Do copies of you = you...from a physical determinism POV

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Andonyx
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Do copies of you = you...from a physical determinism POV

Post by Andonyx »

I was discussing my abject fear of Star Trek style teleporters witha friend last evening (And speculate all you want on the level of neuroticism necessary to develop a phobia of something that doesn't exist.) And I explained that even as a child when I would watch the old Star Trek I was convinced every time someone got into a teleporter, they were being killed and exact copies of them were coming out the other end.

My friend made the statement, "Well, if the copies are indeed exact, then it's still you coming out the other end."

I replied, "Well, yes, to the external observer nothing at all would be different. That's why no one realizes these things are death machines, but actually Kirk has died hundreds of times and we're now talking to Kirk #301.

She said, "Well, he may blink out for an instant, but he comes back."

Me: No a copy comes back. The consciousness of the original is snuffed out.

Her: To believe that, you would have to believe that consciousness is somehow independant of our physical mechanism. Because if the physical mechanism is gone, and then rebuilt exactly....and I mean exactly, every single atom in its place retaining it's charge, position and inertia, as it was....Then the consciousness associated with it should return also, yes?

Me: Crap...I guess that makes sense, but it doesn't feel right. I still feel like the illusion of consciousness needs to be continuous to remain, and that there would be a me, who ceased to know existence, and a duplicate me, who never realized anything had gone amiss...that is until he stepped into what I like to call the Rodden-o-tine.

Her: You can take a computer apart, make it impossible for the computer to function, and leave it in a warehouse for twenty years. If you put it all back together with unlimited accuracy to the way it was, it will be the same computer.

Me: To it?

Her: Sure.

Me: Hmm...I think you may be right. And it galls me no end to say that. So, I hope you choke on some nougat and die.

Her: Burn in hell, you sad little man.

Anyway that was the gist of it, and I had never really thought of it like that.

I think in the intervening time I have come up with a paradox that challenges her assertions...but I will leave that for later. In the meantime what are your thoughts?
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Hexxenhammer
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Post by Hexxenhammer »

I have that exact convicition about teleporters. The original is obviously killed and an exact copy is inserted instead.
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Post by zer0vector »

This seems to me to be a restatement of the "Are we more than just the sum of our parts?" Personally, I agree with your friend, that we're not. True, after teleportation we would be a copy of the original, but such a copy would be so precisely accurate that we couldn't tell the difference, so what does it matter?
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Andonyx
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Post by Andonyx »

zer0vector wrote:This seems to me to be a restatement of the "Are we more than just the sum of our parts?" Personally, I agree with your friend, that we're not. True, after teleportation we would be a copy of the original, but such a copy would be so precisely accurate that we couldn't tell the difference, so what does it matter?
Well, an outsider certainly can't tell the difference...

But to the being in the teleporter, do you believe his or her illusion of consciousness is snuffed out? Or do you believe their sense of themselves would continue unabated, merely transferred to the copy?
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RabbiSatan
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Post by RabbiSatan »

Hah - I was wondering if I was the only one who had the feeling that teleporters were mass death machines too :D Seems not.

But I disagree with this:
Me: No a copy comes back. The consciousness of the original is snuffed out.

Her: To believe that, you would have to believe that consciousness is somehow independant of our physical mechanism. Because if the physical mechanism is gone, and then rebuilt exactly....and I mean exactly, every single atom in its place retaining it's charge, position and inertia, as it was....Then the consciousness associated with it should return also, yes?


The copy will be composed of the same atoms, charge, position, inertia, yadda yadda - but I do not see how the conciousness is then somehow independent - since the copy is exactly the same, it is the same copy of the conciousness that exists within our brain. Sooo...
Her: You can take a computer apart, make it impossible for the computer to function, and leave it in a warehouse for twenty years. If you put it all back together with unlimited accuracy to the way it was, it will be the same computer.
Well of course it's going to be the same computer because it's still by definition itself. A proper analogy would be if I take a copy of the sum of the computer's parts with ultimate accuracy and assemble it alongside of the first computer - are they the same thing?
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RabbiSatan
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Post by RabbiSatan »

Andonyx wrote:Well, an outsider certainly can't tell the difference...

