Alex Peak


2008/08/26:  Clone of the Dog

Also available in .txt.

In real life, I have a dog named Buddy.  In this dream, Buddy is constantly being cloned, and his clones are sold off or given away or something.

I’m not involved in the cloning process.  Other family members handle that business.  My focus is elsewhere.

It dawns on me, however, that it’s possible that the original Buddy could have died at some point and been replaced by a Buddy replicate without my knowledge.  So, I ask my family if this has ever been done, and they confirm that it had.

I’m irate.  Do they not see that this new replacement is not going to have the same mind, the same memories, the same emotional connection to me as the original?  The least they could do is tell me that the dog has been replaced!

They insist, to the contrary, that it really is the same thing, therefore ignoring the vitally important role memory and experience play in identity.  As you can probably guess, I got into a philosophical debate with my dream-family over this issue.  The only way, I argued, the Buddy replicate would be the same as the original is if the memories of the original could be transferred to the replicate.  Only then would it recognise us as it’s long-established family, only then would it have the same emotional bonds as possessed by the original, and only then could I have the same emotional bonds to it as I had to the original.

If it does not have the same memories as the original, then I cannot share the same emotional bonds with it that I shared with the original, no matter how much I may want to.  I must, instead, form emotional bonds with it that are entirely new (if I’m to form emotional bonds with it at all, not that I have anything against doing so), for after all, it has no alternative but to form emotional bonds with me that are likewise entirely new (assuming it wishes to form any with me, of course).  To pretend that these are the same emotional bonds is nothing short of self-deception.

However, when a replicate with none of the original’s memories is foisted upon me without my knowledge, I believe these emotional bonds to be the same, old emotional bonds with which I’m familiar, even though those are inextricably broken by the absence of the original dog.  Thus, when this happens, it is not self-deception, but rather a deception imposed upon me by the cloners.  And for thus reason, I was justified in my irritation.

Worse yet, since Buddy had been replaced numerous times over the years, I had no way of knowing which emotional bonds to subscribe to which replication.  That they all possessed the same name made the task all the more difficult, and made me call into question the entire relationship.

In case I’m being unclear, imagine that you have learned that you had a number of pet replacements without your knowledge, and all possessing the same name.  You’ll never know how long you owned the first one; how long you owned the second, and from when to when; how long you owned the third, and from when to when; how many you owned total; which one(s) you played fetch with at some certain park; which one(s) you groomed the most, or the least; et cætera.

For me, I would never know which one I trained to pee outside, which one was the one that broke his back leg, which one came with me to Ocean City one year, which one did this, or did that.  Each replicate would have vastly different memories, and thus vastly different outlooks on me.  Each one deserved a unique relationship with me, a unique connection, just as I deserved a unique relationship with each.

In the dream, I ask my family if the dog clones, upon creation, know to pee outside.  I figure if they know this, then they possess the same memories, and thus can be considered truly the same dog.  My grandfather tells me that they do not know, but learn this abnormally fast.  I find this news intriguing.  Perhaps memory is, in part or in delayed effect, being transferred.  The question ultimately becomes, how much?  A corollary question would be: how much is required for the dog and the emotional bond thereto to be genuinely the same?

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