Extending upon my prior question, could-a-viable-interstellar-civilization-form-with-this-technology.

From what I've read there's two basic ideas which describe how teleportation might work:

  1. Destroy the original, only the teleported copy remains
  2. Keep the original and the teleported copy

The second basically means that if you hop into the teleportation booth for a trip to that vacation planet, "you" only have a 50% chance of being the copy that gets there. The other 50% of the time, you're the original that didn't get to go.

For the return trip, 50% of the time you're the copy that stays behind at the vacation planet (with no more money). But the copy that does get back discovers the original is still there (perhaps 20-30 years older) and in your job!

I suppose this could be an interesting way of preserving truly unique intellects for future generations.

How would society deal with a teleport technology that duplicated a person every time they used it?


  • What sort of laws regarding voting/representation in government might arise?

Bonus points for answering other questions:

  • What sort of property laws might need to arise to cover this situation?
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ I have a short story with this basic premise, where an out of work engineer signs up as a colonist on a distant planet. He gets paid here on Earth, then steps into a cloning teleporter to send a copy of himself to the dangerous and barren new world. Dreaming about the Hawaiian vacation he going on with the new found money, he closes his eyes as the teleporter turns on. Opening his eyes, he finds that he is the clone and that the hard life that he casually prescribed for his copy, is now his to live and suffer through. Haven't thought about that old draft for years. I'll have to dig it up. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 16:09
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @JAB, ...irrelevant, except to the independent consciousness that resides within each body. In my story, the original had obligated the copy to a hard potentially very short life. It was callous and cruel thing for the original to do to another (albeit extremely similar) person. The trick of my story is that I treat each individual separately, each owning their shared memories of the moment before teleportation. So in a very real way, the POV character, who ultimately becomes an unwilling colonist, did it to himself. He is simultaneously the victim and the perpetrator. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 17:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @HenryTaylor That's an interesting way to examine the problem; I like it. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 18:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Worth noting, this is actually the root of a major series of philosophical thought experiments questioning our understand of what our "self" actually is. What does it really mean to "clone" someone. To give an example, one school of thought is that the "clone" operation creates a larger "self" across the two bodies, which typically differentiates due to different stimuli into what we would consider to be two "selves" which are "clones." Tracking what happens to "consciousness" in such scenarios is not easy, especially if you believe consciousness resides in the body. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 18:56
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Other implications are teleporter fraud, where the service is advertised as 1, but is actually 2 and the illegitimate original is kept for nefarious purposes (probably slavery, as @King-Ink mentioned), piracy (reading the signal without interrupting it, to make a discreet duplicate), and conflict between original and conflict between originals and clones leading to a new kind of discrimination. $\endgroup$
    – sh1
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 19:35

10 Answers 10


What sort of laws regarding voting/representation in government might arise?

When you can get more votes just by cloning your voters, I can see there would be a need to limit it to one vote per person, no matter how many instances there are.
Since all the clones would have the exact same DNA, probably limiting it to one vote per unique DNA string.

I can see this going all the way to the Supreme Court as a "are we discriminating against and disinfranchising clones, or are we preventing wide scale voter fraud" question.

What sort of property laws might need to arise to cover this situation?

This might be a non issue, or could be very tricky.
If travel is off planet to far far away only, then it's a non issue.
Me that goes would set up a new life and would have no reason to send a copy back unless me that stayed died. Which is a really interesting idea when communication and travel time might take a few years to a few decades between star systems. Guy walks into a bar, an old friend says "hey, I heard you were dead." "I heard that too. I came back to pay my respects."
Then it's just a question of if he left something in his will for himself.

If local travel is allowed, it gets really messy really fast.
They are exact genetic and mental duplicates when they are created, with no possible way to distinguish between them. Forget voting, forget property (which will be bad enough), think about relationships...
Man kisses his wife, steps into the teleporter to go to work. How many husbands does the wife have now?

I can see it being a controlled technology that is strictly for off world use only.*
In some places I can even see if someone uses it to make a local clone, that both are hunted down, and then one is shot, determined by a coin toss.

