Title and Author: Double Trouble by Philip Cam
Field of Philosophy: Metaphysics
Plot Summary: Algernon, a robot servant, is replaced piece by piece over time by the robot company. Eventually, Algernon’s owner goes to the company to complain about unnecessary repairs. While there, he discovers that the company has put together all the old parts of Algernon, who is now employed as a cleaning robot for the company. The cleaning robot recognizes his previous owner, and begs to be taken home. The company releases him, but when he arrives home to discover the “new” Algernon, they each claim to be the rightful Algernon, faithful robot servant.
Some discussion questions:
Which robot is the “real” Algernon (the one at the house, or the one who returns from the company)? Why?
Is there a particular part of the robot that is central to his identity (without it he wouldn’t be himself)?
Would you think differently about which one is the “real” Algernon if the changes were made all at once (e.g., in a single “repair” rather than spread out over time)? Why/why not?
Can there be two real Algernons? If not, why not?
Imagine something that can change in many ways while remaining the same, maybe a ball of play-dough that over time changes shape, thickness, texture, and perhaps even color. How do we know the difference between changes that happen to the ball, and changes that make the ball a different thing altogether?