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Transportation of consciousness

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    Transportation of consciousness

    Suppose that transporters (like in Startrek) existed. You would be scanned somehow so that every atomic detail
    of yourself could be be recorded. Then that information is transmitted to the destination, and a duplicate of you
    is reconstructed. If the reconstuction is succesful, the original is destroyed.

    What would you experience?

    If the reconstucted duplicate is completely accurate, it seems that it should be no different than travelling some
    great distance while you were unconscious, and then waking up at the destination. There should be continuity
    of the conscious self between your departure (and destruction) and your arrival (and reconstruction).

    Now, what if there was a malfunction; the duplicate 'you' was reconstructed at the destination, but the original 'you'
    wasn't destroyed, The original 'you' awakens, and should obviously still have a continuity of the conscious self.
    But the reconstructed 'you' also has this, just as it did in the previous example.

    Now what do you experience?

    Are you in two places at once? Which one is 'you'?

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    Quote Originally Posted by megafiddle View Post
    Suppose that transporters (like in Startrek) existed. You would be scanned somehow so that every atomic detail
    of yourself could be be recorded. Then that information is transmitted to the destination, and a duplicate of you
    is reconstructed. If the reconstuction is succesful, the original is destroyed.

    What would you experience?

    If the reconstucted duplicate is completely accurate, it seems that it should be no different than travelling some
    great distance while you were unconscious, and then waking up at the destination. There should be continuity
    of the conscious self between your departure (and destruction) and your arrival (and reconstruction).

    Now, what if there was a malfunction; the duplicate 'you' was reconstructed at the destination, but the original 'you'
    wasn't destroyed, The original 'you' awakens, and should obviously still have a continuity of the conscious self.
    But the reconstructed 'you' also has this, just as it did in the previous example.

    Now what do you experience?

    Are you in two places at once? Which one is 'you'?
    I don't see any real conundrums here. In the first case, YOU die while some COPY of your original quantum state lives on (until it suffers the same fate, of course). Otherwise, you just end up with a very confused twin!
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    I think they would both be me. Now, I can only explain this as if we ignored the experiment and focused on how things really are right now. My consciousness, my sense of self, I really don't know what would happen to that. I believe that both versions would go on to have different experiences, but I think I would only be able to perceive one version of me, and I don't know which experiences I would personally want. Maybe I will be the new me on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Saturdays, and the old me Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
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    Quote Originally Posted by megafiddle View Post
    Are you in two places at once? Which one is 'you'?
    Because we are talking at the atomic level (and subatomic, since you did say "every atomic detail"), we already know the answer to that. I'd wager.

    What would happen if instead of a human, we were to transport a grain of sand? We'll, we would say a copy of a grain of sand was created and the original destroyed. We would clearly understand the new grain of sand as a copy. Life, as is, is just a pattern of organized matter, as much as a grain of sand is a different pattern of organized matter. The new me would clearly be a copy. And it would know it if the snapshot prior to the transport was taken with me aware of it.

    Now, it would be cultural, religious and other social constraints that would regulate how I would perceive this form of transport to be. In the Startrek universe, this type of transport is a cultural and religious given. The science behind it is ignored as is the fact I'm not the same entity at the atomic level. For all purposes, and because they need to be practical, because an exact duplicate has become scientifically possible, the copy is me.
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    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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    I highly recommend the movie "The Prestige", which deals with this very theme.

    *SPOILER BELOW*
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    Basically, a stage magician pays Volta(who discovered electricity) to make a machine that can transport himself from one part of the stage to another part 50m away in the blink of an eye, much to the amazement of the audience. However, the machine actually replicates him(he thought it was supposed to transport him), and he ends up getting killed by his newly created self.

    So the new self now knows what to expect now, and uses the machine repeatedly to perform the trick, but kills every new duplicate(or rather he puts giant water tanks under the stage, so that the new duplicate drops in after being created, and drowns).

