There's no "I" in "Star Trek transporters"....

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Baldeee, Jan 15, 2017.


Would you willingly step into a Star Trek transporter and allow yourself to be "beamed" somewhere?

  1. Yes

  2. No

  3. Undecided

  1. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Okay - public vote: would you willingly step into a Star Trek transporter and allow yourself to be "beamed" somewhere?

    I don't intend this to get into a technical discussion of whether such is even possible; I'm looking at it from a philosophical point of view: would the "I" that steps out of the transporter at the other end be the same "I" that went in, for example?
    What if there was a technical problem and a duplicate you stepped out of both ends?
    Are they the same "you", which is the "real you", how can we tell?

    I don't necessarily want to restrict matters to just these questions, though.

    Personally, at least for the sake of this thread, I am undecided... I may flip-flop between the two camps until I have been through the experience once, as at that point the "me" that emerges will think it is the same "me" that went in, and thus will think the process safe, and thus continue to do it.
    But unless forced to go through the process, would I actually be willing that first time?
    After all, what is the "I" that it can survive what seems to be a destruction then recombination process?
    Is it merely a "pattern of activity" that produces the same "I" wherever it is copied?

    The floor is open.
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  3. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I would have a lot of difficulty stepping in.

    James Patrick Kelly's "Think Like a Dinosaur" had an explicit premise that the "I" that stepped out was not the same "I" that stepped in.

    Would the "I" that is sitting right here on the couch, pre-transport, have a continuous experience of getting into the device and getting out the other side?

    Or would the "I" that lived on have no more than a memory of sitting on this couch?
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  5. Janus58 Valued Senior Member

    In their two novels of their saga of cuckoo series, Frederick Pohl and Jack Williamson used a FTL "transporter" device which only sent a duplicate of the original person. The original would step in the device and then step back out and continue with his life. The duplicate would step out of a machine light years away. The thing is that the duplicate has the same memories and as the original, so he was also expecting to walk back out of the transmitter end rather than the receiver end, and finding himself light years from home comes as an initial surprise. He can also never "return home", as the best he could do is send anther duplicate back. For the duplicate it was always a one-way trip. Since the novels involved sending the duplicate to some undesirable locations, it was also a nasty shock.
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  7. billvon Valued Senior Member

    What's the difference between those two things?
  8. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 69 years old Valued Senior Member


    The two main ways I understand a transporter works are
    • Move your component atoms to the destination
    • Reassemble your component atoms from atoms at the destination
    • Or maybe a mix - atoms at destination plus some from you not present at destination
    Regarding the third option your atoms not sent are stored and mixed back with the returning atoms which were not present at the destination.

    Atoms which were present are left behind. Check reading that it sounds messy but I will leave it.

    The current situation with the our bodies is they are replaced about every 7 years.

    I haven't noticed the changes over the years but not sure I would get into a transporter which would shorten the process to a few minutes.

    As a side track the transporter should be combined with a deseased tissue detection which would discard such tissue and replace with healthy version.

    That I might use.

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  9. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    The "I" that remains here, the actual biological body that is me, will experience annihilation. I will actually, literally, die.

    The fact that somewhere far away, another biological body is created, has nothing to do with my death.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
  10. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Are We Ourselves?

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    Existential distractions are clickworthy.

    Does it make it any easier if we simply consider the question of offloading your "mind" into another body and brain?

    Furthermore, what notion of "self" are we attending? As Hei explained: "That was you that I said it to originally. It doesn't matter if you're a 'copy' or the 'real thing'; you're the only you that I know, Suou."

    Cogito ergo sum. Cogito ergo es. Cogito ergo sunt.

    The experience we have is the experience we are; I am me, or else I Am Not.
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Assuming that the transporter works reliably and won't reconstruct me inside-out or something, I vote 'yes'.

    It's a concern, but not one that worries me very much. Am I the same person when I wake up in the morning that went to sleep the previous night? Am I the same person now that I was when I was five years old? Am I the same person from second to second?

    I don't believe in the existence of souls, so I don't think of my personal identity as continuity of spiritual substance. If personal identity is continuity of physical substance, then I'm a veritable Ship of Theseus, since the cells of my body are dying and being replaced all the time.

    So what do I think my personal identity consists of? Continuity of the causal stream that I find myself part of. Continuity of memories, along with continuity of habits, attitudes and stuff like that.

    If there was a transporter accident and two identical copies stepped out, both would initially have the same memories, the same causal history, and carry the same ID. But however identical they are initially, their lives might start to rapidly diverge as they learn about the accident, talk to different people and start to have different experiences. They wouldn't be able to share memories or ideas generated subsequent to the duplication. So at some point they would effectively be identical-twins and would have to be considered two separate people, despite each of them having equal claims to my earlier name and history.

    It would be as if my time-line had become Y-shaped.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
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  12. cluelusshusbund + Public Dilemma + Valued Senior Member

    If it was perfected to the pont of bein the safest way to arrive at my desired destination i woud tell Scotty to Sock It To Me.!!!
    If on rair occasions the process produces an extra of the person that entered it woud give me pause for thout... an not that 2 of me woudnt be grate for the world... but im not intersted in dealin wit the issues that woud arrise from such an event.!!!
    An yes... as far as i know the indistinguishable duplicate woud be anuther me... unless thers somptin that we cant detect that the other me didnt have.!!!