Other laws that might need to be looked at
Man robs a bank. He jumps into a teleporter, and the cops catch up with the original.
Which one goes to prison? The original? The one that got away with the money? Both? If both, is that double jeopardy?
This one applies to both local and inter planetary travel.

Guy takes out a life insurance policy. He is then hit by a bus.
He has a local clone, does the life insurance pay out?
He has a clone on a colony world around Barnard's Star, does it pay out now?

* It could be used for local stuff, but not for people.
Food: a single cow is raised humanely and organically without any hormones or anything like that. At the right time it's copied, and the clone is killed humanely while the original is let out to pasture. Then the dead clone is copied 10000 times for food.
A single basket of organically grown vegetables is grown organically, and copied until everyone has enough.
Ore and minerals, finished goods... Anything that anyone could want can be copied until there is no more want.

If the patterns can be stored, I can see it being used as a Star Trek style replicator strictly for small scale things.

I've also been picturing some narcissistic megalomaniac getting a hold of it and starting The Republic of Gary. Unfortunately, due to the fact that he really couldn't stand the idea of anyone having a higher rank than him, The Republic of Gary is the site of the first 318 sided civil war. There were no survivors.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Question: If a man robs a bank and jumps into a teleporter what happens to the money? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 16:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Draco18s Well, the question doesn't mention anything happening to a person's clothes, so if non living tissue can be cloned, then the money would be cloned too. I guess this is a way that you could charge both copies without double jeopardy; Charge the first with bank robbery, and the clone with forgery. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ The answer for the crime is clear; any and every clone that was created after the point of the crime (i.e. any clone that committed the crime) should be dealt with in the same legal manner. Each is equally in need of rehabilitation (although that's not really what the justice system is for). $\endgroup$
    – Samthere
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ Also there's presumably a cost for the cloning; at least the resources and energy, so cloning to replicate general matter (the cow) is unlikely to be viable. Cloning to replicate skills, knowledge and personality is much more likely. $\endgroup$
    – Samthere
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Samthere I agree with you about the crime, though that's the kind of question that lawyers would love to be paid to argue about for hours until a precedent is set. Since we don't know the cost of teleporting/cloning, whether it's just energy, or if you need some matter feedstock at the other end, it still might be worth it. For instance, say it takes just energy, and you have a large supply of renewable energy near by, then it's essentially free meat. If it takes matter, then turning rocks into beef isn't a bad trade, since we can't eat rocks. Without more info it might be viable. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 13:41

In this case you really are not 'teleporting' you are duplicating yourself and 'branching' out. There is would be no reason for you to 'come back' if you where already there.

So instead of thinking of it like a teleporter, you need to think of it like this. :) enter image description here

Since YOU really are not traveling there but a copy of your consciousness up to that point in time you aren't 'going' anywhere. Once a copy of you is somewhere else, it will immediately start to diverge from the original, since our experiences make us who we are and what you and your clone experience will have diverged.

Most often this is handled by 'killing' the original and the 'copy' continues as if nothing has happened. But here we are talking about creating a whole new independent being every time the 'teleporter' is used.

So what would be most likely is rules dictating when someone can teleport/be cloned. There isn't a big deal if in general there is no reason to come back AND the other place needs the expertise (doctors, engineers, lawyers etc.) from the person/people traveling. I would expect that in general most 'trips' would be one way, and someone wouldn't go 'twice' unless the first copy died. Maybe in a terrible accident. (Keep sending copies to fill replacements!) This might make fearing death a little less, if you know 'you' are still living somewhere.

Further thoughts: Since this is really a duplicator and not a transporter, we could take 'snapshots' of our selves and be able to be 'brought back' at any time, even from the 'dead'. With a technology that allows us to record our memories, we could have ourselves 'recreated' and 'view' our memories after we die and sort of live forever.

