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Old 21st August 2010, 09:37 AM   #1
Towlie
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The Star Trek Transporter Enigma

Let's suppose that the fictional Star Trek transporter works like this:

A computer records the identity and position of every particle of your body as the transporter disassembles it, and the particles are stored locally in some sort of storage space, or perhaps annihilated by conversion to energy.

Simultaneously, it recreates those particles at a remote location, or perhaps harvests them from existing matter at that location, and reassembles your body to form an exact duplicate of what it disassembled. The important point here is that the only thing actually transferred to the destination is information; no actual particles of matter travel across the gap. Thus, you've been transported.

Or have you?

Objectively, it seems so to everyone, including you. After you've been transported, you seem to be the same person with the same memories that you had before, but are you?

Or did the "you" that stood on the transporter actually get killed? Does the transporter actually execute people and replace them with duplicates? Is it suicide to step on a transporter platform?

This seems more like a philosophical than a scientific question, so I'm posting it here. Some might argue that the Star trek transporter must be forever impossible because of the difficulty of resolving the paradox. Some might argue for the existence of a soul. What do you think?

By the way, a similar puzzle is a situation like the one that occurred in the movie The 6th Day, where the original "you" isn't annihilated but survives while another "you" is created. Which one is you? How do you divide the property?
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Old 21st August 2010, 09:52 AM   #2
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I'm not sure there's a paradox here, just a myriad possible interpretations of the event, assuming it's possible.
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Old 21st August 2010, 10:17 AM   #3
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Hm...
Transporter Duplicates
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Old 21st August 2010, 10:27 AM   #4
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12starstuff321

well if all your atoms are ripped apart and put back you have basically cloned your self, the person is on the other side is not "you" you are dead. but an exact copy of you is on the other side.

once the chemistry is lost in your brain i am very certain , no matter how short a time, you will not be alive but it will appear to everybody else that you are, now is somehow the machine can keep your consciousness alive while it does its mili second transportation then the person being transported will be fine. witch better fits the show because the people being transported are aware of there surroundings while they are transported.
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Old 21st August 2010, 11:01 AM   #5
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The materialist way to see it is that the original is dead. The new one will have the same memory and physical body, but it isn't the original person, from their point of view the life ended. A easy demonstration of that, is that the transporter has been KNOWN to create duplicates. The only way to interprate that (beside this being SF) is that the transporter hicupped and after the original died, it created two copy instead of 1 copy.
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Old 21st August 2010, 11:13 AM   #6
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We duplicate ourselves all the time its called reproduction.
And yes it is a sacrifice, ask any parent.

The problem you have and other transporter philosophers is more to do with the immortality of consciousness.
To me a more interest question is, do we have some of the consciousness of my parents?
The physical basis is there in our genes.....
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Old 21st August 2010, 11:20 AM   #7
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Suppose I get up out of this chair and walk across the room. Has the version of me that was in the chair been killed? I look, that person is gone. Utterly destroyed.

Now, still looking back at the empty chair, I take out a picture of me when I was sitting there. This is evidence that there was a living, breathing human in that chair. That human is gone now. I must destroy the picture so it cannot be used at my murder trial.
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Old 21st August 2010, 11:23 AM   #8
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Darwin's Beard!
Can we have a subforum for transporter threads? If not, can we have posters look for previous threads before starting new ones about the same topic?
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Old 21st August 2010, 11:41 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Ladewig View Post
Darwin's Beard!
Can we have a subforum for transporter threads? If not, can we have posters look for previous threads before starting new ones about the same topic?
OK, you! You're first! Stand right here.
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Old 21st August 2010, 11:56 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Aepervius View Post
The materialist way to see it is that the original is dead. The new one will have the same memory and physical body, but it isn't the original person, from their point of view the life ended. A easy demonstration of that, is that the transporter has been KNOWN to create duplicates. The only way to interprate that (beside this being SF) is that the transporter hicupped and after the original died, it created two copy instead of 1 copy.
The Transporter is IMO an excellent way to suss out pseudo materialists. They refute the HPC and they chortle at new-agers and mystics - but stick them in the Transporter and they won't push the button. Why not? Because they don't actually believe what they preach.

If you think there is an experiencing self and that this will die in the Transporter, you are not a materialist. You are just suffering from delusion. A very human delusion perhaps, but delusion none-the-less.

