Teleportation or Death?

It is the year 6028, and Jane, inhabiting Val’s old body, has just moved herself and Miro from Lusitania to Path. Did she just kill her lover?

I’m going to making Ender’s Universe references all day, folks, get used to it. But you don’t actually need to get them to follow the issue.

The question is, given that Jane just essentially destroyed everything that it meant to be Miro by putting him Outside (into nonspace) and then recreated him by bringing him back Inside, did she kill him? Well, in Orson Scott Card’s mind, no, because Miro has the same central aiua, that life-spirit which makes philotic connections to he rest of his body and to other humans and to all living things. OSC is really subtle with his religious metaphors.

But we’re atheists, and we don’t believe in souls. So if we get scanned by a machine, and the information (assuming quantum is irrelevant here) about all of our atoms is sent somewhere else, and that information is used to create a someone with all your thoughts and memories and personalities at the instant the body you inhabit is destroyed. Did you just die, or is that just teleportation?

Is this right?

It’s an old canard that all our atoms are replaced every some number of years, but while cliche, it does illustrate the fact that clearly our atoms do not make us who we are. What does? I argue here and here (and Greta agrees with me) that in the end, it’s just the present experience of consciousness combined with the coherence of memory. And I’m really pretty comfortable with that. So long as someone has the sense of being me, the memories of being me, and the experience of being me, they really might as well be me. I’m happy to have my atoms destroyed and recreated with no fear that I’ve been killed and brought back to life. There’s simply no other way to reconcile the fact that we don’t believe in essential souls and that we think that amnesiacs may as well not be the same person.

The more interesting question, I think, is whether we’ve killed anyone. We haven’t killed me, I’m still around. But we might have killed another me. If it’s not necessary to destroy the original in order to make the copy, or if there’s a time lapse of some kind (and I’m pretty sure there must be, since simultaneity is relative), then there is some conscious person who thinks it’s me that we just destroyed. Can I consent to that ahead of time? Presumably as soon as the duplication occurs, you have two different consciousnesses going on. They would both feel the continuity of having been me, so they’re both me. That doesn’t bother me in the slightest. What does bother me is that I don’t think either of them would want to die, since their new consciousness won’t continue in the other. Unless there’s a way to get all their memories in the other one, and even then, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want to die.

You definitely don’t die if you teleport. At least, one of you doesn’t die. But one of you very well might. You shouldn’t worry about no longer existing; you should worry about murdering someone you think you have full jurisdiction over who might have some different ideas. It’s a good thing that to copy someone’s entire quantum state requires destroying them. Otherwise, I don’t know what we’d do.

This has been Post the Eleventh of Blogathon

5 thoughts on “Teleportation or Death?

  1. Jay Feldman says:

    “It’s a good thing that to copy someone’s entire quantum state requires destroying them. Otherwise, I don’t know what we’d do.”

    What do you mean by that? Why does that require destroying them?

  2. Mike says:

    Chana is right. As far as physics is concerned, copying quantum states by utilizing the phenomenon of entanglement necessitates the destruction of the original.

  3. Jay Feldman says:

    It’ll result in a slight change to the quantum states, but I don’t think the change would be nearly large enough to result in the destruction of the person.

  4. Mike says:

    You can’t just “observe” the quantum states. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle guarantees that you won’t get nearly enough information to reconstruct the original. You need to start with entangled particles, separate the particles, and transfer the quantum states indirectly that way. The latter method requires the original be destroyed.

  5. daniel messinger says:

    dude, how do you think up those last lines?

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