The other issue, is that you would need to prepare yourself for where you find yourself when you open your eyes. You close your eyes, knowing you are staying put, but with an exact duplicate, BOTH of you will be thinking the same thing until you open your eyes. Imagine thinking your going to go help your kids with their homework after the 'transporter' thing and then discover YOU are on a different planet and will never see your kids again. People would need to be taught about their mental state when they are being duplicated so as to not cause their twin to have a mental breakdown.

  • $\begingroup$ Well World pops up again: there was a race in the...fifth? book that reproduced via cloning (Chalker frequently explored alien sex life). They were ents of a sort and virtually immortal (as their brains were in their "feet" and as long as one brain survived they could regrow) but they would occasionally split in two perfectly identical copies. It was handled by intervention whereby one would be diverged to one task and the other to another. After a few months the clones would have had enough variance in experiences to be different people. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Draco18s yes, I read that one. I like his stories. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ I never finished the last two (book 6/7?). The ones that opened with "I always wanted to write more Well World but didn't have good ideas, then someone paid me a huge pile of money, so here goes." $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Draco18s I have the first 5, but have only read #1 so far. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, well, the first five are the good ones. ;) But yeah, book six literally opens with a forward that says, "I was paid a huge sum of money to write more." I just don't remember if I finished 6 and left off somewhere in 7, or if I didn't finish 6 at all. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 16:13

On the uses of Teleport Cloning

You say tomato, I say GLOBAL DOMINATION!

We shall take only the greatest minds, the finest soldiers, the most faithful servants. We shall multiply them a thousandfold and release them to usher in a new era of glory.

-Col Corazon Santiago, "The Council of War"

But then I've always been more bloody minded.

  • $\begingroup$ One problem is, how much energy does it use? If it uses a lot of energy then this scheme cannot work easily. Otherwise, if you can clone energy, you don't even have to clone humans to achieve global domination. $\endgroup$
    – user23013
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 11:04

The first thing that you need to realize with this kind of teleportation is that you most certainly will never actually get to teleport anywhere. If you did teleport somewhere, all your memories are an illusion, and you will definitely have much less of a claim to all of 'your' possessions, since they're not actually yours. Thus, any product of a teleportation has a lot to think about, and most likely will end up very sad.

So your example of using a teleporter to go on vacation probably wouldn't work. You would stay behind while a copy of you with no possessions and false memories would run to the nearest bar and try to drown out their existential terror.

No, I think the best way to use a teleporter would be for more non-personal reasons. For instance, say you're a doctor and there's a faraway land you can't get to that has a bunch of people in need of medical treatment. You may 'teleport' there to provide aid to these people; you probably wouldn't get much out of it, except the joy that comes from doing an incredibly easy thing that helps people. It would be kind of like giving blood.

With this in mind, I'd think that the best time to perform teleportation would be on young adults, specifically people just out of college. At this age, you're fully trained and ready to enter the workforce, but you're still young enough that any copies of yourself won't feel too bad about starting a whole new life.

I would think there may be some restrictions on who can teleport, where and when and how often and such, but it seems to me like it'd be even more ethical than giving birth. Your copy is a copy of you, so they'd understand your reasoning, even if they are angry about being the unlucky one. I assume there would be some laws in place for 'guardians' for copies, so they can get taken care of until they find a job and stuff. Since I assume teleportation would already be expensive, I also assume there would be some big companies involved who would sponsor the copies in exchange for services rendered (sort of like indentured servitude). The original may even get something out of the deal; this brings to mind cases where the original really screws over his copies, but luckily if you're the kind of person who would do that to yourself, your copy is too, so they deserve it.

  • $\begingroup$ On the flip side, for a guy who's really depressed and hates life already, the clone gets a free shot at no more bad credit, a new job, new house, a bunch of people who (hopefully) don't know the original, etc. So the original may be the guy at the bar rather than the clone. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelS
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 8:03

Conflict, discrimination, paranoia, kidnapping, slavery, and suicide

Trying not to assume that every individual is the theoretical perfectly rational agent, my world quickly goes awry.