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Old 21st August 2010, 12:20 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Nick227 View Post
The Transporter is IMO an excellent way to suss out pseudo materialists. They refute the HPC and they chortle at new-agers and mystics - but stick them in the Transporter and they won't push the button. Why not? Because they don't actually believe what they preach.

If you think there is an experiencing self and that this will die in the Transporter, you are not a materialist. You are just suffering from delusion. A very human delusion perhaps, but delusion none-the-less.

Nick
So if one refuses to imagine pressing a button in an imaginary scenario that apparently will transfer ones consciousness across space from its physical source to a replica of its physical source then you are not a materialist.
Nice
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Old 21st August 2010, 01:02 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by !Kaggen View Post
So if one refuses to imagine pressing a button in an imaginary scenario that apparently will transfer ones consciousness across space from its physical source to a replica of its physical source then you are not a materialist.
Nice
No.

One is not "really" a materialist/physicalist if they honestly think there is something essential to their identity (or as Nick said their "experiencing self") that would be lost if they stepped into the machine.

This has been flushed out in the zillion other threads on this issue.

There are many genuine materialists/physicalists on these forums that feel like something may be missing, but they don't put their finger on it and try to explain it in logical terms because they admit that it is probably just an emotional thing. There is nothing wrong with this. The only error is to say for sure.
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Old 21st August 2010, 01:19 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by rocketdodger View Post
There are many genuine materialists/physicalists on these forums that feel like something may be missing, but they don't put their finger on it and try to explain it in logical terms because they admit that it is probably just an emotional thing. There is nothing wrong with this. The only error is to say for sure.
Emotions have their own logic too. For sure, if you look at it from the perspective that you are going to die when you push the button, then there will be an emotional response. But if you recognise that the copy lives and that there is not an experiencing self anyway under materialism, then the emotional response can be understood and let go of. Like !Kaggen says, if you won't travel you ain't a materialist. Simple as that.

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Old 21st August 2010, 01:35 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Ladewig View Post
Darwin's Beard!
Can we have a subforum for transporter threads? If not, can we have posters look for previous threads before starting new ones about the same topic?
No kidding! Has it always been such a hot topic here?
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Old 21st August 2010, 01:39 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
No kidding! Has it always been such a hot topic here?
Yes. For many years.
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Old 21st August 2010, 02:49 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Ladewig View Post
Darwin's Beard!
Can we have a subforum for transporter threads? If not, can we have posters look for previous threads before starting new ones about the same topic?
I think the multiple threads are making the point that if all the different copies are saying the same thing, surely we only need one of them. It's perhaps an oversubtle way to make the point.
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Old 21st August 2010, 02:58 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Yes. For many years.
And it's remarkable just how many on this forum who proclaim themselves materialists show their true colours in them. They are only too happy to apply scientific, materialist notions to the world around them, but apply them to what they consider to be "themselves" and it's like, no way I'm outta here!

It seems to me that there are a lot of people who get into materialism because they feel it represents some bullwark against a tide of new age BS. I sympathize, but actually, if you look, materialism is a great deal more radical and a great deal more confrontational than pretty much anything put out by the alternative brigade, a fact Parfit's Teletransporter shows up very well.

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Old 21st August 2010, 04:05 PM   #18
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I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be a true Scot.. er Materialist, but it seems to me if what I call my "self" is currently comprised of a particular collection of atoms arranged in a particular way, then if those atoms were destroyed and a different collection of atoms somewhere else were suddenly arranged in a "Brainache" shaped pattern, the new Brainache would be a different individual.

I know that in the normal everyday world my body gradually replaces all of the matter in my body, that the carbon and whatever inside me now is not the same as it was ten years ago, but replacing it all at once just seems a lot different to me.

Am I just a latent Dualist, or what?
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Old 21st August 2010, 04:52 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Brainache View Post
I know that in the normal everyday world my body gradually replaces all of the matter in my body...
Are you sure? In agreement with a lot of anti-substance abuse propaganda, Wikipedia says:
Quote:
Neurons of the adult brain do not generally undergo cell division, and usually cannot be replaced after being lost, although there are a few known exceptions.
It seems intuitively clear that your identity must reside in your brain.
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Old 21st August 2010, 04:55 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Towlie View Post
This seems more like a philosophical than a scientific question, so I'm posting it here.
Perhaps some time ago this would have qualified as a philosphical question. But, I think today it has been reduced to merely a semantical one.

