There was part of the Gene Wolfe interview I wanted to break out into a separate post.
I know you thought Algis Budrys a tremendous writer.
A. J. was a friend. I admired _Who_  enormously. The plot of _Rogue Moon _ is striking: Budrys tells us that if you destroyed a man here and reconstituted him somewhere else, you’re fooling yourself if you think that the reconstituted man is the same as the original man. The man who goes into the matter transmitter is going to go dark; he’s going to die. You can create a new man with the memories of the dead man; but that doesn’t mean that the dead man is still alive. The dead man is dead.
A copied man turns up in _The Fifth Head of Cerberus_: a robotic simulation of the narrator’s great-grandfather. Mr. Million says, helplessly: “He—I—am dead.”
This describes perfectly some thoughts I had after becoming Catholic and thinking about the Star Trek transporter. Sure they had many plots where something went wrong with the transporter, but really everytime it was used something went horribly wrong. Now I know the idea of the transporter came about in the show as a way to save money regarding expensive set and model building for landings.
The the materialist the idea of the transformer involving dematerialization and subsequent rematerialization makes sense. If we are just material beings than copying our bodies down to the cellular level, converting it to data, destroying the source, transmitting the data, and then making a new copy based on the data raises no hackles.
From the Catholic point of view (and tongue-in-cheek) the transporter is a device of horror. Not only did the red shirts often die, but the so did those wearing green, gold, and blue shirts! Really during the series Kirk, Spock, and McCoy and the rest of them are killed hundreds of times and their copies go on. And they thought the Bearded Spock universe was evil? Really viewing Star Trek this way is quite scary, “Oh no they killed them all again”.
As St. Thomas Aquinas and the Church would attest the soul is the form of the body. Something that can’t be encoded into data, transmitted, and reconstituted.
In literature we sometimes find plots involving teleportation from the magical to the SF story. Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Disintegration Machine is an early example, but more famously is the short story The Fly by George Langelaan. Still my favorite of the genre is Jumper by Steven Gould where teleportation was an innate ability (skip the horrible movie of the same name, but there the sameness ends).
You did hear from time to time the idea of dematerialization/rematerialization seriously bandied about where it is only a matter of time until such a process can happen. I would like to see a story involving such a endeavor where no matter the preciseness of the data copying the rematerialized subject is always dead whether it is vegetable, animal etc. See again St. Thomas Aquinas on the vegetable soul, the sensitive soul, and the rational soul. The plot would involve the struggles of the materialist scientists in coming to grip with the possibility there is a soul.
In the mean time I think I will watch an episode of Star Trek and scream every time the transporter is used.
Imagine a transporter (maybe not exactly like the one from Star trek) that “dismantles” the person into minute particles, a particle cloud if you like, but does not dematerialize them. This particle cloud continues to maintain the human soul in some (SF) way and the cloud is transmitted like light or photons, and reassembled at the other end. No actual dematerialization takes place and the “form” or soul remains with the material body (even when in cloud form) throughout the whole process… St Thomas would probably not agree.
You probably already know this, but Larry Niven does a good treatment of this topic in an essay “Exercise in Speculation: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation” which is in the collection “All the Myriad Ways.”
I’d point out that in Jumper the characters were not de-materializing and re-materializing but instead opening a window between places. No death necessary!
Technical quibbling aside (though only to highlight my own enjoyment of Gould’s writing!), I had similar thoughts with Joss Whedon’s ‘Dollhouse’ series. The separation of mind and body (with little meaningful mention of the soul) made me wonder about the same kind of thing: didn’t everyone who had been made a ‘doll’ basically die and then just have their memories implanted in another person (or bunches of people)?
Thanks for the post!
Coincidentally enough, I just finished reading an old Star Trek novel entitled Spock Must Die! by James Blish in which McCoy and Scotty argue over this very thing. Bones took the Catholic view (not identified as such) while Scotty was non-committal. The book leaves the question hanging.
((( In literature we sometimes find plots involving teleportation from the magical to the SF story )))
Jeff! Is that your heart beating or mine and………………and………………….and………..
BE NICE! DON’T BE LIKE THAT sinner vic!
ORA PRO NOBIS (usual sinners) >LOL 😉
God Bless Peace
There was a story in Infinite Space Infinite God that dealt with the issue, too. The concept of such forms of teleportation is a really creepy thought.
There’s also a physics problem with the transporter. Converting your typical 70 kg Human-Vulcan science officer into energy, according to wolframalpha.com, generates 6.291 * 10^18 Joules or about the equivalent of 1500 megatons of TNT. If someone were beaming up from San Francisco, I don’t know that I’d want to be any closer to them than Kansas City.
Star Trek has struggled, at least a little bit, with this problem in a few episodes. Kirk was split in to good and evil versions in “Enemy Within,” Riker was cloned in “Second Chances,” and Tuvok and Neelix were combined into a much less annoying character in “Tuvix” before he was brutally murdered by the transporter.
Once long ago I read a SF short story that has stayed in my mind for 40 years. In it, Earth had a very mobile society, using a “transporter” in which you would lie down, be scanned, and appear at the other end. The hook was that the operators of the technology kept having mental breakdowns. One brave soul finally made the population aware of the problem: The “scanner” actually scanned the person and electronically transmitted the person’s information to the other end, where he was rematerialized, as advertised. However then the original was disposed of. The operators rightly knew they were killing individuals. At long last one of the techs did NOT dispose of the original, who happened to be a prominent politician. At the end of the story, the politician was woken up and viewed “himself” making speeches at the destination. The best and most memorable fiction are those that pose a problem for the reader to solve. Anybody know the name of the story? I’ve long forgotten the name.
Probably the best movie I’ve seen that realizes this issue is Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. His Transported Man Illusion is provocative and creepy.