There's no "I" in "Star Trek transporters"....

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Baldeee, Jan 15, 2017.


Would you willingly step into a Star Trek transporter and allow yourself to be "beamed" somewhere?

  1. Yes

  2. No

  3. Undecided

  1. substitutematerials Registered Member

    Can we make an analogy between consciousness and a fire? A continuous pattern of energetic action with a constantly changing input stream of material? A fire must be continuous or the chain reaction stops, but it is not made of any particular stuff. If it goes out and you relight it, you are lighting a new fire.

    This is only tangentially related, but I've always found it interested that brain death occurs so quickly when oxygen is withheld. Here is a Quora post that explains some of the neurochemistry. It also doesn't bode well for cryonic freezing of the brain.

    I don't think I'm superstitious about my atoms per se, but the continuity of the electrochemical patterns that the atoms scaffold.
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  3. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    I'd have no worries about a potential duplicate. Both would consider themselves me, even if there is an apprehendable difference between the two. I don't see this as a philosophical problem. Even with regard to my dualist belief, there's no overwhelming reason to believe that a mind can't be split, and several beliefs that posit we are already the product of such a split. Experience would diverge, but a mind is not necessarily a tangible thing that cleaving would necessarily diminish. The mind could be akin to a cell, that divides into two cells, each equal to the first.
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  5. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Same here. If I had a psychological / anatomical clone co-existing with original "me" (spatial scenario), I wouldn't consider myself still existing should I die and it still remain living (the latter has merely become the equivalent of an identical sibling).

    In a temporal sequence scenario of me being annihilated and replaced afterwards by a copy, I see no reason to deviate from the above scenario because the memories and life histories haven't had a chance to diverge as two separate, co-existing bodies. The copy will subjectively feel that it has existed for years before its actual genesis and that the chain of consciousness has been unbroken. But the original body (archetypal "me") isn't around anymore to experience the same confident feeling / attitude.
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  7. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    This is pretty much the same scenario as in the movie The Prestige, where Hugh Jackman's character produces clones, and kills himself, to give the illusion of teleportation, and his rival likely produced one clone (or always had a twin), who went on to love a different woman. I'm of the mind that continuity matters. While I would not intentionally end my own identity, if it were a necessary part of the process, the ongoing sense of continuity would be all that mattered. And in the case of malfunction, both continuities would matter.

    It does seem a bit superstitious to place identity solely upon a specific instance of a body (that is ever changing/renewing anyway), somewhat akin to associating someone to a voodoo doll. Would you have the same misgivings from physically transporting your brain to a cloned body? If not, then is it not about the body or continuity so much as just what you identify with?
  8. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Priority is usually given to the immediate body and its future. The concrete "here" and its advancing development as opposed to the speculative ectypes and "others" of a distributed brand / product treated as "self" (potentially existing elsewhere or after death, teleportation / duplication, cloning, etc).

    When we're faced with no option but "this body" dying or being destroyed, then we surrender to secondary conceptions of "I". In terms of what materialist doctrines allow, we might wax philosophical about "former versions of ourselves still existing in the past" (eternalism). Or about this topic's abstract identity (information template) being downloaded into robots, computers, or distributed and realized as duplicate biological bodies (technological replacement for a Platonic form or general entity-hood). Or any number of other lesser ego factors and situations like our descendants continuing to affect the world who otherwise would not be here if not for us, our other actions / works leaving causal effects, etc.

    But as long as the immediate physical and psychological instance of "self" is still kicking, we instinctively feel precious about that. The hypotheses, views, and conclusions generated by extended, reflective thought which condemns that concrete "here and now" and its continuance into tomorrow as superstitious constriction to a narrow location... The former will rarely topple the latter's priority due to its lack of direct presence.
  9. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Includes Assorted Spoilers

    That's a really big question in all of this, isn't it? I used the image I did because it signifies the moment. Suou (left) has just fallen into existential crisis, learning that she is quite literally "not herself". Compared to the basic idea, her case is a bit more complicated. Having just learned that she is an incomplete conscience of a dead person crammed into a second body along with some fake memories intended to balance out her psyche, and all stitched together by specific means that can easily be undone and thus destroy her, you might say Suou is feeling just a bit sensitive. She asks Hei, with whom she has been traveling, to say her name again; it would be the second time in their association. Hei responds: "That was you that I said it to originally. It doesn't matter if you're a 'copy' or the 'real thing'; you're the only you that I know, Suou."

