Here's how teleportation could actually work (theoretically)

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As someone who grew up in a digital age where non-degenerating copies are a very familiar concept, I don’t really see the problem here. Is it just me, or is this just a problem for old people?

There really needs to be a word for the phenomenon of physicists vastly and smugly overestimating their grasp of things other than math, and then condescendingly putting that lack of insight into layman’s terms. Physplaining? Penrosing? I dunno.

You’d really, really think so, wouldn’t you? But as this is a pet peeve of mine I can report that there’s no apparent correlation between age and clinging to aggressively, glaringly wrong ideas about the nature of consciousness. In one of those videos the narrator acknowledges that there’s no non-magical way to differentiate an exact copy from the original, before in the next sentence asserting that we can never know the answer to that question.

It makes me want to build some kind of high-speed rotary face-slapping machine, power it up and break off the power switch


“The trouble with transporters” is a major plot point in the 2006 film (NON STAR TREK-RELATED SPOILER) The Prestige.


I still prefer to take the train.


I don’t expect this is the long-sought solution to dependence on fossil fuels.


Old person here. I was working with computers back when it was common to hear people say, “Computers don’t make mistakes!”

Occasionally I’d correct someone, mentioning software errors, data entry errors, false assumptions and whatnot that led to computers making mistakes. But even setting those aside, the hardware makes mistakes too. A perfectly working hard drive is rated to have X errors per Y reads. Y is an astronomically high number, but the hard drive is doing an astronomically high number of reads.

I don’t know what common reliability is now, but just a few years ago in the era of 100GB drives, it was expected that you’d get one or two errors if you copied the whole drive. Reliability has no doubt gone up, but so has drive size.

Your local area network also has an error rate, even when working perfectly. Again, you’d have to send a lot of data before an error slips through the built-in error checking, but you’re probably sending a lot of data.

And no doubt there’s a higher error rate when sending the same data over the internet. Download and watch a few movies - public domain or with permission, of course - and you’ll see the occasional glitch where one of the protocols or mediums along the way produced an error. This is on digital data.

Teleporting someone means transmitting a whole more data than a movie. Even in the digital age, that means introducing errors.

Now get off my lawn.


Echo Round His Bones by Thomas M. Disch deals with this pretty well.

Why not create lots of mini worm holes that correspond to all the atoms in the body and have their end point elsewhere. No atoms are destroyed just moved.

Yes, I know why not but we’re talking science fiction here.


Would the first human teleportation where the original is not destroyed effectively disprove all religion? By that I mean we can’t create a soul, but there it would be.


You’re assuming that the copy wouldn’t be a soulless abomination.


I teleported home one night
With Ron and Sid and Meg.
Ron stole Meggie’s heart away
And I got Sidney’s leg.


Seconded though reification could work for those situations when physics metaphors are used uncritically to attempt to resolve — or dissolve — cultural, social and economic questions.

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It’s ok because there are totally cells deep in your brain that are never replaced by the normal process of death and growth. NEVER!!!

The argument in The Trouble With Transporters starts off with the premise that there’s nothing immeasurable about ourselves that makes us ourselves, but then immediately veers off the road into worrying about killing ourselves when that self is destroyed and rebuilt.

But death is only a concern if there is something immeasurable about yourself. If all that you are is known data of varying kinds, then arguably you cannot be killed due to conservation of energy - what is ‘you’ can only ever be transmuted into different states of being, and ‘you’ at every stage of your life is simply different configurations of matter and energy.

Most importantly, there is no you to experience “nothingness eternal” when the transporter tears you apart because “your” consciousness by the premise of the argument is not immeasurable, it is simply the intangible result of measurable processes and that result has naturally followed those processes down to the planet’s surface. ‘You’ cannot simply be left behind by the process because ‘you’ are an emergent behaviour of your body, not an inhabitant of it.

Not all religion. (Well, depending on what you count as religion.)

E.g. Buddhism fundamentally rejects the existence of a “self” as any sort of a permanent personal essence independent of the body. They view humans as “mere” aggregates of flesh and therein coded memories, thoughts and feelings existing precisely and only at the given moment in a given place. It’s just that your memories and your ego create an illusion of a continuously existing entity, when in fact “you” are but a series of discrete self-conscious physical states.

And since the entire universe is a single, internally causally connected event of which “you” are an integral part, there is but one common undifferentiated experience of Self, simultaneously present in all conscious “entities” in existence. So one extra copy of a particular flesh-sac here or there makes no real difference, since in their subjective experience, everyone is already “you” and vice versa - only always experienced one at a time.

And therefore Buddhism has no problem with teleportation.


Would the TSA get involved?

If you meet the Buddha on a teleporter pad, kill him


Ask this guy:

Actually, James Blish, SF author best known for the wonderful Cities In Flight stories, explored the “Star Trek transporter actually kills you” subject in his official novelizations of the original Star Trek episodes. That was back in the late '60s through mid '70s. While in the TV series, Bones only made general comments about hating to use the transporter, in the books, he discussed that what came out the other end was a copy, and not really “you”. At the time they were published, the Blish books were considered Official Star Trek Canon. Don’t know if they still are.