Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chop me up Scotty!

Researchers Achieve Quantum Teleportation Over 10 Miles of Empty Space | Popular Science: "It works by entangling two objects, like photons or ions. The first teleportation experiments involved beams of light. Once the objects are entangled, they're connected by an invisible wave, like a thread or umbilical cord. That means when something is done to one object, it immediately happens to the other object, too. Einstein called this 'spooky action at a distance.'
Until now, this has only been achieved with particles that are at most a couple hundred feet apart. And those distances have been accomplished with fiber channels, which help preserve the photons' state."

Teleporting humans and non-humans is a common trope in Sci-Fi. But there's an obvious philosophical problem which authors prefer to ignore, which also invests other classic SF concepts like cloning. One thing authors never seem to bring up is that, for instance, a teleported human being would no longer be the original one. The teleporting device would presumably decompose a living being into particles, entangle them to photons, then reconstruct an exact copy of the original at destination. In other words, the object or human being are reconstituted on the basis of information and the transmitted energy. That's making a copy. Let's pretend the machine would reconstruct such an identical copy to match the level of the neural impulses that form our conscience. Yet, it would still be a copy. The original being would be disintegrated and die shortly after saying "Beam me up, Scotty." Would you willingly enter my magic portal that would kill you and produce another identical you? Be my guest.

A more interesting and less exploited concept (at least in classic SF): any technology able to produce such wondrous processes of decomposition, entangling and recomposition, should also be able to produce multiple copies. Why not? After you know how to put the human back together, all you need is a source of energy, and repeat the process twice. Or one billion times.

Or what about storing the dearly teleported in a combination of battery and hard disk? Why not, after all knowing how to decompose and put back together a body should work even if the process is deferred. If you think about it it'd be pretty cool to imagine an extremely advanced technology world (therefore a magical one according to Clarke's third law ) where sorcerers "conjure" soldiers by making appear previously "teleported" armed personnel from their state-of-the-art iPhone in the shape of a... wand!

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