evannichols (evannichols) wrote,
evannichols
evannichols

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Sucky Sunday

Spent the day in bed, either sleeping, trying to sleep, or watching TV, trying to get over The Cold. Rather than go on about that, let me extend much thanks to oh_that_jocelyn, thrihyrne, and sanguinity for the phone calls this weekend to boost my spirits. And because I fear not being sufficiently entertaining, I'll post this contemplation on Star Trek Transporter tech that I wrote last week...

Transporter Anxiety
If Star-Trek-style Transporters were available tomorrow, I'm not sure I'd use them. Well, I'd think they'd be great for non-living things, like toasters and zombies, but for humans? I'd be concerned.

It's not a fear of transporter failure (although from the show, we can tell that it would really suck to be imperfectly transported), rather concern for a shortcoming of the process. Let's imagine that it's possible to near-instantaneously disassemble my component molecules, beam them to another location and reconstruct them into an operating human, like teleporting an engine while it's running. From a third-person view, it all goes as planned; Evan moves from point A to point B. But what about from my perspective?

First, I'm disassembled. This is essentially a lethal process. Yes, I know that the end product is a living person, but if I was disassembled and a power interruption occurs (there's that transporter error), my component molecules would become a pile of ooze, and I don't think I could come back from that. So for at least a brief time, my body is not a viable human.

Then, all those parts are put back together in all the correct ways, and the in-process chemical and electrical reactions all continue just as if they were never interrupted, so the body lives on. But what happens to the continuity of the consciousness that is "Evan?" Does that travel in the beam of particles, or does everything go dark when my body is broken into pieces, and the lights never come back on?

My concern is that there's not a good way to answer that question. From the perspective of the new Evan, or "Evan Prime," he's just been created by the transporter, but with all neural physiology and memories of Evan 0. So for him, he's alive and well and continuing his existence. But how do we know that it's the same consciousness that started at the beginning? Or is Evan 0 dead, and the exact duplicate Evan Prime has taken his place? You, as an outside observer, can't tell the difference. But would I persist, or have I just been replaced by a usurper?

I haven't thought of a satisfactory way to test this. Regardless of the fate of Evan 0, Evan Prime's experience is the same. He'd feel that he was just transported, and all his memories would support that. If Evan 0 dies and doesn't come back, how could anyone other than Evan 0 tell?

If you think I'm worrying over nothing, imagine how you'd feel if someone said "Tonight while you sleep, we'll kill you, but replace you with an exact clone who believes he (or she) is you." Most people would object to that. And until I'm certain that a Transporter isn't doing that (even if the clone is built from my component parts), I don't think I'd want to be beamed across the universe. I'm just saying.
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