Is the STAR TREK transporter an execution chamber?

Chatting about what would not work from sci-fi movies (giant ants and force fields), my friend and I became distraught about the Transporter from STAR TREK>

 Okay, you walk up on this platform. The machine breaks your body down, changes it to energy and sends this signal somewhere, where it is reconstituted into a replica of your body.

 Wouldn't you be **dead** as a result of this? There is a copy of you walking around, thinking it's you, having your memories and so forth, but the original person was killed by the first transporter effect.

If you believe in any sort of soul or individual spirit, what you see here is a manmade replica of a person stepping down from the transporter. Even if you're a materialist, your real consciousness was exterminated and a copy substituted.

I'm going in a shuttle craft, you're not going to get me up on that platform.

There’s a book out called “The Metaphysics of Star Trek” that addresses exactly this issue. It pretty much surmised what you did, that most Star Fleet personnel are just copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of their original selves.

What compounds the issue is an episode of TNG called “Second Chances”: many years before, Lt. Riker was trapped on a planet where shuttle travel was impossible and transport was barely possible every 10 years or so. A second transport beam was used to boost his signal, but was found unnecessary and cut off. Instead of disapating, it bounce back to the surface and rematerialize the pattern it had. Basically, it ended up creating two Lt. Rikers.

There was yet another episode of TNG that implied that one had consciousness while being transported. TOS episodes seem to indicate both consciousness and statis.

I’m glad I’m not the only person who’s wondered about this. :slight_smile: Essentially, what steps out of a transporter field is a clone or identical twin of the person who stepped in. It may have the memories of the original person, but that original person has been disinigrated, and is lost. If you’re the person who steps into the transporter, you see some pretty lights flash around you, and then you die. What comes out the other end may look like you and think it’s you, but it’s not you.

I read a short story a month or so ago that addressed this issue somewhat. (I’lll have to find the name and author again though) In the story, a machine would somehow “read” your entire molecular structure and then duplicate the same at whatever point it was you were going to. It was then the job of the operator of said machine to disintegrate the original person as you wouldn’t want two of the same person running around - or something like that. The story wasn’t very clear on that point.

My take on the whole thing is, if you FEEL like you and you THINK that you’re you, then you must BE you. Doesn’t matter if you’re a copy or not.

That about sums it up. = )

The thing that I always wondered about the transporter is why they never used it to prolong their life. With this technology, you could essentially create a backup of yourself each morning (anesthetize and store the copy for ethical reasons). If later in the day, you get hit by a shuttle, your backup wakes up and all you’ve lost is a few hours. If by the next morning, everything is hunky dory, you create a new backup of yourself… lather, rinse, repeat.

This always bothered me too. I haven’t read the “The Metaphysics of Star Trek,” but there seems to have always been the implication that there is a nonmaterial soul that gets sent along the transporter beam.

When people are split in two (Kirk) or merged (Tuvok and Nelix) the personality also gets split or merged. And these people can be remerged/resplit back to their original selves. They never take advantage of the benefits of copying people. It would make sense in many situations to make copies of valuable personnel to be sent into danger. (E.g., fixing a warp core breach).

Of course, the Riker story blows the whole soul theory, so I guess that they are killing them after all.

Transporters make it easier to write adventures where the crew gets on and off the ship quickly. But fully realizing the implications of transporters makes it more difficult. Where is the heroism or morality in “I volunteer a duplicate of myself for this suicide mission captain?” It would change the nature of the show.

The same considerations seem to be behind the giving the same “soul constraints” to the EMH. He is composed of information. They can send him all the way back to the alpha quadrant in a digital transmission, but for some reason they can not keep a working copy of him while he is “away.” Having an artificial character like Data allows the writers to explore identity and what it means to be human. It was a good idea to explore the territory again. But they are deliberately ignoring the challenge of writing an adventure series where one of the primary characters can be backed up, duplicated and sacrificed without loss.

Bit like an animation I saw. The transporter worked along the same lines except it didn’t dematerialise you it copied you and destroyed the original. Much “soul searching” ensued when it was decided to set the machine not to destroy the original straight away and they then had to decide who was the copy who would live and who was the original who would have to be killed eventually.
Actually I wonder how much ST is like this. Does the “original” you have to be destroyed as part of the tranporting process? The episode of TNG where lieutenant Barkley encounters creatures whilst being transported seems to muddy the waters somewhat. Do the writers envisage transporting as being a process where the body is tranformed along the journey or as I do, where the human body is just copied as easily as a computer file is from hard drive to floppy. Yes, I think I’ll take the shuttle today.
Copying people by the way, with the current ST transporter is impossible as the patterns of the people being transported take up too much computer memory.

Yes. Because you would be a fictional character, see, and therefore not alive.

Hope that helps.