    They woud be 2 separate people from the get-go.!!!
  13. billvon Valued Senior Member

    But you also actually, literally are completely replaced with new materials about once a year. Your "old" body is removed (and excreted) and a "new" body formed via the normal processes of eating, cellular respiration, homeostasis, elimination etc. Does that mean that you are no longer you, after a year?
    See above. One is pretty fast, one takes a year. Is it only the speed of the replacement that bothers you?
  14. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 69 years old Valued Senior Member

    No. All of the body is replaced about every 7 years.

    How much that works out over night or second by second I don't know.

    I heard the time frame was about 7 years.

    The link gives another view but not a definitive answer.

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  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    There's an issue involving specifically mental activity, in "transporting" that does not involve moving the physical object through the intervening space: it's taking place in time. A stopped mind is not a physical object, with a momentum and so forth, but a set of what were changing relationships between immaterial patterns themselves changing in time. Other moving constellations of stuff in the body create similar problems for a transporter, but have bulk material properties that should average small errors in restarting motion or reassigning momentum - mental activity might easily amplify them.

    So in addition to the problem of motion and momentum in material that seems to be overlooked in these imaginings, there is the problem of chaotic amplification of pattern relationships - error there seems unlikely to average out, reliably.

    So I would be wary of subjecting myself to such transport, not from specific fear of loss of any particular illusion of "identity", but from fear of mental discontinuities and glitches in general.
  16. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    By offloading, do you mean the removal from one and placement in another, or simply the copying into another?
    In the latter there is at least a continuity in the original that is absent in the former.
    Is that continuity important?

    Yazata mentions the ship of Theseus, but what if, say, the discarded planks from one ship are used to build another identical ship in every way (location not withstanding): which is the original?
    Again, is continuity of location important?
    This is part of why I only think it would ever be the first trip through the transporter that would trouble me.
    After that point everyone, the "me" included, would be convinced that it is the same "me" that entered, and thus the process is safe and doesn't kill people.
    So I'd go through again, believing that the "me" that comes out the other end is the "me" entering, and the "me" that comes out will then attest to that.

    But is the "me" the same "me"?
    What is "me"?
    Is it just a particular pattern of processing coupled with memory?
    If so then should we be so protective of the substrate and matter that gives rise to it?
    And also, if so, are we not a different "I" each and every moment, given that that matter changes, those memories change?
    If two such patterns are and remain identical in every way, are they not in fact the same?
  17. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Meh, nothing that a bit of technobabble couldn't resolve.

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    And I presume you still fly, still drive, still cross the road?
    They all have risks.
    But I'd prefer to stick to the philosophical here, at least for the time being, if that's okay?
  18. substitutematerials Registered Member

    If a perfect replica of me appeared right beside me, indistinguishable in every way, "I" the original person would not suddenly have access to the replica's senses. In the same way, I doubt "I" would gain access to the senses of the transported person.

    But is there really a continuity of my awareness from day to day, or does sleep destroy me each night? Is awareness just a fleeting mirage? If I believed that the was no continuity of self from one day to the next- that my specific awareness disappeared without a trace every night as I feel asleep- I would be more of an insomniac.

    I'm tempted to believe that a spatial continuity of my biological being, even with a replacement of the body's material over time and interruptions like sleep and personal transformation, preserves my continuous awareness. And I don't think the transporter would. I'm also unenthused about mind uploading.
  19. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    No. Theseus' ship is still Theseus' ship.

    Note though, that there is a qualitative difference. (It's up to each of us how significant it is.)
    When replaced over a year, the new bits have time to be incorporated into the old. In a transport, all bits are new bits at the same time. No old bits remain to give the new bits context.

    Yeah it's not a rational fear.
  20. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Well, it's a half-life thing. Some of your body is never replaced. Not because it's not being constantly replaced, but because some carbon atoms (for example) just don't make it out.

    But after a year, most of it's been replaced. In 7 years almost all has been replaced. So you can pick the timeframe (and amount) you like.
  21. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    In the "real" world, the original body probably would be destroyed in teleportation and nothing but information sent to the other end to guide the assembly of another body. But in the pseudoscience of Star Trek, apparently the "matter" and somatic organization ("patterns") are literally converted into energy (whatever the devil that specifically implies) and "beamed" to the location to be re-converted into the functioning body structure again.

    In the latter context, the continuity of the snapshots of consciousness would be kind of equivalent to that process being shut-down for awhile during dreamless sleep or coma, with awareness eventually restored again. Which is to say, the phenomenal aspects of "self" can disappear / be interrupted for awhile even in normal circumstances, anyway.

    That said, however, I wouldn't undergo the process as a character in that fictional world unless I had to. Since conspiracies and cover-ups pertaining to research and technological propaganda are far more commonplace in fiction domains.
  22. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I think the OP makes the assumption that technical problems are not the issue. If they were, it would be an easy decision, but would defeat the existential issue being asked.
  23. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Yup. And, in examining how I feel about this, I realize that, when it comes down to it, I am superstitious about my atoms.

    A recreation of me is not enough. It has to be the original me.

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