The concept of a closest continuer was named by the philosopher Robert Nozick by 1981 as a possible solution to the problem of personal identity when dealing with various "mind transfers". It also applies to multiple copies of hypothetical simulated minds. The concept analyzes how one such mind could "become" another similar mind, even though they may be widely separated in time and space.
The teletransportation paradox is a long-standing subject for philosophical speculation going back as far as the 18th century. One version involves a hypothetical teleportation device that scans a human at atomic resolution. The scanning process would completely destroy the human, but the device would then create an indistinguishable copy of the person some distance away.
The question is whether the copy could still claim to "be" the original person, even if they retain all their original memories and perceptions, and merely feel they have changed locations. However, since their matter was replaced in an unnatural way, a new identity may also have been created.
With quantum teleportation that might not be an issue, as all physical information of the original would be perfectly transferred to the copy, while the original matter would necessarily lose this information (also known as the no cloning theorem).
Nozick argues that personal identity could be preserved even if the copy is not absolutely perfect. In our chaotic physical universe, identity is always changing anyway. What matters is that the copy should perceive that its mind has been adequately preserved from its past state. This would be true even if the copy was noticeably imperfect, a state comparable to partial amnesia.
The closest continuer concept has led to science-fiction like speculations. Across the "Multiverse", if there is one, the number of possible mind states could be so vast that the closest continuer might exist in completely alien or incomprehensible conditions, while still having the same personality or subjective sense of self.
Possible future applications
The question of the closest continuer would be relevant to any project aiming to create a workable mind backup method for humans.
- (retrieved Sep 4, 2017) http://www.iep.utm.edu/nozick/#H4
- Marc Slors | overview paper (retrieved Sep 5, 2017) http://www.academia.edu/404789/The_Closest_Continuer_View_Revisited
- Harold W. Noonan | overview paper (Jan 1985) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232830829_The_Closest_Continuer_Theory_of_Identity
- "What is the Essence of the Human Being?" Graduate Seminar, Philos ophy 513, Spring 2017 | implied anomalous mind continuation| https://philosophy.princeton.edu/sites/philosophy/files/documents/syllabus/phi513_sp17-7.pdf
- potentially unlimited diversity increase | https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226325351_Personal_survival_and_the_closest-continuer_theory
- "Identity in the Extraordinary Future" http://www.mind.ilstu.edu/curriculum/extraordinary_future/PhillipsCh5.php?modGUI=247&compGUI=1944&itemGUI=3400