Two days ago, I got to thinking about transporters in Star Trek. I know there’s at least one episode where a horrible disease was cured with the transporter- something about Pulaski rapidly aging, I think? And wasn’t it a transporter malfunction that caused Picard, Guinan, Keiko, and Ro Laren to turn into children?
So if a transporter can cure diseases and de-agify people, why not use it to live forever?
Are there any notable occurrences of this idea being used in an episode, in licensed fiction, or just in fan fic? I have this feeling that it has, since my brain supplied several details in the plot- the trying-to-live-forever folk are a rogue group that have splintered from the Federation and aren’t in anything like good standing with them anymore, because living forever cheats the system and is just not cool according to the sort of pompous people in charge of the Federation. For some reason, a Starfleet ship shows up, and there’s a moral dilemma for the crew because they see a way to immortality yet it’s not “allowed.” Probably some sort of budding romance between an officer and a person from the immortality group, since that happens fairly often.
In “Relics,” Scotty was suspended in a transporter beam for 70+ years. This is the closest we ever came to what you describe; his buddy Franklin was suspended, as well, but due to signal degredation, didn’t make it out.
I guess signal degredation is the reason this was never explored. That, and is it really living if you’re stuck in a transporter beam?
There’s a number of issues related to the transporters that Trek never touched on. For example, why not store copies of yourself, and any time something bad (i.e. fatal) happens to you, they just spit a new one of you out of the transporter? Need an army? Take your best red shirt and spit copies of him out of the transporter.
I assumed the OP meant you’re beamed somewhere in young adulthood while in excellent health. You take steps to ensure that your transporter pattern is indefinitely stored. When you’re elderly, you get back in the transporter and are restored to your earlier body. Signal degradation isn’t a problem, and you’ve had a lifetime of experiences in the meantime.
No, I don’t think ST has ever shown this. It would probably lead to massive overpopulation and the collapse of Federation society if widely exploited, and perhaps more to the point, it would expose the transporter as the deus ex machina gadget that far too many lazy screenwriters have relied upon.
On a tangent… I’ve always thought Starfleet Medical or some wily entrepreneur should make use of the spore planet from TOS “This Side of Paradise.” Anyone who’s sick beams down and gets sprayed by the spores. After a few weeks of blissful vacation, with your health restored (and even your appendix grown back, according to McCoy) you’re beamed back up, provoked to anger to shake off the tranquilizing effect of the spores, and off you go. So, to recap:
You could do the pattern storage in youth, but I was thinking more of modifying a pattern while it was in the buffer. I’m pretty sure that there’s an automated protocol that automatically removes foreign diseases when you’re transported to a ship.- so why not create a similar protocol that reverses cellular degeneration and the other physical elements of aging?
The overpopulation issue would be one of the reasons it would be frowned upon by the Federation, and why the group that did use the transporter for longevity would be a radical group that no one would approve of.
Funnily enough, Glasshouse is one of the books I was thinking of in the back of my mind when I was contemplating transporters. My mom gave it to my brother for Christmas, but he was at work most of the time and playing WoW or feeding the cattle most of the rest of that, so I semi-stole it* and read it first.
There’s a couple of stories in The Starry Rift (a sci-fi short story collect, edited by Strahan, probably stocked in teen fiction; purchased purely for Neil Gaiman’s story Orange but all the stories are brilliant) that have transporter technologies or new body construction as well, and those were the real catalyst, I think, because I just read those stories this week.
Since it seems that this story hasn’t been used in the Trek-verse, at least not notably (Scotty would probably have been alive at the time of Relics if he had lived his life naturally; McCoy was), I think this thread can become a discussion of transporter tech in sci-fi in general, and I’d be happy. Maybe someone will stumble upon the thread and say “Ooo, ooo! I’ve written fan fiction on this!”
*If the book never leaves the public areas of the house except when he’s not home and is always in plain sight when he is, it’s not theft outright.
There was an episode of DS9 in which a pregnant Keiko O’Brien was injured, requiring the fetus to be transferred into Kira’s uterus to be carried to term. None of the episode summaries I could find are very specific on this point, but IIRC, Bashir used the transporter to transfer the fetus.
This was addressed in one of the Alan Dean Foster books based on the animated episode The Loreli Signal. (I’ve only read the book, not seen the actual episode)
Basically, Kirk underwent some rapid aging. He cured the problem by using the transporters to revert back to his earlier, younger, self. And found that his recreated form had memories only up to the point where he was transported. No memory of the rapid aging that had happened.
So, you *could *do it, but every time you did it you’d lose your lifetime experience.
Of some minor tangent relevance is the Joe Haldeman novel Buying Time / The Long Habit of Living, which revolves around a 21st-century surgical procedure that can restore one’s youth, with the catch being that it has to be redone every ten years or you die horribly. I mention this because Haldeman also wrote two of the early original Star Trek novels, Planet of Judgement and World Without End, each of which involved effectively-immortal alien creatures.
This notion was used in the non-Star Trek novel A World Out Of Time by Larry Niven, back in 1976. A “transporter” type device was used to scan an aging human body and “beam out” all the various toxins, impurities and general sludge that had accumulated over the years, leaving a fresh, pure, “young” body, in effect reversing the physical aging process. By undergoing such treatment regularly, a person could in theory live forever. The idea was fundamental to the plot of the story.
It’s a rather sub-par novel from Niven, one which I wouldn’t exactly recommend. But it does use the technique the OP asked about for the purpose of making people “immortal” (in the sense of “able to eliminate the effects of age”).
In Star Trek, you are the same person. People are going to argue on the other side, but, by the Great Bird of the Galaxy, in Star Trek you are the same person coming out at the destination that you were going in. This is canon, I don’t care who is going to argue otherwise.
Kirk’s explanation of the process to the alien posing as “Abraham Lincoln” in “The Savage Curtain”:
“The molecules in your body are converted into energy, then beamed into this chamber…and reconverted back into their original pattern.”
This philosophical conundrum formed part of the basis of the first original (but non-canon) ST novel, Spock Must Die!, in which McCoy ponders whether the transporter can transport the soul. IIRC no particular solution was forthcoming.
I’m sure that Dr. Emory Erickson, the inventor of the transporter, and other engineers who helped refine it, completely mapped out the process and traced every path that molecules take in the process of being converted to energy, beamed, and reassembled. This is a process that can be scientifically verified, otherwise it would not be certified as safe for use on biological life forms, human or otherwise.
Don’t forget, we are talking about a fictional universe in which there is at least one on-screen reference, making it canon as far as events in that universe are concerned. So it is possible to take a very narrow view of how things function in that universe, since teleportation devices and transporters do not exist in the real world, so we have no objective evidence to compare it with. If the creator and official writers of a particular science fiction franchise set something down as canon, then for the purposes of that franchise, that’s how I accept it.
The fact that the Federation doesn’t take advantage of the transporter in all the ways suggested here strongly suggests that there is a soul that gets transported as part of the process. Of course, under certain conditions that soul can be split. But you just get bad and wimpy Kirk’s as a result. Conversely, when Tuvix was created, there was no discussion or reforming Tuvok and Neelix while keeping Tuvix intact. It was either the combined soul or separate souls.
The way they treated the hologram also implied a soul. Whenever they downloaded him someplace or another, the original copy was deleted or inactive.