    Suou is wrestling with the question of another, prior, "legitimate" self. It is, in her case, fair to say she is not properly "herself", but only if we affix that self to a former body that died nearly a decade before.

    She thinks, therefore she is; the experience she has is the experience she is.

    But who is she?

    † † †​

    Transhumanist version: Somewhere in all my story notes I have some unorganized scratchings and peckings combining the idea of brain-monitor technology, delta waves, the eight-hertz conspiracy theory from Serial Experiments Lain, and so on, the an idea of accidentally learning interaction brain and entangled quanta. (Second life stories are a dime a dozen; I'm not worried about losing my story over that.)

    Various approaches to the story have the process either straightforward or disrupted and uncertain, but the main plot arc would have to do with the emergence of apparently preserved psyche and memories. (Strangely, one theme of my life after death stories is a post-Christian notion that the ghost sticks around in order to serve the greater good of living humanity; it has to do with altruism and objectification of whyever they stayed.) Still, though, having parsed the question down to a macguffin idea of being able to "extend" a delta wave into the quantum, establish there, and accomplish a smooth transition from brain to quanta during the dying process, it is true there comes a threshold at which I cannot rule out continuing experience in the body and brain that the apparent continuation of self does not experience in the quantum condition, though the transformation of entanglement seems like something one cannot leave out of the story. In other words, I cannot promise that the experience of self in the quantum condition is which manner or assertion of continuity. Continuity of location is important, but did you see How to Train Your Dragon, and that silly joke about "most of him"? I would assert that with one "plank" gone, the ship is not the same ship in a context orbiting continuity of location. Continuity of experience, however, often seems a wholly separate consideration.

    This is also the reason the living empirical can so easily disagree with the shared empirical. Quite frankly, it doesn't matter if the rest of us cannot reproduce and validate the effect insofar as another might thoroughly and doubtlessly believe in having actually seen a ghost.

    One of the most frustrating moments I can recall is deciding to not seize someone by the shoulders and shake while demanding, "What ... is ... wrong ... with ... you!" I have watched "loving" family deliberately setting off psychiatrically disrupted people. This is far more common than such a statement sounds; if you know a depressed person, for instance, you've probably witnessed it. If you are a depressed person, you have almost definitely experienced it. And the thing is that's just one condition; nearly everyone has been through it at some point, depressed or paranoid or schizophrenic or whatever or not. What people need to remember is that brain chemistry is brain chemistry; reality experienced is the only reality that is for the person trapped in that experience. One of the reasons we kill delusional suspects on a bender is that it's just too much a pain in the ass to move that many people out of the way in order to contain the event, and the bills for damage never get paid by poor, mentally ill suspects who go to prison for their crimes.

    But in any moment, to put it bluntly, your brain chemistry is your experience. Apply a few molecules of this or that hormone or enzyme and you will feel that condition. And there are certain times―cajoling the depressed is a morbidly comical example, though we might also note logical instruction of a toddler amid a temper tantrum goes on the list, as does engaging a paranoid person in reasonable discourse with the expectation of actually convincing them of logic―rational discourse simply isn't going to trump brain chemistry. (The best you can do with the paranoid, in my experience, is distract and therefore contain them long enough for circumstances to shift.)

    We might think people would recognize this, since they often lament that there is no talking to their neighbor about why it's a bad idea to vote for this, that, or some candidate over there. It sounds odd to invoke Trump voters, but the collective basket is, indeed, a basket case; some of these people are as unshakeable in their conspiracist beliefs as others are convinced that Sinbad really did make that genie movie↗; when we get down to the functions of the brain creating the effects of mind expressed in personality and behavior, these beliefs are quantified as some manner of chemistry and physics that we have yet to learn the maths about.

