumble into the sane space. Programming AI from scratch has thus proven impossible.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TheAnathema, depends on the power-plant. The brains run on electricity. Whether that's generated by burning butter, diesel fuel or from some more advanced electric battery is up to the bot design. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 16:41
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Worth noting: if you remove a few details, this becomes a very classic philosophy question. The traditional phrasing is that you have a "teleporter" which recreates you in another location, then destroys the old body. If you are simultaniously teleported to Mars and Venus, which "you" is the "real you?" The question has no officially recognized answer. It's used as a tool to explore deeper approaches to conciousness which resolve the issue. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 18:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM, emotion is just more neurons being modulated in the brain. The modulatory action of any chemical can be emulated as easily as the ion-channel neuron-firings themselves. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 18:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa Its unsolved because our concepts of what it means to be a "self" are limited. What gets demonstrated in the traditional problems is how most ways of thinking lead to paradoxical results. Another case that has come up and shook our way of thinking was a "pair" of siamese twins, who happen to be conjoined inside the skull. It was very hard for researchers to determine whether they were talking to one individual or two. The entity or group of entities they were talking to defied all easy classification. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 19:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Out of interest, what happens if remnanter B chooses to live a different life under an assumed identity with a very different body? Surely, if they were rich enough to afford illegal mind uploads, they are rich enough to pay someone off to forge a new identity? Also, how would you legally reclaim assets if you are only alive due to an illegal act? I would imagine that said person would secure their wealth in a way that circumvents the law. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 18:51

6 Answers 6


I'll leave the final choice up to you, but this is what I envision for each choice:

Path 1

As information changes, it becomes different; even if a human were cloned, memories and all, the 'new human' and the 'old human' would rapidly begin to differ. Belongings are left to the first copy to claim them; the android is the first system online, and thus would get all the belongings. Future copies are left with nothing and treated as new beings.

Path 2

The human brain isn't a computer; while it's possible to destructively copy (aka move) the contents to a digital version, at no point in time does the personality become fully information. These special digital brains are still physical objects, and the only way to copy a brain is by destroying the original, be it digital or organic. An android would have the brain stuck inside it; a "software only" version would simply hook the digital brain up to a computer. While it's possible to make a non-destructive copy, the result is only superficially similar. Anyone comparing the brainwave signature of the bad copy to the original human or to the digital copy would instantly see they were different.

Path 3

Once uploaded, a human mind will realize just how easy it is to make copies of itself. Splits and merges become commonplace; androids become rent-a-bodies, to deal with the physical world. To sync, two minds merge, then make a copy to "split". Each mind has its own signature, a unique key. When two copies of a single mind merge, the signature remains the same, but if two different minds merge, they create a new signature, a child mind, an equal merge between the two. Belongings are shared equally between the minds of a given signature. Essentially, any cluster of minds with the same signature are considered a single collective being.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I agree with 2 - if the brain cannot be copied, only moved, then the technology involved to run the "brain" has a similar limitation. $\endgroup$
    – Adam Davis
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 18:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In Path 3, assuming you don't have a ton of instances of you running around, to reproduce, each partner should make a copy, then merge the copies. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 3:08
  • $\begingroup$ And with Path 3 you can go wild with the implications to conciousness. Will your consciousness or sense of self be split among all these copies? Will the observer which currently experiences the world through your body experience the world through the faceted lens of all his copies? What kind of experience would that be ? $\endgroup$
    – Falco
    Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 13:09

Path 3 if it's possible.
Since the Remnanter's are basically data, and since sharing data is what computers do, the only really tricky part for syncing them up is figuring out what format to put the data in. The data could be streamed through a cloud share and be near instantaneous. A kind of Remnanter Beowulf cluster.

On an interesting side note, you could achieve speed of light travel this way.

Richie Remnanter needs to travel to Mars. It hires an android body on Mars, and transmits a copy of itself to the receiver on Mars which transfers it to that body. After the mission is completed all data is transmitted back, and Richie Remnanter on Mars either continues on to do other things, syncing up on occasion, or deletes itself, whichever they decide.

Otherwise path 1.
I would do it like this. Richie Remnanter A is the original version created from the brain. It descides to make a copy, Richie Remnanter B. Legally Richie Remnanter B would be the child of Richie Remnanter A.
In making the copy, Richie Remnanter A takes on the legal responsibility of making sure that Richie Remnanter B is taken care of, and Richie Remnanter B can inherit if Richie Remnanter A is deleted, but Richie Remnanter A gets to keep control of all it's assets.
Legally, Richie Remnanter B could accept an allowance/paycheck from Richie Remnanter A, possibly for doing the work that Richie Remnanter A duplicated it for, or it could decide to go off on it's own and make it's own way in the world.
If Richie Remnanter B decides to duplicate itself to Richie Remnanter B.2, then it has it's own legal responsibility to it, and Richie Remnanter A does not.

IMHO, Path's 1 and 3 are not mutually exclusive.

Path 2 Is problematic, as if history has shown us one thing, it's that once something is data it can and will be copied.
Maybe if it had to be run on a quantum computer and copying it destroyed it? But someone would find a way. Once you can copy the state from a living brain, copying the state from a computer is kind of anti-climatic.

