In prep for our teleportation podcast, I remembered a conversation I had years ago with @gregbobak about teleportation in Star Trek, and if it’s actually you that comes out the other end.
Here’s his explanation of the problem:
Transporters work by scanning you at a subatomic level and creating a map of your physical structure, then breaking you down into a stream of subatomic particles, storing that in a pattern buffer, and then sending the stream to the destination via subspace transmission. Once at the destination, the process is reversed, and you are reassembled. The longer you stay in the pattern buffer, the longer the distance being transported, and a bunch of other factors can lead to pattern degradation and your horrible death upon arrival. I can’t really get more specific than that because I don’t have a detailed knowledge of Trek physics, but I’m sure you can look somewhere like here for more.
It’s important to note that it works by sending your actual particles to the destination, not by destroying you and reassembling you from component parts found at the destination. And it therefore stands to reason that your mind is in an identical state upon arrival as it was upon departure, so any outside observer is naturally going to think you’re the same person. The question is this: is your consciousness maintained throughout the process, or does that act of breaking you down into your component particles kill you and create an identical duplicate at the destination? It would seem to be impossible to survive being broken down into atoms, but if we allow for the existence of the soul as a concept existing outside the corporeal form, would the soul be maintained in the reconstituted body, thus keeping you alive throughout the process? Or are you consigned to the eternal blackness of death at the moment of transportation?