Nothing interesting here, but I'm going to dodge the issue of the economy collapsing by asserting that the teleporter is based on previously known technologies used for extremely low-cost fabrication of arbitrary simple materials and machines (the next, next, next generation 3D printers).

If society was destined to collapse in the face of such easy duplication of objects then it would have done so already, built itself up again, and this time around the teleporter does not substantially interfere with the economy at that level.

The core innovation here is merely the ability to duplicate a fully-functional and conscious human being.


I'm going to assert that this technology isn't capable of scanning to storage for later playback. I'm assuming technology that works more like old analogue TV, where rather than trying to store the data before moving it on, it's managed as a continuous stream of extremely high bandwidth. More bandwidth than can feasibly be recorded and stored in a reasonable space.

The real reason for this is to keep some worms in their cans. There's already too much to discuss without the complications of backups, edits, and splices.

Also, if you have a storage medium that's capable of holding that much data, and it's smaller than the original object (otherwise just use the original object!), then what happens when you scan one of those storage devices? There has to be some kind of limit to the resolution.


If you need teleporter technology that can't be subverted for generating clones, you can replace it with wormhole technology or matter-stream technology. These change the placement within the universe of the original instance, so you don't have to worry about accidentally getting two copies (that one episode of ST:TNG not withstanding).


The use of a teleporter that involves producing a copy and destroying the original involves ... destroying the original. One assumes it's a painless death, but the copy is, in some sense, somebody else. I don't need to dig into it because it's been done to death already.

Likewise notions of identity and mortality in the face of a duplicate, etc.

The possible diversity of opinion is more important than correctness or logical consistency, so it's not clear that too much consideration helps in making predictions.



Assume that both options 1 and 2 exist, and they're used for different purposes or under different motivations.

  1. Teleportation should only be used if you can deal with the existential implications (that the original is killed). Looking around the internet, it seems that a lot of people think they can cope, so there's no reason to expect that to change. In any case, if the original realises its mistake during dematerialisation we'll never hear about it so it's immaterial (so to speak).

Not everyone will be happy to use a teleporter. The apparent normality of the teleportees as they become more common will lessen the anxiety of some. Social pressure and convenience will help too.

  1. Telecloning might be used practically for colonisation, and governments or corporations could drive these programmes promising both no interruption to your own life and an safe and exciting future for your clone (though conspiracy theories abound). Return trips for the clones may be forbidden because society hasn't got good answers for all the social and legal implications.

People may find their own philosophical objections to telecloning. Of those willing to go ahead, many will be averse to teleportation and take cloning as the safe alternative. Among them there may be some very callous attitudes to the fate of the clone. They might reason that a copy has no soul, or that the clone's consciousness is somehow more artificial than their own, or that so long as the original persists then the copy is simply somebody else's problem.

People should be wary of creating a clone too near to themselves. The scenarios have been played out in popular media for years, and the usual portrayal has messy outcomes. Whether those portrayals are realistic or not I expect that the perception would become more deeply entrenched as people refer to popular media to solve questions they've never had to think about before (because I'm pretty sure it's not mentioned in the bible). However, so long as it's possible some people will try it.


The clone knows it's a clone, and it knows that the original who chose to create it had a plan and presumed some authority over the copy. But that knowledge that it's a copy is only theoretical. In terms of real motives, the subjectivity of its situation quickly changes its attitude (as per the C&H cartoon in another answer).

Serious conflict is inevitable here, and could plausibly lead to violent crime. It may seem exceptionally difficult for someone to kill their duplicate, but an alternative view, that the other is superfluous so long as one survives, may take over.

Triggers could be anything from stolen funds (is it even stealing?) to "stay away from my wife!". This is where things might start to turn ugly.


Because it's easy from a naive perspective to take the intentions prior to telecloning as concrete, and because the original stayed home while the clone went away and would be the usurper should it return home to cause any kind of trouble, society will likely side with the originals.

Laws may be passed discriminating against clones (but not teleportees, who are technically the same but have no such conflict and are too numerous to ignore).

