I wanted to conclude my series on Teleportation before moving on to discussions of Identity, since the Identity problem (am I the same entity before and after the teleport?) is most strongly felt in this method – it is the method that is “most classical” and hence easiest of which to grok the consequences.

3. Teletransport (a la Star Trek)

All humans (and in fact, all stuff) are comprised of smaller bits of stuff, and that stuff is arranged in a particular way (we’ll call that information).  It makes sense, therefore, that if you want to move from point A to point B quickly, you just need to move the stuff and the information – no need to transport the full human.  Classical teletransportation involves either the decomposition of a human into a stream of particles (along with the information needed to recreate the human at the other side), or the transmission of just the information (not the particles).  In the former case, the receiving station uses the particle stream to regenerate the human.  In the latter, the receiving station generates a new “version” of the human by using some matter bucket at the destination.  We’ll call these methods Stream and Bucket, respectively.

Star Trek has historically drawn a fuzzy line between the two, but you’ll note that most transports from ship to surface don’t have a receiving station.  This implies something else is going on – the bundle of particles and/or information actually has some programming attached to it capable of reconstructing a human at the destination.  This seems crazy to me, just thinking about how complicated a human is… even if you sent a bunch of nanobots along in the stream, how could they possibly reconstruct the human in no time at all?

The Bucket method is the one most ripe for Identity criticism, since you literally destroy the human at the transmitter and construct a new one at the destination.  Depending on what you believe constitutes “you,” this may or may not be grounds for calling it death.  Also worrying in the Bucket method is the fact that if there’s some malfunction and the origin human isn’t destroyed, we’ve now cloned you!  I much prefer thinking about the QT version of Teleportation since it sidesteps this “accidental cloning” problem due to the destructive nature of measurement at the quantum level.

One thing that thinking about all these methods of teleporation have convinced me of, however, is the relative unlikelihood of “freecasting” or “Jaunting” (to borrow terms from Hyperion and The Stars My Destination, excellent science fiction works that deal with teleportation) – that is, not requiring a station origin or destination… being able to teleport from wherever to wherever.  The complexity of the process – “reading” the information content of a person, deconstructing them, packaging them for transport, reconstructing them – just seems too high to do outside of a controlled (laboratory-esque) setting.