The answer depends on how you define "you". In one context, "you" could refer to the very specific particles that made you up, in which case your transporter scenario would be seen as "suicide", at least of that edition of "you". In another context, "you" could function as a reference to the entity that, for all intents and purposes, could be called "you", (regardless of which particles happened to be used); in which case the transporter would be merely tranferring "you" from one source to another.

It makes for very interesting studies of language usage. But, for very boring philosophy, nowadays.
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Old 21st August 2010, 05:05 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Nick227 View Post
The Transporter is IMO an excellent way to suss out pseudo materialists. They refute the HPC and they chortle at new-agers and mystics - but stick them in the Transporter and they won't push the button. Why not? Because they don't actually believe what they preach.
Or perhaps they can tell the difference between one and the same body and one just like it.
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Old 21st August 2010, 05:05 PM   #22
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I always thought the transporter would be the most powerful weapon in the universe.
You can transport a working phaser, communicators, Commander Data, why not a mater/antimatter bomb on to that Borg ship.
DS9 had a epp about a transporter rifle that fire a projectile and then transport it into a target in another room.
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Old 21st August 2010, 05:14 PM   #23
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Just once I think it'd be cool to 'see' what it's like to be transported. We've never been given that particular (pun intended) view of the process that I know of. What would you see as you are being ripped apart and reassembled? As stated, they've shown that you are 'aware of' what's going on but helpless, while it's happening, as best as one can tell from shown evidence anyway. And, depending on how torn apart you are, and phaser weapon may or may not kill you. I know I'm jumping into fully charted waters here, right?
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Old 21st August 2010, 05:37 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Towlie View Post
...It seems intuitively clear that your identity must reside in your brain.
In which case a new brain implies a new identity. That new identity might behave exactly the same as the old one, but unless you want to argue for the existence of a soul, I don't see how it could be the same individual.
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Old 21st August 2010, 05:47 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Aepervius View Post
The new one will have the same memory and physical body, but it isn't the original person, from their point of view the life ended.
The problem with that idea is that it speaking from a point of view that does not exist. There are basically two views one can have about teleporters, and although I think both are compatible with materialism as they are functionally identical, I think one is more problematic than the other.

The first view is what I call the vertical view.


In this view Person A lives, until s/he enters the teleporter, information is transferred to the receiver where Person A' is created. Speaking from the viewpoint at 1, Person A is dead. Problem is, this viewpoint does not really exist. There is no Person A to have this viewpoint. To see how strange it can be to discuss a viewpoint that doesn't exist, consider that we then can also discuss the non-existing viewpoint of Person A' at point 2. If we worry about Person A dying in the experiment, should we not also consider that Person A' will never exist if we do not perform the experiment?

If we think Person A will die, that is to say his/her identity will disappear into nothingness, isn't it also true that the identity of Person A' comes from nothingness? Of course we know this isn't true. His/her identity comes from Person A, which means the identity of Person A hasn't disappeared into nothingness but has been used to create Person A'.

To avoid discussing non-existing points of view, we can take the horizontal view:


In this view, when Person A enters the teleporter, s/he doesn't die, but is transformed into a signal that is transferred to the receiver, where the signal is transformed to Person A'. Is Person A' completely identical to Person A? No, Person A' has experienced something that Person A had not, and experiences change people. In this horizontal view if Person A does not disappear during the transfer, so that both sender and receiver work as a copier, Person A also doesn't step out of the sender identical to how s/he entered it. Being scanned and copied is also an experience that changes a person. Whether one uses a teleporter or a telecopier, the person who had not stepped into the device ceases to exist, and a person who has stepped into it is created, and that is not different from any other device.
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Old 21st August 2010, 05:58 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Towlie View Post
A computer records the identity and position of every particle of your body as the transporter disassembles it, and the particles are stored locally in some sort of storage space, or perhaps annihilated by conversion to energy.

Simultaneously, it recreates those particles at a remote location, or perhaps harvests them from existing matter at that location, and reassembles your body to form an exact duplicate of what it disassembled.
Maybe this is a nitpick but since the process you describe is theoretically impossible, then what does the speculation achieve. And by impossible I mean the laws of physics say it simply cannot be done.
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Old 21st August 2010, 06:01 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Mike! View Post
Just once I think it'd be cool to 'see' what it's like to be transported. We've never been given that particular (pun intended) view of the process that I know of.
Star Trek TNG did show that on at least one occasion.