    This movie is awesome.
    Last edited by cfanatic; 07-20-2013 at 03:57 AM.
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    (Apologies for the long wall of text. I just found the topic very interesting. The following is only my own understanding of the issues, and might very well be completely wrong.)

    Quote Originally Posted by megafiddle View Post
    You would be scanned somehow so that every atomic detail of yourself could be be recorded. Then that information is transmitted to the destination, and a duplicate of you is reconstructed.
    Unfortunately, everything we currently know about how things work at the atomic and sub-atomic level -- mainly quantum mechanics -- indicates that you can only transmit all details only if you also "destroy" the original. Even worse, there is no way to simultaneously measure all details.

    (Transmission of atomic properties to another atom, and recording atomic properties, are two completely different things. Also, by "destroy", I don't mean annihilation or anything like that, just that the state of the original is perturbed in a way that you cannot tell what the original state was.)

    Transmission of all atomic properties relies on quantum entanglement, and has already been done in experiments for photons, and for individual atoms. (So, this is not just some fancy theory, it is something we can test in real life.)

    Measuring all atomic properties simultaneously is impossible according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Basically, if you wish to measure say position exactly, you cannot measure momentum at all; if you wish to measure momentum exactly, you cannot measure position at all; and if you measure both, there is an amount of uncertainty in the results -- i.e. they are not exact.

    There are many well-known experiments that "prove" the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. (I put "prove" in quotes, because each experiment only proves it within the setting of that experiment, not that the principle is universally true.) We have not found a single case where the uncertainty principle fails with relation to quantum phenomena. (Actually, thus far it appears to apply everywhere, it's just that in larger scales the uncertainty is too small to measure.)

    However, humans -- or any living animals -- are not static collections of atoms in fixed states. Studies at Oak Ridge Atomic Research Center indicates almost all (98%) atoms in a human body gets replaced every year. Our environment contains ionizing radiation, which randomly modifies atoms within our tissues all the time. We are robust: we can definitely handle a significant amount of sudden changes in the atoms that comprise our bodies. We already know (from the Chernobyl firemen, for example) that even a radiation dose that kills your body, does not change your sense of self or identity. In other words, our "self" seems to be even more robust than our bodies are.

    So, we can pretty safely assume that a transporter or duplicator does not need to be perfect to work.

    However, for the same reasons, we can assume that even if a transporter or duplicator is not perfect, *we* are still robust enough to feel or experience perfect continuity, perfectly retaining our sense of "self" -- even if a significant amount of the information comprising our bodies and minds was altered suddenly.

    Quote Originally Posted by megafiddle View Post
    What would you experience?
    A living animal could not survive a dynamic deconstruction-reconstruction sequence, because parts of the animal would interact with missing parts, causing all sorts of destructive changes and errors. Thus, the transporter or duplicator would have to be imperceptible: either instantaneous or too fast for the transportee/duplicee to perceive.

    From the aforementioned radiation cases, we know that sudden changes inside our bodies causes nausea. Apparently, strong magnetic and electric fields cause vision distortion. Other "damage" due to the imperfect duplication/transport would probably be similar to getting banged on the head. (Because the damage would probably be very similar.)

    Thus, we can pretty much assume that if the transport/duplication was good enough, you wouldn't feel a thing. (Or you'd feel only psychosomatic effects, feeling stuff because you think you feel the stuff.)

    If the transport/duplication was only good enough to keep you alive, you'd probably be nauseous and feel beaten up. Very likely you'd get a migraine-type headache, tinnitus (ringing ears), and so on. Something between a hard dose of radiation, and a car crash, I bet.

    Quote Originally Posted by megafiddle View Post
    Are you in two places at once? Which one is 'you'?
    No, there are then two of me. Both are 'me', individually.

    Observing identical twins (especially their development as children) shows that there are some interesting effects. In babies, language development is retarded, because the siblings seem to be able to use their rudimentary babble for some of their communication with each other.