    And this pile of paragraphic poppycock is simply to remind that there is much value in defining reality according to experience. The abstract question of what constitutes "you" is powerful and important. To the other, if your last thought was knowing you were going to die, and yet now you are awake and experiencing, there will be any number of logical explanations. Still, though, what if you wake up to an unfamiliar condition? It's one thing to say you didn't die, but just got knocked into a coma, but this looks like Heaven or Hell, or maybe it's a Virtual Reality, but it certainly isn't what you remember before ... before ... uh ... what was it that happened? How do you know this isn't the first moment of reality, anyway, that all your memories preceding this moment aren't just symptomatic of your spontaneously extant reality? Start heaping up the philosophy of self, here; it's not a matter of not objecting, but, rather, part of the point: Whatever the truth of your circumstance, it is the experience you are having, and how easy would it be in that moment for anyone to talk you into trading your apparently deviant experience for the just silence of death? I would suggest you're not going to shrug and say, "Okay, since I'm not supposed to be alive anyway, since I remember dying, so, right."

    It is all intended to point back to the intimacy and importance of our experience. Maybe your delta wave remains stable, but you have no memory of self as a result of whatever.

    Consider Spawn looking upon his own corpse. Would he surrender so easily unto death, then? So let us say he killed himself, because he knew he was supposed to be dead. Yeah, I know that violates the story, but still: Let us say, then, that Al Simmons ends his own life after looking upon his own corpse and accepting that he should be dead. And maybe the rest of us are wondering why our friend dug up someone's grave before shooting himself in the head.

    Oh, hey: Spirit possession. Body snatching. Our mythography provides much simpler examples: If your experience is terminated, and another occupies your body, how do we measure that continuity of location? By contrast, I would argue continuity of experience would seem much more intrinsic to self.
  10. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    But where is "here"? The body, the brain, something else? Can we reduce "here" to its smallest constituent...perhaps just a perception of continuity? Isn't it just the continuity that we can say is "still kicking"?

    You would never be aware of anything but the hypothetical loss of self. You would only be aware of your own continuance, since we'd have to posit an afterlife to be aware of any lose of self. You're either aware of your continuity here or your continuity "there", which is perceived as here. Even if both, neither experiences a loss.

    It just seems odd to me that physicalists/materialists should be concerned about a hypothetical loss they could never really experience.
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I voted "yes" on the poll, for essentially the same reasons Yazata gave, above.

    The important ongoing part of a human being, I think, is essentially a pattern of information about how his or her brain is organised. Some of that information is stored structurally, and some is probably a result of ongoing neural activity. If the transporter can reliably duplicate all that, I can't see a problem with stepping into it. The relevant information would be transported to the destination; the particular atoms used to assemble the body and brain at the destination wouldn't be important, because all atoms of the same type are indistinguishable.

    There's probably an insurmountable technical barrier to building a transporter that faithfully copies all information about the current state of a human body (including the brain). For a start, to make a perfect copy you'd need to record a lot of information during the scanning process, and even then it would be difficult to take an instantaneous snap-shot. If fidelity at the quantum level is necessary, then theoretically it would seem to be impossible to build a transporter, because there are certain theorems in quantum physics that actually prevent the cloning of quantum states.

    On the other hand, it could be that recording everything in ultra-fine, quantum detail is not necessary to produce a good-enough duplicate at the receiving end. And I'm also well aware of Clarke's laws regarding scientists who are silly enough to claim that certain technologies will never be possible.
  12. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Heh. Like today's digitally compressed music, and pixelated photography.

    "Oh, I know it's not the EXACT same Roger I fell in love with, but it's certainly good enough for all our friends and neighbours. Why, even I can hardly tell the difference if I don't spend too much time with him."
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Philosophically, it's an extension of a very old problem - both abstract ( and - as the very practical Eastern religions have provided for many such speculative debates - concrete:

    somewhere in Japan there's a building, a temple, that has stood for hundreds of years as a named, located, single, and continuously employed building. It's well known, and always described as this one building many hundreds of years old. For a long time now it has been completely rebuilt every 20 years or so - taken down to the foundations and put back up exactly as it was

    This appears to be demonstration of a central point in the discussion: it is in fact the same building. That is: identity is functional - it takes place in time, by action.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2017
  14. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Crichton's Timeline has just such an interesting premise ("good enough" duplication). The duplication was not perfect, but it was close enough for all intents and purposes.

