Pattern Identity Theory
Pattern Identity
Image from Steve Bowers

"A soufflé isn't a soufflé; a soufflé is a recipe. "- Clara Oswald (Steven Moffat)

The theory that "I" am the same individual as any other whose physical constitution forms the same or a similar pattern to mine. (See also continuity identity theory).

Pattern Identity theory maintains that human consciousness is a pattern of memories and programs inside the body, mostly but not all in the central nervous system, and like any other collection of programs and memories it can be copied and transmitted. Any human who is successfully uploaded experiences a true transfer of consciousness from the body into the new substrate.

Any individual who is successfully copied while in virtual form experiences a transfer of consciousness into all the new versions of emself, and becomes a divided entity known as a dividual. According to Pattern Identity theory each dividual inherits the same consciousness, but the dividuals all start to diverge from one another instantly. Unless some form of technotelepathy is employed, there is no link between any two dividuals, and they do not share experiences.

Adherents of the Pattern Identity theory consider that if their uploaded data is transmitted to a distant location then embodied by engeneration technology then their consciousness is directly transferred to the new body, even over a considerable distance of time and space.

Most, but not all, AIs support some variant of Pattern Identity theory, since their internal data generally exists in a form which is relatively easy to copy and transmit. Some, however, consider that their physical substrate is essential to their sense of self-hood, and do not consider any copy to inherit their own consciousness. Whether the archailects favour continuity identity theory or pattern identity theory is not known; these entities appear to have quite fluid concepts of identity, but rarely duplicate themselves in their entirety.
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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg, amended by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 19 December 2001.