Parfit's Telestransporter Philosphy

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November 22, 2010
Qualitative vs. Numerical
Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons has us imagine a futuristic scenario in which teletransportation exists and is widely used. Many people have used them and have reported them to be a success. These are devices which require two teletransporters, one located at a starting position, in this scenario, Earth, and another located at the desired destination, Mars. These devices were used as a sort of instant transportation device which is said to send the person at the speed of light between the two devices, making it only take about 1 hour time as opposed to multiple weeks. It accomplishes such through a multiple step process. First when the person enters the teletransporter at the starting position, a scanner records the makeup of the body down to every minute detail and position of each molecule. While the device is recording this information, it is also picking apart each molecule and destroying it. Since it is impossible to actually send the body itself at the speed of light, this process is key to achieve the speed of light process because it would be impossible to send the physical matter at that speed. In order for the device to “transport” the person at such a speed, it must only send the information of the person, essentially their blueprints, via radio transmission to the other device. Once the second teletransporter receives this information it begins to reconstruct the person. It uses the records of the person from the first teletransporter to craft the body out of atoms at the second device with extreme accuracy and detail. This crafted body appears to be physically identical to the body that was at the first teletransporter prior to the activation of the device. This person would contain the exact same memories due to having the same brain, have same genetic makeup, and look exactly like the person from the first transporter. When this person is asked “how was the ride” they would without a doubt reply saying it was fine and could recount them entering and reappearing on the opposite side.

The question thus at hand is “is this the same person?” by same person I shall mean that they are numerically identical; they are the one and the same. Thusly, would I myself use one of these teletransporters? Would I continue as the same person, or start a new person? To figure this question out, we must look at exactly what changes occur to the person during this process. The destruction of the original body and brain does occur although a new body and brain is formed that appears to be physically the same to the first. Although this body is made of different atoms it is qualitatively identical; that is they are the same thing yet not one in the same. This can be seen in things that are mass produced. There can be many items which are qualitatively identical and perform the same exact function as the others; however they are not numerically identical. Along with this another worry comes from the discontinuity of the conscious. Because there is a point in which the person is not alive, there is a point in which their conscious halts. Lastly there is the construction of the new body. The person who steps out of the second transporter was built from separate atoms on the spot. That specific body has thus only existed in that form for a matter of seconds.

With all of these changes to the person using the teletransporter, I would not use this device. This device is simply another way at looking at cloning. With the destruction of the original person, I believe this device would kill you, and then construct a cloned copy of you at the ending teletransporter. The new body is formed from completely separate atoms and suffers from the discontinuity of psychological connectedness, which is there is not strong and immediate connections of psychological states and psychological similarity. I believe this new person created would in-fact believe it was same, it would have the same...
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