It doesn't have to be all clones that cause trouble. Just enough to get in the media; and policy doesn't have to reflect a majority view, it oftentimes simply reflects a shoutey view. Even if it's not law it may be popular perception.


If there are bad guys out there then they have to be identifiable, and a perfect duplicate of a good guy is the least identifiable thing in the world (except to the original).

Since the key identifier of a clone is its travel history, tracking this closely is the obvious solution. Teleport and teleclone machines may be modified to mark the copies they produce. Perhaps to pepper them with a benign chemical marker to make them distinct from the original. Something with an embedded serial number, so every transit or copy comes out unique.

But public perception and policy are inevitably so simplistic. What about the tricky cases?

Kidnapping and slavery

What about teleporter fraud, resulting in an illegitimate original persisting at the same time as the teleportee? The operator may deliberately keep the original to sell as a slave or to hold to ransom. The law says the teleportee has restricted rights, but it doesn't realise this at first. This person didn't even have a plan for a copy that they can be expected to follow through with, so there can be no obligation on the copy to get out of the way. At least not morally, but the law might say otherwise.

These poor souls (or "un-souls", or whatever) will be poster children for a fight they never expected to be involved in. The fight for equal rights for clones.

Similarly there are the clones who went off on government/corporate contracts. Their working or living conditions might be far more terrible than they were led to believe, and they want out. If some escape and are able to make their way home they're going to end up in the same situation. The original has all the rights and the clone is merely the victim of misrepresentation and/or its own [pre-copy] callousness.

Can a clone even travel home? Its original may have been one of those people too afraid of teleportation to use it, consequently the copy itself has the same fear. Teleporting means certain death, and what benefit would it gain from sending a copy of itself back home? At best it could try for some kind of revenge or to tell people what's really happening; but in a paranoid surveillance society it may not get very far, and may soon realise it's best keeping its head down or shouting about conspiracies like a crazy person on the street.


Or consider the opposite. Imagine somebody too fearful to go through with destruction implied by teleportation, but so driven to live a new experience on a new world they try telecloning. What, then, if they realise their old-world life is awful? They become jealous of the fate of the clone.

The idea that there is a second self out there to keep continuity, coupled with depression, may make it easy to elect to perform a post-hoc teleportation.

Other considerations


Along with misrepresenting a teleclone as a teleporter, there may be another way of fabricating discreet copies of teleportees. Skim off the communications between two teleporters, being careful to not interrupt the signal, or to replay it onward to the destination if necessary, and run that into your teleclone receiver. This copy can be enslaved or interrogated without anybody knowing.

Alternatively, and this may apply to some strict teleporter technologies as well, you do interrupt the communication so the traveller never arrives at their destination and then hold them for ransom.


Memories are more fluid than most people like to admit.

A clone might actually forget that it's a copy. This could happen because it changes its memory of the teleclone to be a teleport, or it could go so far as to forget the whole process and just have a discontinuity or fantasy explaining how it got to where it is. Such a change might be a necessity to reconcile the feeling of continuity with its pre-clone life. If it feels continuous then perhaps the notion of being recently fabricated with a complete set of false memories just makes too little sense to retain as a memory, and so it's unconsciously dismissed and replaced with somethin more plausible.


People who make clones close enough to come back home discover that they can't get along with themselves, culminating in some instances of violence and/or murder. This hits the media, then moral panic, clones lose freedom and rights, surveillance grows stronger to track clones. Complicated cases and misadventure eventually help to challenge people's prejudices. Then I taper off because I can't seem to imagine happy things.


The key to a cloning teleporter is that it's not 50/50 whether you stay or go, it's both. You stay, and you go. This is where religion and philosophy come into it.

The continuity problem

Picking the first result from google to explain this

Fans of science fiction are likely familiar with the continuity problem. You get beamed aboard the Enterprise by the transporter and everything seems to work perfectly. On Earth you are disassembled into your most fundamental particles in order to capture all of the information necessary to then recreate you in your exact state aboard the Enterprise.

