Of Originals and Duplicates

This was submitted to the DFTW site by a guest commentator — as opposed to an uncommon tater, or a Richard Tater — and I thought some of you might find it interesting.

–E

BEWARE FARSCAPE SPOILERS. BEWARE THE PRESTIGE SPOILERS.

So, I just re-watched the Farscape episode “Eat Me” (I’ve seen all of the Farscape series), but couldn’t remember if the show later addressed the question of which John Crichton was the actual “original.”

The whole split-Crichton plot sequence was never a favorite of mine, despite Farscape being near and dear to me. Out of a desire to reacquaint myself, I searched the Net for the answer — I had thought that Harvey would only exist in the “real” Crichton (which would have at least been clever.) Why I torture myself in this manner I will never know, but gentle reader, beware public discussions on quote philosophical unquote issues raised in television shows.

I will try to refrain from links, but a not insignificant portion of the Farscape fanbase — at least those which post in forums (which admittedly is not saying much) — seem to favor the notion of “two identical and original” John Crichtons because that was the explanation given in “Eat Me”, despite this making no frelling sense, not even for a microt.

The premise that there can be “two originals” — or that an exact copy is in fact the SAME as the original — is Stark-raving mad (yeah, the bad pun was deliberate). This is really not a hard concept to grasp. Let’s examine it logically — an object in space does not exist in two places — the fact that there is a quantity of X+1 means that for every +1 we have a new and unique object, irrespective of how “identical” it is to the previous iteration. If I have five identical< apples (meaning absolutely no differences), they are not all the SAME apple merely because they are identical — there are five separate frelling apples.

A conscious mind is no different because it thinks, speaks, and provides an emotional attachment. If anything, you should be outraged at the very notion of “two originals” since it is total betrayal of any concept of individual identity. Don’t be assimilated. The person who is reading this article is READING (i.e., the experience of reading) this article — having an experience attached to their particular mind and body, sensing, perceiving, and thinking from their reality. A CONSCIOUSNESS (that’s a NOUN and an incomplete sentence). They are not experiencing “reading this article” from my perspective or from the person sitting next to them or from the perspective of Ben Browder and whether this experience is delivered via physical or metaphysical phenomenon is irrelevant.

A being, a soul, a mind, a consciousness — is having the experience of reading this article — call it what you will. Would you call the Borden twins in The Prestige the “same person (as it is strongly implied that Borden used Tesla’s machine)?” And are we to actually accept the premise that Angier is not a monster because he’s only killing himself every time he uses Tesla’s machine – though in fact he’s killing a new (and now unique) human being every time.

I found this comment on a related YouTube video (Spartan043):

“A copy is a copy. Even an identical one would still be a different person. I believe that if you immediately replace all the matter in the human body, or upload a mind/copy a person and destroy the original, you disrupt the neuronal gestalt that makes up the human consciousness. [author's note: the rest of this comment is not relevant to this discussion, but a valid observation.] Perhaps if you slowly replaced the cells in the body with nanomachines that adopted the exact same structure as the cells they were replacing, you could attain immortality and keep your consciousness intact. Perhaps.”

Now this is all very aside from the fact that “two originals” is a totally nonsensical concept. Anything is “original” from the moment of duplication, but there is always an ORIGINAL / ORIGINATOR. For example, let’s take those damn apples again. Let’s pretend we have ONE apple and duplicate it. Now we have an ORIGINAL and a COPY.

Apple A, ORIGINAL — Apple B, COPY

Apple B is not an “ORIGINAL” just because it is an exact duplicate. By the very DEFINITION of ORIGINAL and COPY, Apple B is a COPY; it does not go backward in time and space and “replace” Apple A. Apple B does not consume, assume, or exist within the same space of Apple A.

Now let’s COPY Apple B again.

Apple A, ORIGINAL — Apple B, COPY, ORIGINATOR of APPLE C — Apple C, COPY

If we copy Apple A again, then:

Apple A, ORIGINAL — Apple B, COPY, ORIGINATOR of APPLE C — Apple C, COPY — Apple D, COPY

And even if by some effing miracle of science we can allow our conscious minds to experience existing in multiple bodies — where we sit in some kind of conscious command center where we stream our thoughts into body husks, we are still a SINGULAR ENTITY having that experience. We might conceptualize creatures who have decentralized or distributed experiences — but this would be totally alien to our understanding of reality — incomprehensible — humans will never have any idea what that would be like without losing our individual identity and dying in the process.

There are two scenarios which could have occurred in the Farscape episode of “Eat Me” when Chiana, D’Argo, and Crichton are “duplicated.” In both scenarios, we start with the fact that Chiana, D’Argo and Crichton are hit by Kaarvok (that’s the bad guy)’s bubble duplicating beam.

Scenario A:

The original is preserved in the process and is copy/split/duplicated as one additional individual.

Scenario B:

The original is destroyed, either in total or by means of degradation or corruption, in the process and is copy/split/duplicated into two (new) individuals.

If Scenario A is true, then one of the two Crichtons is the original Crichton who hailed from the planet Earth. The “other” Crichton was created on Leviathan Rovhu, a new, unique, sapient creature with an identical physiological and psychological make-up of the original John Crichton — but nonetheless a SEPARATE entity having its own unique ongoing experience. You could even say ALIEN because he is extraterrestrial.

If Scenario B is true, then Farscape freaking ended with the episode of “Eat Me” because three of the main characters freaking died (and you should stop watching.) In this case, we have TWO copies EACH of Chiana, D’Argo, and Crichton. The “originals” were destroyed and we should have no emotional attachments to these new and different creatures, and the screenwriters should all be shipped to Rura Penthe.

I choose to believe in Scenario A (and skip all the Talyn-Crichton episodes) and furthermore believe the surviving Crichton is the original, if for no other reason than literary integrity / Literary Momentum (a topic for another time). I like this quote I found from a sensible Farscape fan (IndyJones1023):

“I think the one born on Earth survived. Since the writers had (IMHO) the clone get jiggy with Aeryn, it would be the culmination of a crush. By having the clone do the deed, we are still rooting for our original hero — who has yet to get the girl. Plus, they killed the clone, and some tickle down in your heart just wouldn’t sit well with that notion. From a writing POV, the real Crichton must be the survivor.”

John Weldon’s “To Be” video should be required watching for all of humanity, because an improper understanding of consciousness, notably from anyone in any position of power or authority — especially in the fields of advancing science — is downright chilling.

Honestly, the real problem here was caused by the writers of this episode and the ongoing plot with two Crichtons in some attempt at being deep or clever. There is supposed to be some moral, ethical and/or intellectual dilemma here and except for the slow/dim-witted, there is none. For anyone with self-awareness, these “problems” have simple answers.

My only conclusion that would account for so many people believing in the idea that a person’s identity can simultaneously exist in two different bodies and that somehow both people are the “real deal” (utterly insane) is that they, themselves, are not self-aware but are, in fact, very sophisticated (biological) Turing machines. What other possible explanation can there be? These people must have no self-awareness at all — whatever reality they experience from day-to-day is totally lost upon them so it is easy for them to argue that a duplicate of themselves would also be “themselves.”

That is not just sad – it is downright frightening.

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