Paris in the springtime

So I’ve been thinking about things that I don’t believe the human brain is equipped to think about (at least mine anyway). I’ve been thinking about a scenario which has been driving me absolutely insane. Let’s say in the distant future a teleportation device is designed which would scan each atom in your body, send the information to a receiver, where an exact duplicate of you would be created, with all the memories and personality of the “original”. Since most people don’t want the complications of duplicates of themselves walking around, the “original” is destroyed. You want to visit Paris for the weekend, so you pack your bags and everything, but before teleporting to Paris, you find out that your original is not only killed, but is slowly tortured to death. If you take the trip, there is a 100% chance that you will be walking the streets of Paris, eating fattening food and hopefully getting some action, and nobody will harm a hair on your head. But there is also a 100% chance that you will not go to Paris, but you will be slowly tortured to death. Do you take the trip? How do you reconcile the fact that there is a 100% that two completely different things will happen to you at different locations at the same time? What if the original you is merely killed but not tortured - would your answer be the same? The more I think about this, the more insane I become.

I don’t know if I missed something, but wouldn’t the original be destroyed at the same time as the copy was made and sent, in which case the issue of torture doesn’t arise? As for would you do it even if the orignal was kept and tortured, definately not. I think the end result in Paris would be a person who is molecularly identical to the Galgallin that is at home, however there is no transfer of that which makes us human, soul, spirit, whatever you call it. So what you end up with is the “original”, you, at home getting tortured, and a total stranger, albeit with the same molecular structure as you, having the time of his/her life in Paris and running up a huge credit-card bill.

It only hurts when I laugh.

You’re not the first person to think about this, if it makes you feel any better. Larry Niven wrote an essay which mentions the idea, and there have been numerous science fiction stories which use it as a premise (there’s at least one where almost everyone in the world uses the teleportation device, but the inventor refuses to because he/she knows exactly how it works).

The Niven essay is probably in the “All the Myriad Ways” collection if you want to read it. It might also be in one of the more recent mega-collections (N-Space or… I forget the name of the other one), but I’m less certain about that.

Actually, his initial premise is that the source object is destroyed in the process of reading the data, and he branches off from there into questions like what happens if you send the same data to two receivers instead of one, or tape it instead of sending it (would this be considered kidnapping or murder?) or if you improve the process so that the source object is NOT destroyed (“Shouldn’t we vaporize him anyway? Otherwise he hasn’t GONE anywhere.”)

I don’t remember that Larry Niven essay, which is odd, because I thought I’d read everything he’s written. But this premise is quite similar to Greg Egan’s idea in which a neural net is implanted in everyone, and it learns to be that person. After a while, when the natural person’s brain starts failing, it’s scooped out and the replacement brain is hooked up. The person feels no different (having been given the same input and giving the same output as the natural brain all it’s existence), but is it the same person or not?

The book was a collection of stories, called Axiomatic, in case you were interested.

The old science fiction concept of “teleporter as person-duplicator” probably won’t be an issue if teleportation is ever perfected. Experiments have been done on the sub-atomic particle level which suggest that quantum physics might make teleportation possible, but at the same time avoids the people-duplicating quandry.

The thing is, to teleport a person you need more than the data on where each atom and molecule in their body is on the classical level. You also need to know the quantum state of all the atoms, electrons, etc. To teleport something, it would work somewhat like the following:

A powerful source of radiation, say photons, generates two beams of photons. The two beams are entangled at the quantum level; that is, if the spin of photon 1 in beam A is up, then the spin of photon 1 in beam B is down, and so forth. Beam A is transmitted to wherever you’re going to want your object teleported to. Beam B is used to scan the object. In the process, the object is destroyed, but it’s information is encoded into beam B. Beam B is then sent off to rejoin beam A. When the two are recombined, the result is to restore the original object.

The reason the above scheme can’t be used as a matter duplicator is that as a well known principle of quantum physics (the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle), it’s impossible to measure an object’s quantum state without altering (destroying) what that state was. In the proposed teleportation method, it’s sort of like the object is being split into two parts- it’s “classical” information and it’s quantum state. It’s almost like the way data is encrypted using a code key.

Of course, this says nothing about the question of whether at the classical level you could make an imitation of a person, by assembling atoms and so forth, which would be humanly indistinguishable from the original. But that’s another ball of wax.

There’s a novel, “Crystal Phoenix”, that uses a similar idea without the duplicator. There’s a machine that can put your mind into a young new body – but it’s expensive. Poor people can only afford the treatment by allowing their old selves to be tortured to death by wealthy sadists.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

To answer the original question, maybe look at it a different way. Say, instead of your duplicate self, a random person off the street is tortured to death to “pay” for your trip to Paris. I for one, would rather just pay airfare. So if you’re not willing to do it to a stranger, why do it to yourself? On a different note, there used to be drugs they gave people during painful procedures that made them “forget” the pain later, instead of actually dull it. I don’t get that either…

More powerful evidence of the need for a Science Fiction forum.

first i would duplicate myself hundreds of timesand then put one the the originals in an underground bunker with food etc. then my army of duplicate selfs would wait and jump the jerks that were gonna torture me. then conquer the world. So what If I die cruch all you want I’ll make more