Would you step into a transporter?

Your good friend, whom you’ve known for ages, excitedly calls you up and tells you you’re invited to come along to the unveiling of a new technology. Flashing your highly exclusive ticket, you both get through the surprisingly thorough security check and stand in a crowd.

A scientist unveils his latest creation: Star Trek transporters. Opening the curtain, there’s a transporter pod that looks eerily like the one from a cheesy sci-fi movie such as The Fly perhaps.

Volunteers from the crowd are chosen to test it out. After a dozen people go through, your friend raises a hand and is chosen to go through. Stepping intrepidly into the pod, the door shuts with the sound of a pneumatic seal and a bright light flashes within. From a monitor, your friend is waving excitedly at you from the Paris, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Would you try it?

Keep in mind a few things:

  1. Transporters have failed in spectacularly creative ways on Star Trek, although the dozen plus volunteers have seemingly made it across with no ill effects.

  2. There’s no guarantee the “friend” waving at you from the monitor is the same person, although it certainly appears to be so.

  3. If you believe in a soul or some mysterious unidentifiable uniqueness to your identity, this may or may not get carried over. Your personal, unbroken line of experience may end (in effect, you cease to exist) while a perfect clone appears on the other side. Or you could get transported perfectly intact.

Not without independent testing and a good, clean review. Ditto printing my retinas at airports, BTW. I had an elementary school teacher whose foot growth was compromised by the numerous “Perfectly Safe! Scientific!” x-ray devices that were used on kids again and again at shoe stores to “make sure their shoes fit right.”

I had always made the assumption that my original self would be obliterated. Sure, there is a perfect copy at the other, ready to resume my life. But I am gone.

Another way of looking at it, you will have continuity of memory and self right up to the point that the transporter is turned on… then it ends. Oblivion: you are no more.

This my-memory versus my-clone-memory is depicted nicely in both Varley’s *The Ophiuchi Hotline * and Brin’s Kiln People.

You betcha. Not for the Eiffel Tower, but if it’ll beam me from the Desert Southwest to the coast of Maine, without me having to set foot in an airport, I am totally there.

I might step into a Transporter—but would it be me that stepped out?

That is the question.

OK, let’s say that it really does vaporize you, and on the other end, a perfect copy, including neural pathways (i.e. memories) steps out. The person on the other end would be unaware that they aren’t you.

Heck, I’d claim they ARE you. Are you that attached to your particular atoms? What difference does it make, they (the atoms) get replaced over time anyway. You’re just speeding up the process.

Assuming that bothers you, what percent of your atoms have to be replaced by the transportation before it’s a problem? More than a fingernail clipping amount? More than are lost shaving? More than a haircut? More than you sweat in a day? More than you lose in brain cells in a hard night’s drinking? More than you’d lose if you had to have a limb amputated? Remember that unlike any of these examples, the new atom/cells are fully intact and working after replacement.

Whoops, hit “Submit” too soon. My questions would be:

  • (Assuming vaporization/replacement model) Is the vaporization instant and painless?
  • How does it (the machine) work?
  • How much testing have you done on it.
  • What’s the risk relative to say, air travel?

Assuming the answers were satisfactory, I’d use it for important travel, but probably not just on a lark.

You’re overthinking this. Who cares whether the line falls at 5% or 37% or whatever? In a Star Trek transporter you have 100% replacement of matter taking place in a single moment. Every last atom is different, and it happens in one fell swoop. Plus, there’s the fact that there’s a second or two when you don’t exist at all, except as a bunch of data in a computer. I don’t see how it could possibly be true that the “you” who steps out of the transporter is the same “you” who stepped into it. You are destroyed, and the machine replicates a copy of you at another location. The copy thinks he’s you, and maybe no one can tell the difference, but you won’t know because you don’t exist anymore. From your POV, your life is over.

Ironically, believing in a soul might make it easier to accept teleportation, not harder. If you have a soul, then it is possible that it might be transported to the “destination” and link up with your new body. If you don’t have anything like a soul or a spirit, then there is no possibility that your individual existance could be preserved.

I think Douglas Adams got it right in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe:

Will I still have to show up 2 hours early for my instantaneous trip? Will my luggage be zapped along as well? Is the price comparable to air travel?

If the answers are no, yes and yes; I’m so there.

There’s a sci-fi short story that postulates how this technology could go very, very wrong. A family is going through, one by one, but the eleven-ish boy secretly holds his breath when instructed to inhale the anaesthetic gas, and he remains conscious [somehow; since the tech obliterates you on an atomic level, this detail is physically oxymoronic] through the trip, which for some reason he experiences, subjectively, as taking a long, long, long time. As in thousands of years, or maybe eons. The upshot is, when he’s reconstituted at the destination pod, he’s totally insane.

Does anybody else know this story? I have a feeling it might’ve been by Stephen King, but I’m far from sure.

This thread reminded of that story as well The Jaunt

Thank you!

Oh, hell no. Any transporter that operates along Star Trek principles is going to get my automatic and vehement veto. Reason number three is more than enough for me. I’m not stepping into anything that stands a good change of potentially killing me. Sorry.

Now, were it a transporter that worked by, say, opening a dimensional portal. . .I might be slightly more inclined to try that. But not much more likely.

I’ve always thought that even if it does transmit matter perfectly, a perfect copy of myself still wouldn’t be “me” - it’d be a copy that thought it was me. This opens up the philosophical debate over whether I’m the same person when I wake as I was when I went to sleep, and I don’t want to go down that road (because I always try to stay up for three days straight and collapse).

So, no, probably not. I’d use it for inanimate objects, though, no problem.

once it has your data to replicate on the other side, it really doesn’t matter what it does to the ‘you’ on this side. be it instant disintegration, a slow and painful one or even a pardon from the death sentence to ponder on who is it on the other end who had just ‘travelled’ to the other side of the world.

I would want them to bring my friend back, first, just to make sure he hadn’t changed discernibly. But if he still felt and acted like the same person when he got back, hell yes. I’d be going everywhere.

If I designed the machine, I’d install a trapdoor over a vat of acid. Once the subject had been scanned, the trapdoor would open.

The idea was suggested by a scene in a movie where a serial killer, being chased by the police, casually jumps into a vat of acid to escape them. He’s never seen again.

Another possibility is a secret trapdoor over a chute that takes the victim to the radium mines, never to be seen again. Transport service could then be offered to the public free of charge, paid for by the mine’s profits. Why should you care about the fate of the “old you”?

Not if it has the word “Brundle” anywhere on its casing.