    If that is true and is applicable to adults, then it is possible that the two 'me's would have a near-telepathic connection -- just because their experiences and internal states up to that point are identical; they'd likely have very similar reactions to events around them. This connection would probably weaken as time goes by, as each 'me' experiences different events (or at least from a different viewpoint).

    The experiences of identical twins separated at birth but reunited at adults does indicate the siblings feel connected. Assuming this is because of the similarities in their brain structures, the two 'me's would feel even more connected than twins. It is possible that they might develop a shared identity -- like some twins --, since they would be much more similar to each other than any adult twins (even more similar than 'you' now and 'you' a year ago), this shared identity might be strong enough to affect the sense of 'self'.

    It might be possible to do a real experiment, to try and make a better guess what the experience would be like, via altered states: for example hypnosis. Hypnotize a pair of identical twins (volunteers!), and suggest that they share a single personality; that they have only one "mind" split between two bodies. Then, run a battery of cognitive and personality tests, and see if the results differ from prior to the experiment.
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    I would probably dismiss atomic properties. I'd posit that it would have no effect on this type of transportation. What we would need was only our molecule signature and arrangement. Because in nature every molecule is an exact copy of another molecule of the same type. We wouldn't need to go further below than this barrier. At the time of the show it sounded cool, but do we really need to develop Heisenberg Compensators?

    In nature every molecule is an exact copy of another molecule of the same type. In order to construct a functional living image of a human being, I don't think we would need an image of that being at the quantum level. This would also have the advantage of greatly reducing the huge amount of data that needed to be stored.
    Last edited by Mario F.; 07-20-2013 at 08:53 AM.
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    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mario F. View Post
    I would probably dismiss atomic properties.
    For most of the body, I fully agree. For the central nervous system, or at least the brain, I disagree.

    The activity within the brain is both chemical and electrical. As far as I understand, even the chemical reactions involve quantum phenomena (in particular, quantum tunneling); and we don't yet know whether the electric and magnetic fields generated by the brain are simply a side effect (I doubt that), or whether it is actually one of the ways spatially separated neuron clusters interact with each other. To me, this means that only looking at it at the molecular level might be too coarse to keep enough information; that the loss of detail in transcription might actually be fatal.

    Another very problematic thing is that it looks like much of the "data" in a human brain is "stored" in the interactions, not in the chemical or molecular structures. This means that if you "quiet" an entire brain, it may die, or suffer catastrophic changes -- similar to patients waking from a long coma. (Based on coma and brain trauma patients, long-term memory seems to be "stored" in the structures; probably not as "bits", but distributed over clusters of neurons, similar to holography.)

    The solution that comes to my mind, is to somehow induce a quiescent, somnolent state, perhaps something close to a coma, prior to transmission or duplication. In that case, there shouldn't be that much activity in the brain, and the effects of only approximating the activity should not cause any great harm to the transferree/duplicee.

    Of course, then the 'me' or 'me's transferred/duplicated would only wake up, and not be conscious during the event itself.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mario F. View Post
    In order to construct a functional living image of a human being, I don't think we would need an image of that being at the quantum level.
    I agree. There's a lot of redundancy -- just think of how many almost-identical copies of DNA you have in your body, or how little similar cells differ from each other.

    But, I think that some parts, like the brain, would probably require some sort of activity mapping in addition to the molecular structure. (Perhaps approximate mapping of excited atomic states? These are very, very short-lived, but do affect the electric and magnetic fields; perhaps excitation mapping of molecules participating in neuron-neuron interactions would be enough? Doing anything of this sort does require quantum mechanics, though, as the excitation states are usually just single electrons here or there.)

    (Funnily enough, like I said earlier, transmission is a different thing to recording. I suspect it turns out that transmitting any animal, person, or complex object, is easier than duplicating it, just because the transmission does not actually "record" the information; it just passes the information from one set of atoms to another set of same atoms in another location. The ways the information is passed in current experiments does not allow examining the transferred information: that would break the entanglement, and the entanglement is what allows the exact transfer in the first place.
    On the other hand, to reproduce a reasonable faxsimile, a lot less information is required than one would think. Most of it can be approximated, or even derived from DNA or other templates, and the rest can be easily compressed.)