  • $\begingroup$ Greg Bear explores some aspects of this question in his stories "Eon", "Eternity", and "Legacy". See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Way_(Greg_Bear) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ @HowardMiller I actually own Eon and Eternity, but it's probably been 20 years since I read them. There have been a lot of books that have dealt with copies and backups of people. Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow. Saturn's Children by Charles Stross (which is a lot closer to my example here than Eternity). Actually, there are a lot of books with this theme. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ @HowardMiller Now that it's jogging my memory, in the Halo book series, it's revealed that Cortana and the other AI's are made by destructive copying of human brains after death. Cortana and one other were created from a living humans brain by flash cloning the brain and copying that. halo.wikia.com/wiki/Artificial_intelligence $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ I've always considered "destructive copying" to be a dubious process mostly designed to account for transmigration of a soul. Frankly, I think it's about as practical as making a copy of a document and then destroying the original. I HAVE thought of a method of migration of the consciousness from the original to an artifact, leaving the original unconscious while the artifact retains the conscious aspect. But transmigration of the soul will probably always be debatable. I think I can agree with Dr. McCoy's reservations. Maybe it's because I'm from Georgia too. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ @HowardMiller I don't really have any strong feelings about it. I think I prefer the in place backup as a way to avoid death, which also seems to be the most common trope, but the way that the halo series justifies the destructive process makes sense too. Not souls, but needing to send energy through all the pathways in order to read them. It would be a fatal process if you weren't already dead. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 4:51

I'd go with Path 1.

A standard for Remnanters can include an exposed hash (that's of significant size), or perhaps one prepended to a hash identifier of the DNA of the original human. You could conceivably run into collisions of identity with help from the Birthday Paradox, but it wouldn't be unlike the edge case issues we run into today with DNA (chimeraism) and fingerprints (removed, duplicates, etc.)

The hashes would be generated upon creation of the Remnanter, and could be registered in the same way that humans are with social security numbers and what not.

Once you have a standard in place, you can identify a Remnanter. International law can require that the standard be implemented as a sort of contract in order to be considered an owner of personhood, or whatever is necessary for inheritance or legal recognition.

So if a rogue system decides to create Remnanters that don't implement the contract, then they're the same as our modern rogue systems who say, cut off their fingerprints, or operate in the shadows with physical cash currency. It would be hard for them to operate and be welcomed in society that's expecting an identity and cooperation with the laws in place.

One might be able to duplicate another Remnanter's identifier, but a registration to a database and some secondary pieces of information can help with that. It would be no different to how we fight identity theft, or add chips to our credit cards for fraud prevention.

I find this to be less problematic than paths 2 and 3 because they require a lot more technological finesse and don't have a lot of correlaries with modern society like path 1 does.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree with The Anathema's answer. This leaves the question of which remnant gets to control which assets: - it is crucial to leave a last will/declaration of intent behind that clearly identifies the remnant(s) that will get to keep your stuff, otherwise expect legal challenges even where remnants are fully recognized - many jurisdictions will NOT recognize remnants and will instead declare the persons dead, their property to go to their legal (living) inheritors, or even confiscated by the state. Nothing new here, this can be prepared for by creating shell companies, charities, etc. $\endgroup$
    – Peter S.
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 17:05

Path 2 would not be my choice, but as a defender of lost cause I would like to make it a slightly better candidate so that it falls back in the race.

In particular, you insist on the destructive scanning of the brain required to build a sim. If the destructive part is not a technical choice, but a fundamental issue because the reading require to be quantum-precise and breaks the original, then this option is the only viable one.

Some theories relate consciousness and quantum physics. I do not buy it but it gives credibility to the scenario.

And you could still have fun by mixing sims : like having half of the memory of A and half of the memory of B, and the emotions of C (and you would be able to tell what part of us depend of our memories, btw.). Damn russian hackers !

  • $\begingroup$ Life lesson here: Don't let "Sir Mixalot" play with your Remnanter ashes. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ I want my personality shaken, not stirred. $\endgroup$
    – Marsh
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 22:29

I prefer path 1.

Add a unique identifier to the code of each remnanter from a person, to disambiguate them. The original person should have made provisos for inheritance, or the law should state that all remnants share the original's fortune.

Further splitting and merging of remnanters would create new remnanters, who could inherit from the ones from which they were created.

Since AIs are, effectively, immortal (alive as long there's computer support), inheritance laws would need to change: can an immortal's child inherit anything from its father, with him still alive?


Path 4:

Inheritance becomes an obsolete concept as mankind becomes semi-immortal.

Inheritance in the real world is governed largely by culture, and stems from the fact that people die, and then there's stuff left behind that used to be there's. The solutions to the problem of what to do with that stuff are as varied as the breadth of human cultural experience, with a particularly common option being that the firstborn son gets everything (with lots of fiddly bits if there isn't one of the appropriate age). However, modern egalitarianism combined with western tradition has lead to a state of affairs in much of the world where default inheritance can and is frequently overridden by an explicit Last Will and Testament. While subject to different laws and stipulations, a Will is nonetheless effectively a sort of gift on the part of the dying to some number of successors. Because death is so frequent, these kinds of gifts are also very frequent and have grown a lot of culture around them. Without death to keep inheritance at the forefront of the minds of the populace, and with tricky bits to sort out if the institution is kept around, and with growing widespread distaste for the kinds of inequality fostered by large inheritances, it seems likely that the institution would not stay around long. One solution that seems likely is that governments would just lay blanket legal claim to the possessions of any person who is rendered dead. Another solution, less likely because of humanity's multimillennial obsession with death, would be that people just don't deal with the stuff belonging to dead people and it gets sorted out the same way as stuff that's abandoned, since death becomes so rare.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .