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Put Me Through the Meat Grinder, Scotty!

January 28, 2011

Sometimes me and one of my brothers discuss teleportation. We’re not sure why, because we always disagree on a main issue with it; whether or not the person teleported survives or not.

We’re talking about teleportation as it is shown in most SF shows: where someone is dematerialized at one spot (let’s call this place A), sent via radio or subspace beams or whatever, then rebuilt at the destination (B). Wormhole travel would not be teleportation, since following curved space is all we ever do anyways.

My brother maintains that since person arriving at B is identical in every way to person disappearing at A, they are in fact the same person. I myself hold the view that what is left at B is merely a copy, and that the A person died in the transfer.

It all seems very obvious to me.

I have no idea of how teleportation would actually entail, but from what SF shows tell me (TV never lies) it generally is something like this:

  1. You are scanned
  2. You are destroyed
  3. You are sent
  4. You are rebuilt

Steps 1 and 2 might be concurrent, but sending would probably be a discrete step in order to ensure proper transfer. This means some sort of buffer is needed. A very large computer memory sounds intuitively useful in the circumstances, and is probably what will be used.

Is the scan instantaneous? If not, then what you teleport isn’t even a representation of the person/object, but kind of a “smear” across the timeline. Even if it is so fast so that it doesn’t matter much, I don’t see why the speed would be important.

But perhaps a snapshot can somehow be made. I wouldn’t put it past those sneaky scientists.

The destruction might happen simultaneously as the scanning, so if the scanning is of the snapshot variety, it would also be instantaneous. So then the information about the person is now in the computer memory.

Here’s the thing though:

What is the difference between being stored in a computer memory and, say, a really big stack of paper? None. Now imagine that instead of sending your data electronically they just print out the data and ship it by train, have people manually enter the data, and hey presto, five million years later you are reassembled.

The electronic transfer is quicker, yeah, but it cannot be immediate. So the only difference to the train example would be time.

Now imagine that you fork the signal and send one of them to yet another destination at the same time (C). At C they reassembled the person too. If you were the one being transmitted, then where are you now? There is one of you at B and one at C. Which one is you?

The destruction phase is in my mind the biggest clue as to the whole dying thing. I mean, does it matter that the information about me is stored somewhere if I’m destroyed? The specifics of the destruction are not important; it could be a fancy-shmancy teleporter or a giant meat grinder. You would be dead in either case.

The reassembly would be a kind of resurrection, but it would be like building a house from a blueprint, not like moving the house itself. It would be a copy. That’s why the forking is even possible. You could even store the information at A forever, and assemble new copies all the time.

I don’t see how my consciousness would travel with the signal. A new consciousness would be created at the other end and it would be identical to mine in every respect, but it still would not be me.

I have a really hard time grasping why people don’t see this.

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From → General

6 Comments
  1. hails permalink

    The way I see it, the fact that you need to, for all intents and purposes, ‘die’ for teleportation to be possible, would effectively render this method of travel inconceivable for everyone. Think about it. It would be akin to giving someone your DNA code, jumping off a cliff, then have that someone create an identical clone of you at the other end of the planet. I think most people would prefer to just take a plane and be done with it. If the act of teleportation truly destroyed a person, then no one would want to do it, therefore no one would find it profitable to build such a device and it wouldn’t exist.

    Furthermore, even if you create an identical clone at the other end, how will it have all your memories? These memories need to be preserved and transported as well, which means they don’t disappear, which means you never completely ‘die’. Even if your body is destroyed, what renders you effectively YOU are those exact memories, your consciousness, your ‘soul’, if you will. The way I see it, the people or device at the other end would still need your exact memory and thought processes and consciousness. How can they ‘create’ an entire consciousness and thousands of memories from thin air? Do they just give you some random, standard memories? Then the person they just created isn’t you, is it? It’s just a person that looks like you, but doesn’t have your memories, your personality, etc.

