The Computer of Theseus

About 10 years ago I brought a prebuilt business PC. Yesterday I replaced the last original components. This made me pause for a moment. And a philosophical thought popped into my head. Is this still the same computer? I now have the Computer of Theseus.

The Ship of Theseus

The Ship of Theseus is a metaphysical philosophical thought experiment.

Imagine you have a ship. As parts become damaged you replace them. You see the sail is ripped, you replace it.  A plank of the hull cracks, you replace it. Over time less and less of the original parts remain. Until one day, there are no more original parts of the ship left.

So, is this the same ship? Or is it a completely new one?

It’s not just ships. I first heard this thought experiment as a broom instead of a ship. It can be applied to any object. If you replace all the individual parts is it still fundamentally the same object?

The Computer of Theseus

During my Master’s degree, I picked myself up a cheap, but powerful, desktop computer. Over the years I added bits. To improve and maintain it.

A graphics card.  A new case and power supply to house and fit the graphics card. Updated the operating system. Then the hard drive started failing. So I replaced that too.

Then we arrive at yesterday. With a lack of performance starting to become a problem. As well as a few times Windows 10 decided to take days to update. You heard me, days! I ordered a new motherboard, ram and processor.

These components replacing the last of the original ones.  I find myself with a completely different, yet the same, computer. I now own Theseus’s Computer.

My old motherboard
My old motherboard, complete with dust.
My new motherboard.
My new motherboard, without dust.

On another note, I’m now going to call my computer Theseus.

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