    We might someday develop a sensor system based on SQUIDs, that map the activity patterns in our brain over time. (This avoids the limitation posed by both the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and the observer effect.) Instead of recording an instant state perfectly, we would be recording the typical patterns instead. If the neuron connections or some approximation of molecular patterns were stored too, then this should also include all memories. (Such devices are also common in Science Fiction literature: personality-preserving augmentations.)

    If you were to grow a new brain, and somehow manipulate it into those recorded patterns, would that brain feel continuity to the original person?

    Based on the reasons in this and my previous post, I believe it would. You can argue that it cannot be the same person anymore, as a lot of it would differ from the original, but I believe the brain itself would still *feel* continuity.

    (Consider the human sleep cycle. Our brains do a lot of stuff while we sleep; so much so that depriving a person from REM sleep is very destructive (fatal, or causes disastrous mental issues). In many ways you could just as well argue that we're not the same person when we wake up, as we were when we fell asleep. And yet, we most definitely do feel a continuity.)


    If you were offered a possibility to say visit another life-supporting planet, or live indefinitely, by having your brain (and body) destructively mapped and then recreated elsewhere or in the future, would you accept? Let's assume the technology is perfectly reliable, and as a side effect, the new body would be in perfect health.

    What if your family member made that choice, would you feel the recreated person is still the same, knowing the procedure it has undergone?

    Would it be easier to deal with this kind of technology, if you didn't know how it worked?

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    Atomic radius - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Bond length - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Do you need absolute atomic accuracy, or just "close enough" to reliably re-establish the molecular bonds?
    Is this close enough to not have to worry about Heisenberg Uncertainty?

    Composition of the human body - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Since everyone is >50% water to begin with, and all have the same basic body chemistry, everyone's DNA has the same letters (guanine, adenine, thymine, and cytosine), can the problem be reduced to knowing the position and orientation of known composition?

    Further, could it make changes to the data stream on the fly?
    Like say for example stripping out the replication of known pathogens?
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    Quote Originally Posted by cfanatic View Post
    I highly recommend the movie "The Prestige", which deals with this very theme.
    The Prestige is good, but I think 6th Day covers this better.

    Quote Originally Posted by megafiddle View Post
    If the reconstuction is succesful, the original is destroyed.
    That is indeed how it works. Which reminds me of a peeve I've had with Star Trek...
    How often are away teams teleported somewhere just to have one of the team killed? Often.
    If they would just keep the most recent copy of people in the teleporters' memory, they could resurrect people having only 'lost' minutes of their life.
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    How often are away teams teleported somewhere just to have one of the team killed? Often.
    If they would just keep the most recent copy of people in the teleporters' memory, they could resurrect people having only 'lost' minutes of their life.
    Maybe there was still an ethical quandary about desecrating the lifeless body they beamed aboard.

    Speaking as a movie critic, if you revived a character after convincing the audience that they died, you ruined any emotional impact that moment could have had.

    It never really bothered me though, in TNG, they used the pattern buffer to reverse aging, kill alien microbes, and stuff like that all the time, so it seemed to get a lot of creative use.

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    A lot of good points and questions about exactly how much detail or accuracy is needed to preserve
    conscious identity and continuity.

    It seems that it wouldn't need to be perfect, when you consider the various things that we seem to return
    from intact: sleeping, anesthesia, drug experiences, etc. We wake up in the morning with a slightly different
    brain (and body) than we went to sleep with.

    Also, if it isn't possible to transport something without destroying the original in the process, then we could
    modify the experiment to creating two duplicates, like the two Rikers in The Next Generation.