    I don’t know, but the whole idea of ‘break someone down and rebuild them’ seems completely inconceivable to me. Same as cloning. Even if someone did make an identical copy of me, it still wouldn’t be me. It would never have my same memories (how the hell do you copy memories?), my personality, my thought processes, etc. Furthermore, think from the perspective of the clone. If I were someone’s clone, I wouldn’t be very happy about being identified as the other person. I wouldn’t WANT to be that person. I would want to be my own person, with my own memories and my own personality.

    I just don’t see ‘teleportation’ as SF films depict it as being a viable method of transportation, or even physically possible. Ever.

    • Well yeah, if you make a clone in the biological sense, then memories would of course not be transferred.

      But if you did the “read all particles and states thereof” thing, then your memories would be transferred as well. Your brain contains all your memories and how you think; your entire personality. From what I understand, it’s stored as connections (if it were electrically stored, epileptics would suffer amnesia from every seizure). Chemical levels seem to affect the way we approach our memories and act; affecting our personality. Both things are emergent from physical structures, meaning that all information about someone is all there, in the particles.

      So if you indeed saved all information (not just positions but momentum and direction of movement and probably esoterical stuff like spin too) about every particle in someone’s body, then they would walk, talk and act just like you do. No one around would be able to tell the difference, and worse, neither would the copy. The copy has all your memories. To the copy, it’s as if they truly were teleported. Now, of course the copy would also contain your previous stance on teleportation being dying, so would intellectually know they were only a few seconds old (as in time since creation) but would also remember the time before they were reassembled.

      • Ah, but then the copy would KNOW it’s nothing but a copy and that the real you is actually dead. And this goes back to my rant about the clone not wanting to be a clone. Would my copy want to be identified as me or do something else with her life? What’s stopping her from changing her name and becoming her own person? Even if she doesn’t, what if my family and relatives don’t want to accept her as ‘me’? From a legal standpoint, is she still identified as me or a completely different person?

        And lastly, if this were a widespread method of travel, then that means everyone and their dog would be nothing more than clones of their own selves. How many times can one person die and be cloned until they go bananas? It’s not just as simple as ‘pretend you’re the same person and go on with your life’.

        Another aspect you overlooked, but which to me is the most important, is that you’re basically devaluating the value of human life. If it’s so easy to be cloned, then we would do it all the time. Had an accident? Just clone yourself. Your mom died? Clone her. Firemen and policemen needing safety equipment? Who cares if they get hurt, they can just be cloned. Someone threatening you with a gun? Your life is worth shit, just let yourself be killed and be born anew.

        The whole concept of cloning would basically completely and irreversibly change the way we look at human life, and not for the best. That’s why I think that the entire idea of cloning should be shot in the head. As for teleportation, since it’s basically just a practical application of cloning, same deal. We’re better off just taking a plane.

  2. Cloning is a whole other kettle of fish than teleportation IMO. Cloning is like getting an identical twin; they might not even look the same, for epigenetic reasons. Cloning is not copying; it’s starting over with the same instructions (DNA and other stuff). Those instructions aren’t exact; or rather, they are exact in that they describe what to do in certain circumstances, foetus-development-wise. Different womb, slightly different person.

    But about teleportation… if someone like my brother (who believes he would survive the process, that he would be the true self at the other side) were teleported, then the copy would think it all went well. He would be an exact copy, meaning his stance on teleportation would still be that it works. He would poll his memories and see an unbroken chain of memories from infancy up until stepping down from the destination podium (let’s assume Star Trek).

    If you had been sleeping and someone teleported you without your knowing about it, the copy would think they were the original. They would have no way of knowing.

  3. I think teleportation is EXACTLY like cloning. But even if you believe it isn’t, you said it yourself before. Multiple copies can be created. The computer/system/engineer still has all your info. That stuff can be stored somewhere, to be used again if, say, you die in a car crash. So my point still stands.

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