But to the being in the teleporter, do you believe his or her illusion of consciousness is snuffed out? Or do you believe their sense of themselves would continue unabated, merely transferred to the copy?
If the conciousness exists solely within our brain, the being stepping into the porter (if the teleporter works the way I think it works...by destroying the atoms and then reassembling them at the end) would have his conciousness snuffed out - whilst the copy at the end would still retain the memories of the being that entered - and will maintain the illusion.

Damn, I feel like a geek *cries*.
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Andonyx
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Post by Andonyx »

RabbiSatan wrote:
If the conciousness exists solely within our brain, the being stepping into the porter (if the teleporter works the way I think it works...by destroying the atoms and then reassembling them at the end) would have his conciousness snuffed out - whilst the copy at the end would still retain the memories of the being that entered - and will maintain the illusion.
I tend to agree with you, here's a copy of the e-mail I sent her this morning:

Imagine a teleporter which instead of killing the first me, retains the first me at teleporter A, and then at teleporter B an EXACT duplicate of me pops out. The atoms are the same number, type, charge, spin, mass, position, inertia, etc.

Is Me A and Me B the same person? Are we in fact the same entity?

To put it another way am "I" as my consciousness perceieves it, now both people?

Would I be instantly privvy to the experiences of both Mes?

Because if I'm not, if it is possible in any way to make any kind of distinction between the two then the idea that the replacement me for the dead me is also the same falls apart.
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MrMonty
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Post by MrMonty »

I enjoyed an excellent thread a year or so ago on this subject at the old JREF forum. "Staying Alive" I think it was titled.

For me, I thought of it in terms of falling asleep. I lose consciousness when I fall asleep, when I wake up, even though I don't have that continuity, I still feel I am me. I'd feel the same way when I'm recreated.

Teleporters should transfer the actual matter though. Otherwise, it's just reading the material and destroying it on one end, transfering the data, and recreating it at the other end. With that kind of technology, why destroy it at the one end? You could also keep the data stored forever and keep making copies whenever desired.

I believe the user Win put forth the scenario of getting knocked out, replicated, and then both being revived. Who's the real you then? How would you or anyone else know or be able to tell the difference?

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RabbiSatan
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Post by RabbiSatan »

MrMonty wrote:For me, I thought of it in terms of falling asleep. I lose consciousness when I fall asleep, when I wake up, even though I don't have that continuity, I still feel I am me. I'd feel the same way when I'm recreated.
Difference is with sleep and the stak trek teleportation is that with sleep -you are still the same atoms that are the sum of you when you goto sleep and wake up - whereas in teleportation, it's a copy of you with the same structure of atoms.
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MrMonty
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Post by MrMonty »

RabbiSatan wrote: Difference is with sleep and the stak trek teleportation is that with sleep -you are still the same atoms that are the sum of you when you goto sleep and wake up - whereas in teleportation, it's a copy of you with the same structure of atoms.
But if an independent observer can't tell the difference between the two... what is the difference?

I digest food, process it, replicate DNA. *I* am not the same atoms *I* was five minutes ago.

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Andonyx
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Post by Andonyx »

Continuing the e-mail exchange:

Her:

---If I understand you, then no. Rather, two consciousnesses (consciousness,
of course, being nothing more than a certain conglomeration of pathways) are
identical until their input differs. There would be no single consciousness
shared between the two people, and there would therefore be no question of
the consciousness perceiving that "you" are now duplicate.

...

both yous would be privy to all the experiences that came before.


My reply:

Then the only difference is wether first me is destroyed or remains intact.
If I am destroyed then it is safe to say I am destroyed.

If in fact the two mes are independant, then you could simply make the same
case you just made.

At the moment B steps out, we begin to have different experiences, so there
is a me, and a not me.

If the very first experience I have after B steps out, is me being
destroyed, then only NOT ME remains.
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RabbiSatan
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Post by RabbiSatan »

MrMonty wrote:But if an independent observer can't tell the difference between the two... what is the difference?
If that's the case, the only difference would be on a technical level, as described before, which the indepenfent observer would not be aware of.
I digest food, process it, replicate DNA. *I* am not the same atoms *I* was five minutes ago.
True, not contending that :)
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Post by MrMonty »

I'll just state my thoughts and leave it at that because, as I've seen before, these types of discussions can go on forever.

