Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2004
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 1A


Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber


The Teletransporter

Until now, you have lived your life with various assumptions in mind. Some of these assumptions are more, some less obvious and some may even be false. For example, the person who applied to the Brandeis and was accepted is reading this page right now. You assume that the person who is reading this page right now is one and the same person who applied to and was accepted by Brandeis University. In this respect you are not so different from the rest of us.

Each of us assumes that we are who we are through various changes over time. In some sense, perhaps, the person who enrolled in the PHIL S-7: Introduction to Philosophy class is not the same person who goes on to do the work and completes the course. Once you complete the course you are a person who has had Intro to Philosophy and when you enrolled you were someone who had not yet had it. Still you assume that it is you who have gone through these changes. You have, for example, not become your sister.

Put simply, you see yourself as a being that persists. What accounts for this persistence, for your persistence over time and through various changes, is the philosophical problem of personal identity.

The question facing the California Supreme Court in Julia's case was one of having to answer whether it was Julia or Mary who survived the operation performed by Dr. Matthews. As you know from that case, more than ten years have passed since Dr. Matthews performed the operation on Julia.

We are now living in the 21st century. Other techniques have been developed that test our considered judgments about personal identity. Indeed in some respects those "early" experiments by Dr. Matthews have become "old hat." There is now, for instance, an especially brilliant doctor - perhaps you have heard of him - by the name of Wiggins. Dr. Wiggins has been working in the area of telekinesis and he has built a device called a Teletransporter.

Since September 11th a company has been formed with a three billion dollar investment of venture capital to manufacture Teletransporters and install them in every major city in the United States, although the company sees a world-wide demand for its product and plans to enter the global market some time in 2004. Teletransporters already exist, as you may know, in ten major cities in the United States and have been "in service" for a little more than seventeen months.

At the request of Dr. Wiggins, the company has also donated one of its machines to Brandeis University (see The Justice, January 20, 2002) where it has been in use for a little over two years now. The Brandeis Teletransporter is in the basement of the Rabb Graduate Center in the Graybiel Labs. You can, if you wish visit the Center and check it ouit. Ask for Professor Robert Sekuler or James Lackner. They will be happy to give you a tour. But if you have friends on campus who have used it or if you read the story in The Brandeis Justice, you know all this already.

For those of you who have not heard about this device or taken advantage of its services, here is how it works. The Teletransporter in the Graybiel Labs in the basement of Rabb looks at first glance very much like a phone booth or one of those sound proof booths that you sometimes see on game shows on television where a contestant is placed so he or she cannot hear what is happening in the studio. This booth or "cubicle," as Dr Wiggins described it in one of his early papers on the subject, has a series of panels that line its inner walls. These panels are extraordinarily sophisticated scanners that record the "exact state" of a user's cells and can then transmit this information over laser optic cable to a Replicator in one of the ten major cities that are currently online, i.e., a part of the teletransportation system network. A Replicator is essentially a Teletransporter on the receiving end of the information sent to it and it (the Replicator) then creates out of new matter a brain and body exactly like the original user's. With recent adjustments to the system it takes no more than three minutes to "travel" by this method from the basement of Rabb to any West Coast city, currently the furthest point in the teletransportation network from Brandeis. At present there are Transporters/Replicators in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, New York, St. Louis, Houston and Washington, D. C. The trip to downtown Boston takes less than twenty seconds, as many Brandeis students will attest. Marc Braunstein, who is enrolled in PHIL 1A was overheard to say as he stepped out of the Replicator in downtown Boston last Thursday night: "It beats the bus."

If you have not made use of the device or have not read much about it, a few further facts about its operation are perhaps worthy of mention. (1) To "travel" by this method, you must make sure the door is securely closed after you enter the cubicle. Otherwise the Teletransporter will not operate. A highly trained professional will ascertain, however, that the door is securely fastened once you have entered the chamber. (2) To activate the Teletransporter you need to push a "green" button, which is just to the left of the door on the cubicle wall. (3) After you press the button, you will momentarily lose consciousness and you will be without consciousness for the duration of the time it takes to "travel" to your chosen destination; so twenty seconds if you are traveling to downtown Boston; three minutes if you are traveling to Los Angeles. (4) The Scanner or Scanning system destroys your brain and your body while recording the "exact state" of all your cells, sending this information and re-creating out of new matter a brain and body exactly like yours. It is with this brain and in this body that you wake up, i.e., regain consciousness, on the "other" end, whether that be downtown Boston or LA or any of the other cities on the network.

You can perhaps see now why a company has received such a huge injection of venture capital and why it is rushing to bring Teletransporters to market given the current international climate. Teletransportation performs an "end run" around security checks at airports as well as traffic jams on roadways to and from every major urban center. Several executives who live in Concord, and Sudbury, Massachusetts have made special arrangements with the university to use the Teletransporter in Rabb to travel in and out of Boston in the morning and late afternoon, "just to avoid," as one executive from Gillette put it, "the commute." In exchange for the privilege, these executives have agreed to share their medical information with the research and development team for Teletransport America, Inc.

So, imagine the following, although, of course, if you have traveled by this method, you will have to do less imagining than others will have to do. Imagine that you need to go to the West Coast for a weekend. You have been to the West Coast before, but only by the "old method." You drove across country once and have "flown" several times. The drive took three and half days and you did not get much sleep and the plane trips have taken as much as nine hours, when you take into account lay-overs and ground transportation and all those "security" checks.

If you use the Teletransporter in the basement of Rabb, you can get to San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Seattle in "no time," compared to the "old method." Imagine, too, that someone you know at Brandeis has used the "new" method any number of times since it was first installed in the concrete bunker of Graybiel Labs. Imagine that he or she has relatives in Miami and has "teletransported" (the verb form of "teletransportation," recently accepted by the American Heritage Dictionary) and he or she seems fine. Your friend has "traveled" three times by this method in April of this year and received "A's" on all his or her exams at the end of the semester. Indeed you have had many occasions to observe your friend's behavior before and after teletransporting and your friend seems no different now than your friend was, say, two years ago.

If you still have any doubts about the method, you might wish to engage in the following study. Rumor has it that several members of the Boston Rted Sox as well as several members of the New York Yankees used Teletransportation to get back and forth between New York and Boston during the playoffs this year. If you watched the playoffs and looked closely at the players on the field, did you detect any difference in their style of play and, honestly, could you "tell" which ones had traveled via the "old method," i.e., by air, and which ones had used the new "teletransportation" method? Derek Lowe, perhaps or Kevin Brown?

So would you travel to the West Coast by this method? If not, why not?


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