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June 28, 2005

'Teleporting' over the internet

Computer scientists in the US are developing a system which would allow people to 'teleport a solid 3D recreation of themselves over the internet. And it's based on the animation of "Wallace and Gromit".

June 28, 2005 in Tech/Science | Permalink


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All of these topics were exciting, and I thank you for reporting them. Two of them I have sent on to possibly interested parties.

Teleportation is a funny topic. In this case it may be misleading to call what they describe "teleportation", in that there is no pretense that one's awareness winds up in the poppet that is created (thank goodness). But fictions that try to envision teleportation where one's awareness IS recreated at the other end have always had to deal with the following dilemma:

Obviously (pace Star Trek)it is not possible -- or perhaps, given the uncertainties of new physics, at least not efficient -- to teleport the atoms one is made of to a remote location. As with a fax machine, what one must do is analyze the body to be sent, describe it as completely as possible, and transmit the description to a remote location, where the information is used, as in the presenr article, to construct a replica.
But assuming that, when the replica is assembled, somehow the conscious awareness, memories, personality, and so on are also at the new location, being, as some argue, a function of the organization of the atoms, then it would seem there are now TWO of you, whose history is identical, right down to the fingerprints and the memories, but whose career paths now are free to diverge.

Who is now married to your spouse? Whose kids are these? Who is responsible for legal contracts and moral promises? If the remote version commits a crime, is the original responsible for punishment? If the two versions meet and one kills the other, is it suicide or murder?

Does the replica have any rights? If it is created for a temporary purpose, such as attending a conference, can it be destroyed when the prupose is served? If the experiences and memories it gains are useful, then assume it is teleported back to Earth. Is the original now liable to be destroyed, or do we tolerate two copies of you running around?

What about the inevitable cases when something goes wrong and the replica is not exact? If the remote replica is horribly deformed, can it be destroyed? What if the deformities are hidden, so that it is a sociopath?

Some sf stories try to solve the problem by immeditely getting rid of the original; the deal is that you walk into the transporter knowing that "you" will turn up in the remote location, and the inconvenient original left behind will be painlessly destroyed when the tramsmission is verified as successful. This will seem fine to the replica; but the original, in the transmitter, who realizes he is STILL HERE and that whoever it is over there in Sagittarius is SOMEBODY ELSE, may vigorously resist being destroyed.

Posted by: judith | Jun 28, 2005 9:52:29 AM

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