    At first.

    Problem is, the effect is cumulative. Having passed through the device multiple times, those individual 'good enoughs' were starting to multiply, resulting in misaligned blood capillaries and leaky organs.
  15. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    And there are many proponents in the camp of quantum entanglement induced consciousness.

    Robert Sawyer has written at least one book on it.

    (I'm not really sure why quantum effects are necessary to explain consciousness. Seems to me there's a pretty continuous curve of consciousness from simple animals up to humans. I have a feeling it's more a rejection of a deterministic world in favor of free will via QM)
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2017
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  16. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    And unnecessary, as well as unlikely. Free will emerges naturally from the growing complexity.
  17. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    There are some pretty well-developed arguments that assert that, in a classic, deterministic Newtonian universe, free-will is impossible.

    A hydrogen atom drifting near an oxygen atom and binding to it has no free will in the matter. Scale that up to 10^20 atoms and that initial fact doesn't change. It may be fabulously complex interactions, but that doesn't mean there is a choice made anywhere in those 10^20 atoms.

    It's a tough argument to refute.
  18. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    The "free" modifier of "will" doesn't seem make sense to begin with unless it refers to autonomy as opposed to heteronomy. It requires an organization to output decisions, a system of governance which by its very nature would involve reducing all the options available to "random". Thus negating "free" as meaning that or indeterminacy (judgements being yielded minus any functional configuration). And "free" interpreted as some god-like liberty to do anything one desires should have been too ridiculous to ever get out of the starting gate.

    Whereas "autonomy" would simply indicate that the human organism is internally self-sufficient in making choices / actions in response to received data; not heteronomous like a wooden puppet whose will is derived from an external source (puppet-master). Even in the utter determinism of a block-universe, a person is still reacting to _x_ circumstances as s/he would if those encountered situations were not preset. IOW, when confronted with _x_, what that species of brain / body system with that particular personality or life background would do is realized either way. It's the source of its own will, it is "free" from dependence upon an external agency making its decisions. It's prior somatic state in the past being treated as the cause of the next somatic state would be part of its very nature and identity to begin with in terms of being alive and accomplishing anything (not something absurdly eliminating its autonomy).
  19. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Isn't that also true of a rock, though? Does a rock not make actions in response to received data, albeit data in the form of physical action acting on the rock?
  20. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    It doesn't even need to be in a deterministic Newtonian universe; the arguments are the same when you allow for a universe where effects are probabilistically determined (and thus actually indeterministic).
  21. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    So has the discussion become whether or not you really have the freedom to choose if you're teleported? If we don't have sufficient freedom to do otherwise, then no amount of superstition or fear has any real bearing. Of course, neither do any of your attempts to allay such fear. Is this just a way to deflect from the rather silly notion that a materialist/physicalist is afraid of a loss their view denies they are capable of ever experiencing? Is this just a contradiction between their intuition and their beliefs?
  22. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    No, it has not. Start a little further back than one post.

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  23. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Only if they posit a supernatural basis of free will in the first place - an action without physical substrate, unmeasurable and indescribable and without observable material features or attributes, a ghost inhabiting a machine. Which is one of the common and easily slid into mistakes that a naive approach to Newtonian mechanics enables - Newton himself, and not merely Descartes et al, seems to have been vulnerable to the approach. Daniel Dennett describes the general category as "greedy reductionism", but that suggestive term seems to underestimate the complexity of a matter as built on illusion as deliberate approach.
    That's not where one would look for such a choice - any more than one would look for "life" in the individual chemical reactions of a living being. Is the difference between "living" and "dead" also an illusion?

    Freedom of will is our name for a demonstrated property of human decision making - the question is how it comes to be employed. We have clues, in particular the unpredictability of human decisions in circumstances of insufficient information about the nature of the human beings making the decisions - including their life history of dreams and current perceptions of their surroundings, among other challenges. We also have the demonstrated corruption and crippling of free will - drug addictions, famously - showing that some people have greater freedom of will than others. But it's apparently not an easy field.

    So a transporter - not a duplicator, which would in principle preserve the original en situ unaltered - of sufficient reliability for a human being to walk into with confidence, would be an extraordinary machine.

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