Recently I have been thinking a lot about the ramifications of teleportation, like you see in episodes of Star Trek.
Scientists have been researching the possibly of teleportation for some time now. Already there are experiments describing how particles can be altered remotely, more quickly than the speed of light or gravity should allow. Further development is only a matter of time.
The teleport systems on Star Trek all seem to work in the same way – you break a person down into individual units of matter and packets of energy, transmit the data and use it to reconstruct the person somewhere else. Now I know Star Trek is fiction but I’m guessing that, if real teleportation is finally developed, it might follow a similar idea.
This brings me on to the concept of you and the way that you perceive yourself in the first person. When you look around a room and think to yourself, “I am here,” there is only one of you thinking. You can’t carry two consciousnesses simultaneously. Also, if another person looks around a room and thinks to himself or herself, “I am here,” you can’t hear them thinking.
Now imagine that you are being teleported from one place to another. The teleportation machine breaks your body down into units of matter and energy, transmits the data and reconstructs you at the other end.
Just think about this for a moment.
The teleportation machine breaks your body down into units of matter and energy.
This is no different to being vapourised by, say, falling into the sun. You’re dead. Whether you’ve been recorded or not, you’re still dead.
Then the remote teleportation machine reconstructs you at the other end. The new you is identical to the old you in every respect. The new you has all your memories. The new you says, “yes I am the same person.” But although the new you is physically identical to the old you, the perception of self has been transferred. The old you is dead. This new person can think, “I am here, it’s me!” but it is the not the same consciousness you had before you were pulled to pieces. After all, if you fell into the sun you would not remember anything that happened afterwards would you?
Another way to think about this is to imagine taking the data and creating two copies (or more) of you instead of one. We’ve already agreed that you can’t carry two consciousnesses simultaneously, so one of the new you’s isn’t you. And so neither of them is.
The worrying thing about all this is that there is no way for us to prove (other than by logic) that the new consciousness is not a continuation of the old one. No-one will realise what is happening. If someone said to you, “Step inside this teleportation machine. I’m going to teleport you to Mars. Essentially you are about to die and won’t remember anything that happens after the next twenty seconds but don’t worry – a new you will be created and it will swear blind it is you and nobody will ever know what really happened. Rest in peace,” you probably wouldn’t want to get in.
And so I got to thinking about our streams of consciousness in everyday life.
Every day our perception of self ends when we fall asleep because when we are asleep we have no sense of existing. Our first person stream of consciousness switches off when we fall asleep. In the morning we wake up thinking we are the same person that fell asleep the night before. But what if this were an illusion? What if falling asleep were the end for today’s you. There is no way to verify that tomorrow’s you is today’s you.
Are you the same you as yesterday? You certainly believe you are, you can remember everything that happened to you. It feels like you just fell asleep and woke up. But then it would do wouldn’t it? This could be a huge illusion of nature – that our bodies maintain the same sense of self throughout our lives when in fact, in terms of stream of consciousness, we could all be dying every day.
Sleep tight. Rest in peace.
You can teleport worms in the Worms game.