In fact, they had an episode where Lt. Barclay was held mid-transport -- when he was theoretically just a bunch of swirling particles in a tank -- and showed that he was a conscious and active being. It was almost conclusive proof that, in the Star Trek universe, there is such a thing as a soul that is separate from the body.

I was stunned by the philosophical statement that was being made, but nobody else seemed to understand what I was on about. I guess it was all a bit too nerdy.
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Old 21st August 2010, 06:04 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by SezMe View Post
And by impossible I mean the laws of physics say it simply cannot be done.
What laws?
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Old 21st August 2010, 07:25 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Towlie View Post
What laws?
Originally Posted by Towlie View Post
A computer records the identity and position of every particle of your body as the transporter disassembles it, ....

Simultaneously, it recreates those particles at a remote location, or perhaps harvests them from existing matter at that location, and reassembles your body to form an exact duplicate of what it disassembled. <snip>
Italics in the original. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle all by itself says that it is impossible to create an exact duplicate because you can't make the original measurement (position) exactly.
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Old 21st August 2010, 07:47 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Towlie View Post
Let's suppose that the fictional Star Trek transporter works like this:
Lets suppose that it works aa Roddenberry said, as a literary device to avoid endless shots of people travelling back and forth to the surface on a shuttle. It serves the same purpose as psychic paper in the current Dr Who series -- to avoid the endless scenes of being locked up as a person who does not belong where he is.
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Old 21st August 2010, 07:56 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Matt Giwer View Post
Lets suppose that it works aa Roddenberry said, as a literary device to avoid endless shots of people travelling back and forth to the surface on a shuttle. It serves the same purpose as psychic paper in the current Dr Who series -- to avoid the endless scenes of being locked up as a person who does not belong where he is.
Next you'll be telling me there's no such thing as a warp drive!
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Old 21st August 2010, 08:33 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Brainache View Post
Next you'll be telling me there's no such thing as a warp drive!
There is no such thing as a warp factor which makes sense. Fans have been trying and failing for over 40 years.
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Old 21st August 2010, 09:51 PM   #33
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I remember some sort of story where there were, for lack of a better term, dinosaur astronauts that invented a transporter. One human male was in charge of a particular transport station and was "transporting" a female human to another station. Something went wrong during the process and there were two copies of the female, one at the sending station and one at the receiving station. The male at the sending station had to kill the "original" female.

I know it sounds weird, but it is all I can remember about the short story.
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Old 21st August 2010, 10:19 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by SezMe View Post
Maybe this is a nitpick but since the process you describe is theoretically impossible, then what does the speculation achieve. And by impossible I mean the laws of physics say it simply cannot be done.
Well, duh. That's why this whole thing is a thought experiment in duality -- what more is there to "us" than the precise arrangement of our atoms at this very instant?

- Scott

(BTW, on ST, don't they have "Heisenberg Compensators" to correct for this?)

Last edited by ThermionicScott; 21st August 2010 at 10:20 PM.
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Old 21st August 2010, 10:46 PM   #35
SezMe
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Well, duh. That's why this whole thing is a thought experiment in duality...
Well, duh. I did self-identify my post as a nit pick.

Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
-- what more is there to "us" than the precise arrangement of our atoms at this very instant?
Well, duh. It is impossible to specify the state of a simple container of gas by specifying the precise arrangement of atoms. One also needs to specify the velocity of those atoms. I'd think the same concept applies to the human body.


Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
(BTW, on ST, don't they have "Heisenberg Compensators" to correct for this?)
Dunno, I'm not a ST fan.
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Old 21st August 2010, 10:58 PM   #36
ThermionicScott
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Originally Posted by SezMe View Post
Well, duh. It is impossible to specify the state of a simple container of gas by specifying the precise arrangement of atoms. One also needs to specify the velocity of those atoms. I'd think the same concept applies to the human body.
I think that would be more important for gas molecules than the solid and liquid portions of the human body. I didn't think about this before, but the kinetic energy of the atoms in the reconstructed body would have to be just right so it doesn't immediately freeze or vaporize when it's done. Gosh, those 23rd century scientists are smart!

