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 memories as original person. However, it is only qualitatively identical and not numerically identical.
In order to completely understand what is happening in this scenario, let us look at the same scenario with minor changes that cause more ambiguity on this question to pinpoint exactly when and what causes the original person to die. If the same teletransporter where to exists, though instead of completely destroying the body, it picks up the atoms that previously made up the person and shipped them off to the second teletransporter. This second teletransporter would then craft the body out of the same atoms that made up the original body.
Although this body contains the same atoms as the original there exists a discontinuity of psychological connectedness. When the body is disassembled and is in transit to the second teletransporter, the person is clearly dead. It cannot think or function in any way that an actual person could. During this stage it is simply a mass of atoms. This causes the reconstructed body to simply be qualitative identical and not numerically identical. It is missing qualifying parts to make it one in the same. This can also be seen in the reconstruction of different things. Imagine a scenario in which a child builds a tower out of blocks.
After creating this tower, it gets knocked over by his father. The father then reconstructs this tower, with all the blocks in the exact same position and placed in the same position. Is this the same tower built by the boy? In this scenario it does not appear so, it would be a tower built by the father, much like the body was rebuilt by the machine. The block tower is missing key characteristics that make it the tower built by the boy. It is definitely qualitatively identical, the tower’s composition is identical to the original, however, it is not numerically identical; it is not the tower constructed by the boy.
Therefore, the use of the same material cannot be a qualifier for numerical identity. The discontinuity of psychological connectedness also plays a key part as to why this is not the same person. When looking at what exactly makes a person still be the same over the course of their life, this discontinuity of consciousness plays a key factor. Throughout someone’s life, they undergo a great deal of changes. Their physical appearance greatly changes. Their body grows, their hair growth changes, muscles grow and become stronger, and eventually their body begins to shrivel and shrink as they approach old age.
Along with this, the person’s cells are constantly dying and rebuilding, causing every cell in their body to be different from birth. Memories fade as time elapses causing them to not remember past actions. Even a person’s beliefs will change overtime causing them to think completely different then the way they did at different points in their life. It seems absurd to believe that a person in their old age is not numerically the same person as they were when they were younger. If this were the case people couldn’t be blamed for past actions. Punishment would become pointless.
This leaves the need to identify what causes a person to be one and the same overtime. One of the only things which does not change and can be used to trace a person back through their life is the continuity of consciousness. That is a person is conscious of the actions they have recently done and can be accounted for doing such. This can be traced back and back to their birth. Although a person may not remember what they did on a specific day 20 years ago, the day after that day they did can thus can be linked in a chain like matter to their present state.
The body constructed at the second transported is not causally linked to the body at the original transporter. They body at the first teletransporter was completely deconstructed and past any point of continued existence. This body has only been conscious for seconds upon the waking up of the person at the second transporter. If it has just now come into consciousness and existence, it cannot be causally linked to the previous actions and is not psychologically connected to the original body. This new body cannot simply be considered numerically identical due to having the same memories.
In the scenario the second body is simply a clone of the original. If the machine to haywire, it could create multiple of the same bodies that are qualitatively identical, much like a machine that can mass produce replicas of other objects. Each body would contain the same memories of the original person. However, if there can be multiple of the same things, it appears preposterous to say that they are numerically identical. You could not say that each separate body is one and the same. As time continues they would have different experiences and would become drastically different from before.
Therefore, I would no definitely not use this device. The process of the teletransporter destroys the original body and then creates a new body all of its own. This new body, even if constructed from the same atoms, is nothing more than a duplication of the original person. The second body lacks the psychological connectedness of the original body and thus cannot be said to be a continuation of the original person. This new body would be qualitatively identical to the original body, but most certainly would not be numerically identical.
Courtney from Study Moose
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