So I don’t know how long this will be but I wanted to discuss teleportation and the self. I’m sure you guessed that by the title of the post but who knows, maybe someone here has title blindness and now I totally just hooked them up.
The essence of this post is that there are two, and probably only two, important persons to consider when discussing the issue of teleportation (and indeed even cloning). I might need to establish a few things but we’ll see, I really just kind of wing these posts and whatever comes out during the scribble is what you get.
First is the acknowledgement that you could, in theory, create an exact replica of anyone that nobody would be able to tell apart from the original. We cannot currently do it with modern technology but this is something that could be done, basically if you put a copy of the person and that person in boxes and made them each preach about who they are you would be unable to differentiate between the original and the copy. Just like files copied on a PC are essentially identical (to oversimplify the point).
These copies are the second of the two selves I will be discussing and I suppose the first I will talk about. These are the “functional” selves, these selves have all the knowledge and theoretically all the physical prowess of the original. If you copied the original and killed it you could keep the copy in reality and it would for literally all functional purposes continue on as if it had never been a copy and as if the original had never existed nor was ever killed. The general idea behind Star Trek teleportation systems is they annihilate the person and replicate them in a new location.
Let us be clear, in these systems you are murdering people all the time. The very first time anyone teleports in the Star Trek universe they are dead, their functional self lives on but the first self is lost (more on that in a few sentences). This is incredibly dark and an interesting example of how science can be led astray, albeit its more about how science fiction can be led astray really. I don’t believe this system would ever take off in the real world and I’ll explain why right now! No really, ok not right now, but soon, like the next sentence.
The first sense of self is the “literal” self, this is you that exists right now and is reading this back to yourself. This is the most important self of all, period, there is no exception. In all cases the ultimate goal of any system should be to keep the literal self alive. That is the most important self, and indeed if you clone a literal self, the functional self becomes both literal and functional if the original remains.
But how so? Well it becomes a functional self or the original and will eventually become a literal self of itself. The branches between the two will slowly spread as their experiences in life differ, the only way you can hide this differentiation is by keeping only one copy in existence and frankly that’s horrifying.
So that’s it, there are two selves. The literal self, that is you the literal you that is standing or sitting exactly where you are right now. Then there is the functional self, the organism that people can not differentiate from you. In a sense much like the copy you are both a functional and literal self for as long as there is only one of you because you accomplish both tasks, however the literal always supercedes the functional and should always be the most important trait of all.
So the next time you are thinking about consciousness just remember, a consciousness can be copied (eventually) but that doesn’t matter. The most important thing is the literal self and maintaining it, so if I was to be looking into immortality my greatest concern would be to use a system that keeps my literal self alive as opposed to creating a series of everlasting functional selves that just convince everyone else that I never died.