7.9 The Ship of Theseus

A few weeks ago, I was trying to post a blog, but it wouldn't appear on my website. It's one of those situations that took way too long to sort out and in the end was something stupid. Somehow, the year of the posting got changed to the year 2023. So, the post wasn't appearing because it was scheduled for seven years from now. This stuck in my brain for some reason, this notion of reading posts seven years from now. How would things change in seven years? What would I be like? Just how ridiculous would it be? I mean, I sometimes dislike what I've written last week, so seven years is an entirely different situation.

According to the website Live Science: "Every seven years we become essentially new people, because in that time, every cell in your body has been replaced by a new cell." It's the Theseus' Paradox, which ponders on whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object.

Wikipedia, the website that is never wrong, describes Theseus’ Paradox, also called The ship of Theseus, as a thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object. The paradox is most notably recorded by Plutarch in Life of Theseus from the late first century. Plutarch asked whether a ship that had been restored by replacing every single wooden part remained the same ship. According to the historian Plutarch:

The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their places, in so much that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.

The philosopher Thomas Hobbes added to the discussion, pondering that if the original planks were gathered up after they were replaced, and used to build a second ship, which ship, if either, would be the original. What a novel idea! Imagine if there was some way to contain all of our cells before they regenerate and make another you. I mean, I think I just created a new and completely scientific solution to cloning. Scientists out there: get on this. It's going to be huge.

Let's get back to the discussion at hand: what will it feel like in seven years to read my blog posts from now? Who gives a shit? Will the written word still exist? Will blogs even still be around? Will we even still be around? Perhaps what's more interesting is: what I was writing about seven years ago? This blog is in its seventh year, the cells of my body have completely regenerated, I'm potentially a different person. But, am I?

In my very first blog, I apologized for what was to come. I still feel this way somewhat. The second and third ones were about a trip to Berlin and Prague, focused on fireworks and communism, respectively. The fourth one was about the windmill by Lake Ontario for some reason. The fifth and sixth ones seemed to be a sort of series on public spaces, specifically laundry mats and washrooms. Apparently, I felt very strongly about these two spaces at the time. The seventh one was about finding forty dollars on the street.

What I discovered is that not much has changed. Except where I lived, actually moving across three different places. My social circle, which dramatically changed and mostly revolves around the Centre for Social Innovation and the Toronto storytelling community, among other places. Back then, I didn't have much of a social life. I was in a pretty serious relationship and now I’m not. So, it seems that I have found a scientific solution to cloning and solved the philosophical question of The Ship of Theseus. We are a new boat every seven years.