The new you aboard the Enterprise is you in every detail, including your stream of consciousness – the thoughts you were having at the moment of beaming. But is it really you? Isn’t it more accurate to say that you were destroyed on Earth and are now dead, and a copy of you was created on board the ship? That is the continuity problem.

(I have a vague memory of a Star Trek character refusing to use teleporters because of this)

Are you, you, after you have teleported? Are you just a crude copy that thinks it's you? Does that actually make any difference? Also now there's some other guy who knows all your account details. Make sure you change all your passwords and bank details because he's gone to the Bahamas on your dime!

On this particular note I'll leave you with Will Riker and Will Riker.

  • $\begingroup$ WRT transport refusal: I may be wrong, but as I recall there were a couple guys who simply refused to be taken apart and put back together out of distrust for the tech, not philosophical reasons. Then in some episode, one of the guys who created the transporters mentions "there were even arguments about whether it's the same person!" like it's obvious it's the same person and the argument was settled long before the episode. Which is a bit ironic in light of the Rikers episode. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelS
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 8:11

Option one (going forward, The Prestige method) would be looked down upon in most senses, because current society as a whole tends to dislike mindful killing of people... even if they're terminally ill, or mass murderers, et cetera. I could see them making this option available for people who need to disappear, be officially deceased and become a legally different person (because, technically, they are) or for any other reason that a person needs to be dead. The Prestige method could also be used as a form of punishment, where the body is killed whilst also able to serve out a sentence, simultaneously. I would highly doubt the ability for people to overlook the death aspect and view this as transport.

Option two, Telecloning... It depends on the impact of the Telecloning on the cloned counterpart. If you can teleclone anything society would zip to breakdown status very quickly, similar to the story A for Anything or The People Maker. However, if it's more like a Xerox (that is, copies work, but you can't copy a copy), then there's going to be very interesting headspace to work through.

Since both individuals are freethinking individuals capable of independent thought, they would most likely be legally two different individuals, with similarity in name, genome & appearance, like identical twins. Because of that, there will be an interesting push and pull from governments on this issue... Pull back, because that makes all data-oriented things insanely difficult; they may also push it on other individuals, as they would be able to be taxed separately.

Telecloning still wouldn't be considered much by way of transportation, because "you" aren't actually going anywhere. This is, of course, provided there are no sort of psychic or other supernatural connection between the original. What it would do is increase the value of skilled professions, because the "same" individual could be working in all needed locations simultaneously. All doctors would be the best doctor, because you'd teleclone the best doctor, who opts to it, to all hospitals in a certain network. The best professors, counselors, consultants or other specialists could effectively work the entire field. Existing property laws would have to be changed, as anyone rich enough could not only buy multiple properties, but live in them, simultaneously. On one hand, this would allow any location to potentially jump to a certain industrial or economic level as another one without having to train a local workforce prior to expansion.

One massive thing that would have to be the managed, that no one else has mentioned thus far, is gentrification. This would impact the economy very much like the post-recession economics in the US in the 2008-2012 era (younger workers competing for jobs alongside those with decades of experience)... because "the best" is available as an option, that will push down on the employment levels of the rest of the economy. Not forever, because the clones start old and still age, but it will have a definite impact. Also the massive lack of diversity in the tech sector today will be replicated in all other industries as well - cloned CEOs, CFOs, doctors, researchers, designers, sportsball players, spies, et cetera. While telecloning would shorten the initial training/educational time of a new division, overall flexibility and creativity would massively decrease, because everyone using a teleclone would be thinking literally the same.


This exact scenario presented itself in a movie called "The Prestige" which came out in 2005. Nikolah Tesla helped a young magician create a device that copied himself for the famous disappearing / reappearing man trick.

I'd say the likelyhood of this being a good idea would only be feasible if it was somehow guaranteed the copy could not interfere with the life of the original.

Imagine you woke up somewhere else. What would you do to get back to your closest friends and relatives? Even if you thought you were prepared to accept not seeing them again, what if you change your mind after a month or two of missing them?