    I think it is easy to imagine and understand if we look at things immediately after the transportation. Each
    has a memory and history, and they are identical memories and histories at that point. From each one's
    point of view, each is the original. The continuity is intact for each tracing backward.

    What I can't imagine is what happens, ie, what does the original person experience, through the process
    of branching off into two separate conscious identities.
    Just seems to be something paradoxical about it.

    Thanks for the information about the movies and TNG.
    I saw the episode with the two Rikers, but not "The Prestige" and "6th Day".
    I am slowly catching up on movies I missed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by whiteflags View Post
    I think they would both be me. Now, I can only explain this as if we ignored the experiment and focused on how things really are right now. My consciousness, my sense of self, I really don't know what would happen to that. I believe that both versions would go on to have different experiences, but I think I would only be able to perceive one version of me, and I don't know which experiences I would personally want. Maybe I will be the new me on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Saturdays, and the old me Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
    That sounds something like what I am wondering about:
    What happens to the original 'me'? My identity?
    Which branch does it take? Both? Neither? Is it lost?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mario F. View Post
    Because we are talking at the atomic level (and subatomic, since you did say "every atomic detail"), we already know the answer to that. I'd wager.

    What would happen if instead of a human, we were to transport a grain of sand? We'll, we would say a copy of a grain of sand was created and the original destroyed. We would clearly understand the new grain of sand as a copy. Life, as is, is just a pattern of organized matter, as much as a grain of sand is a different pattern of organized matter. The new me would clearly be a copy. And it would know it if the snapshot prior to the transport was taken with me aware of it.

    Now, it would be cultural, religious and other social constraints that would regulate how I would perceive this form of transport to be. In the Startrek universe, this type of transport is a cultural and religious given. The science behind it is ignored as is the fact I'm not the same entity at the atomic level. For all purposes, and because they need to be practical, because an exact duplicate has become scientifically possible, the copy is me.
    Assuming the accuracy and detail were sufficient, would the copy be indistinguishable from the original?
    If you didn't know you were being transported, would you still somehow be able to detect you were a copy,
    or would you think you simply slept through a long journey?

    I am assuming that the transport of consciousness works perfectly. The question is what happens when
    it's transported to a copy and the original is left intact, or transported to two copies.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nominal Animal View Post
    For most of the body, I fully agree. For the central nervous system, or at least the brain, I disagree.

    The activity within the brain is both chemical and electrical. As far as I understand, even the chemical reactions involve quantum phenomena (in particular, quantum tunneling); and we don't yet know whether the electric and magnetic fields generated by the brain are simply a side effect (I doubt that), or whether it is actually one of the ways spatially separated neuron clusters interact with each other. To me, this means that only looking at it at the molecular level might be too coarse to keep enough information; that the loss of detail in transcription might actually be fatal.

    Another very problematic thing is that it looks like much of the "data" in a human brain is "stored" in the interactions, not in the chemical or molecular structures. This means that if you "quiet" an entire brain, it may die, or suffer catastrophic changes -- similar to patients waking from a long coma. (Based on coma and brain trauma patients, long-term memory seems to be "stored" in the structures; probably not as "bits", but distributed over clusters of neurons, similar to holography.)
    Could a computer be used as an analogy?
    Where it wouldn't be enough to build an identical computer; you would also have to load in the state of all
    the memory locations, all the cpu registers, all the hardware registers, the contents of the hard drive, etc.
    For the copy computer to behave exactly like the original, it would have to carry on with it's next instruction
    just as the original would have.

    But duplicating the current structure and state should be enough for the computer example.
    Wouldn't that be true for neurons?
    Doesn't their current state dictate their next state?
    Last edited by megafiddle; 07-20-2013 at 09:41 PM.

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    Registered User whiteflags's Avatar
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    That sounds something like what I am wondering about:
    What happens to the original 'me'? My identity?
    Which branch does it take? Both? Neither? Is it lost?
    Well I'm assuming that, whatever can happen, I make the decision.
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