The idea of Star Trek style transportation is scarey because one feels one's self is destroyed. If the copy is exact though, nobody can tell the difference. To me, it's the same as waking up in the morning. I feel that I'm me but I have no way of really knowing and, in fact, I'm not the same me that went to sleep the night before. Many atomic and chemical changes will have taken place and the consciousness I wake up with is not the same that went to sleep the night before. That being the case, how is transportation worse?
Even when I rationalize it, it's still damn scarey to think about and I probably wouldn't risk it. Not that there's much to worry about because I feel that sort of duplication can never be achieved. If it was, why the heck destroy myself at this end? The copy could achieve whatever I was being sent to do and then there would be two of me and the Universe would be a better place.
:D Of course there would be problems with who gets my wife and visitation rights with the kids. Maybe I'd have to copy them too, along with all my possesions. Things start to get hairy real quick.

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Post by EvilYeti »

When I was first introduced to the concept of teleporters as a child, it never occurred to me that they were destroying one instance of an individual then creating an exact copy. I always thought of it more like walking through a door, albeit one that opened into a place distant from its origin. Sort of like the wormhole in "Contact".

I remember vividly reading a "Star Trek" book that discussed the idea that the transporter was destroying and recreating you, that what came out the other end was actually a doppleganger. I think McCoy refused to use the transporter for this reason. When I read that, I did actually fear the concept of using such a device and should one ever be made, would not.

I'm not enough of a Trek fan to know exactly how the shows writers decided the device does work, but I'm pretty sure there was a ST:NG epi where a transporter malfunction resulted in two Rikers. I think they flipped a coin or something and one went to work on some other starship.

If the transporter really can make N copies of an individual, then yes its destroying the original in the process. You would die. I can't imagine anyone in their right mind using such a thing.
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Post by Hexxenhammer »

Yep, EY, it's wormholes and portals all the way for me too. I don't want my atoms reduced to information and transported anywhere else.
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Post by Beleth »

There was a wonderful piece of Star Trek fan fiction I read once where an alien race's transporter technology really was "copy and delete" instead of "move" - the copy was made, and after the copy was determined to have arrived safely, the original would then initiate his own disintegration. Someone on board the Enterprise got copied before he knew about the disintegration part, he balked at it, and the hilarity ensued.

McCoy's complaint was that he didn't want his "atoms scrambled halfway across the galaxy" or something like that. In other words, it was the same atoms, just disassembled here and reassembled there. Still. If there is a soul, I can't see the transporter reassembling it at the other end.
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Post by Mooseboy »

I agree that it seems as though the original self is desotroyed in teleportation.

BUT HEY! Uh, your self is destroyed every moment and replaced byt a new self and there is just the illusion of continuity, so it doesn't really matter!

\There is no self.
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Post by hammegk »

Hexxenhammer wrote:Yep, EY, it's wormholes and portals all the way for me too. I don't want my atoms reduced to information and transported anywhere else.
Me too. I think if physics in the 70's had been where it is now, the transporter would be keeping you intact & moving you in one of the curled-up 6 or 7 dimensions.

Even if all the measurements needed didn't require sub-atomic detail, measuring & reconstructing 10**26 or so atoms just doesn't sound doable. A non-integrable problem big time.
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Post by EvilYeti »

Beleth wrote:There was a wonderful piece of Star Trek fan fiction I read once where an alien race's transporter technology really was "copy and delete" instead of "move" - the copy was made, and after the copy was determined to have arrived safely, the original would then initiate his own disintegration. Someone on board the Enterprise got copied before he knew about the disintegration part, he balked at it, and the hilarity ensued.

McCoy's complaint was that he didn't want his "atoms scrambled halfway across the galaxy" or something like that. In other words, it was the same atoms, just disassembled here and reassembled there. Still. If there is a soul, I can't see the transporter reassembling it at the other end.
Ugh, I can't believe there are molecules in my brain devoted to remembering some of this stuff.

Yes, the idea was that the transporters actually moved things around, they couldnt be used to duplicate anything. That would require a replicator, which supposedly couldn't do anything complex any due to errors at the atomic level. Convienient plot device to explain why starfleet couldnt just make a few million copies of Data and use them for crew.
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Post by Darat »

Damn - got here too late and everything I would have said has already been said! (Well apart from this obviously.)