I have a problem seeing the difference between a teleporter and a copy machine, except that the teleporter wouldn't be like the traditional copy machine as we know it. I believe that if we ever had a teleporter and we were supposed to go different places is that we just would make duplicates by duplicates of ourself, while the real original person would never be able to get anywhere. Question is what makes us unique? I believe what makes us unique is the content of the brain, the experience we gathered through life and the memories. All this have made us the person we are today. I think at the very best we could copy ourself, but never teleport. On the second question on how we would deal with having multiple copies of the same person is rather self explanatory. It would pose a huge security threat and we would not be able to trust anyone. Also by destroying the original would mean killing yourself or have someone kill you.


This question is based on the assumption that sentient beings actually have a continuous consciousness over time. It certainly feels that way, but there's no compelling evidence that this isn't just an illusion produced by the presence of memories (and brain functions working over time).

"You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing on." — Heraclitus

Assuming that the tele-cloning device produces a perfect copy of your brain state, there is no difference between the original and the copy. Both experience the sensation of continuity to the original, and in a very meaningful sense, both are correct.

Or, to put the same thing a different way, both are equally incorrect. Both experience the illusion of a continuous, personal identity. However, that identity had no substance. It's a sensation we have because our brains are full of memories which it links into a chain of events along the arrow of time. Since time has this peculiar property, we don't think of our future and past selves as removed from our current one in the same way as we think of a copy in the same time but at a distance. But, separation in time — as occurs naturally every instant — is really no different.

The "you" back home may be able to make claims about the matter from which your body is constructed, but if you're going to accept the possibility of a "non-cloning" teleporter as authentically "moving" you, those claims don't seem very strong in the important sense. (This is equally true if you accept the idea of time travel in which the traveller "hops" in some way rather than existing in the intervening stretch of time.)

This can be disconcerting, especially if you're really attached to the idea of possessing an individual thread of consciousness. But, even without a teleporter, "you" an instant from now are only the same "you" because of that track through time — which now branches to both places.

It may seem like this is an abstract, philosophical or even religious argument. But, the thing is, it doesn't really matter from a practical point of view. As long as the clone has the same memories and brain process state, the observable impact is exactly the same — there may be some heavenly accounting of who is the "real" you, but from your perspective, it will definitely be whichever of you is doing the thinking.

In the world as we have it, the idea of a soul is purely a matter of faith — there's no 21 grams of soul. But, to make your concept work, perhaps in your world, people do have an incontrovertible sense of having a soul, and perhaps it's even measurable — and when you use the cloning teleporter, it goes one way or the other.

Then, the impact on society would depend on where you want to take the significance of that difference. Do people without souls act differently? The two primary scenarios I can see are either Blade Runner or Buffyverse Vampires. Either you have second-class people considered subhuman, or you have a population of psychopath duplicates. Neither of these are particularly pleasant, and I can't see the technology being used for, say, family vacation travel.

  • $\begingroup$ I have to disagree that the argument doesn't matter. From a practical point of view, I would have strongly different reactions to being the original and being the clone because of my philosophical point of view. Someone else might not give it a second thought. At the end of the day, there would be some people with "do not clone, even if a black hole is about to literally swallow the planet" stamped on their chest, and others who enjoy starting friendships with their own clones. And everything in between. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelS
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelS In the given scenario, how would you know if you are the transported original or a newly created clone? How would anyone else know? $\endgroup$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ For all practical purposes in real life, every instant you are a clone of the "you" that existed the previous instant. $\endgroup$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ I think I invalidly ignored your comment "if you're going to accept that a non-cloning teleporter moves the original". If we accept that, I agree there's no practical distinction. I don't accept that, so I say there is a distinction. But there's still a very practical distinction between a universe where the old you gets deleted once a moment so a new you can get created with extra memories, and a universe where a new you pops up every so often and tries to lay claim to your belongings, relationships, and identity. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelS
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 5:00

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