Quote:
Dunno, I'm not a ST fan.
I'm not a huge fan, but I knew I had heard the term somewhere. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transpo...28Star_Trek%29

- Scott

P.S. I've heard it said that good science fiction doesn't spend too much time on the how. It's the what and the why that make for good storytelling.

Last edited by ThermionicScott; 21st August 2010 at 11:00 PM. Reason: postscript
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Old 21st August 2010, 11:42 PM   #37
SezMe
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I think that would be more important for gas molecules than the solid and liquid portions of the human body. I didn't think about this before, but the kinetic energy of the atoms in the reconstructed body would have to be just right so it doesn't immediately freeze or vaporize when it's done. Gosh, those 23rd century scientists are smart!
Indeed.

The OP specified that the "particles" of the person to be transported would be reproduced exactly. But what are the particles? Molecules? Atoms? Electrons, protons and neutrons? Quarks? It would seem to be an important question. But, again, nit-picky relative to philosophy, but central relative to physics.
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Old 21st August 2010, 11:47 PM   #38
Aepervius
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Originally Posted by Nick227 View Post
Emotions have their own logic too. For sure, if you look at it from the perspective that you are going to die when you push the button, then there will be an emotional response. But if you recognise that the copy lives and that there is not an experiencing self anyway under materialism, then the emotional response can be understood and let go of. Like !Kaggen says, if you won't travel you ain't a materialist. Simple as that.

Nick
Hu. Where the hell did you get your definition of materialist ? Or of self ?

Sure , as a materialist I know (well assume in absence of evidence to the contrary) that my consciousness is the emerging property of the function of my neuron in my brain. But duplicating my brain and killing *THIS* self, will not recreate *ME* it will recreate another one with an exact identical me memory.

This is *exactly* the materialist point of view.

If you pretend that destroying a metal cube and reconstructing it from energy up, is the exact SAME cube, then you missed completely the point. It is an identical cube, but not the same cube. They both belong to the set of identical cube, but are not the same. Case in point you could build up two identical cube instead of one (with twice the energy).

I will repeat, I want to know WHICH definition of materialist you use, because the one I know, implies that two individual with IDENTICAL brain are NOT the SAME individual. Get it ? Difference between identical and same.

You can't get around that conundrum unless *you* presuppose that something else is saved (soul, whatever) and is transported and reconstructed on the other side to have a SAME individual instead of identical.
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Old 21st August 2010, 11:56 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Earthborn View Post
consider that we then can also discuss the non-existing viewpoint of Person A' at point 2. If we worry about Person A dying in the experiment, should we not also consider that Person A' will never exist if we do not perform the experiment?

If we think Person A will die, that is to say his/her identity will disappear into nothingness, isn't it also true that the identity of Person A' comes from nothingness? Of course we know this isn't true. His/her identity comes from Person A, which means the identity of Person A hasn't disappeared into nothingness but has been used to create Person A'.
You haven't removed the paradox. You just only asserted it isn't an identical person which is created, but the same. You can certainly do that ASSERTION if you wish, we are talking SF anyway here, but then that completely kill the discussion. You could as well assert that the transporter is a time machine which create a clone from a cell of the person, feed her, grow her, and finally before going out of the transporter change her neuron to have the same memory. Or you could just pretend the transporter DO NOT transport people but create a worm hole and the visual effect of the worm hole is the one we see in the serie.
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Old 22nd August 2010, 01:31 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by SezMe View Post
it is impossible to create an exact duplicate because you can't make the original measurement (position) exactly.
You don't need to create an exact duplicate. It only has to be 'close enough'. But how close does it have to be?

IMO the transporter would certainly be good enough if it created a duplicate that was practically indistinguishable from the original. Minor differences would probably be acceptable so long as the 'duplicate' still looked and behaved sufficiently similar that everybody (including the subject's own consciousness) believed them to be the same person. And even quite gross differences might be given a pass, provided that the subject's mind appeared to be intact.

Imagine a transporter that isn't good enough to duplicate an entire body accurately, so it concentrates on the brain and only 'approximates' other body parts. After going through this transporter, you are sure that you are still 'you', but you do notice differences. Perhaps you feel tired, thirsty, cramped or out of breath, maybe your skin has changed color? But these kinds of changes might also occur when traveling via a conventional transportation method! If you took a long bike ride on a hot sunny day, should you reject yourself because you have 'changed'?

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