Re: The role of consciousness (Re: The GLUT and functionalism)

From: Stuart Armstrong (
Date: Thu Apr 10 2008 - 11:16:23 MDT

> > Curiously, after reading all these posts, I'm moving more towards the
> > "ban destructive teleportation" side :-) The reason is simple:
> > murdering someone who knows they are about to be murdered and doesn't
> > want to be is very high on my list of ethically monsterous actions.
> > Destructive teleportation, in principle, is equivalent to walking up
> > from a chair. In practice, it is very close to the above murder - just
> > one error away.
> But taking the bus is also one error away from murder, the murder of
> the original *and* the copy, if you look at it that way.

A good point! But I was looking at issue like a lawyer would, rather
than a scientist (an occasionally fruitful excercise which I recommend
to all). Why? Because arguing the rightness or wrongness of some
specific issue is one thing; but, in practice, we decide to allow or
forbid things using the legal system. And this is probably the best
system so far for deciding these things.

Then how would the issue of destructive teleportation look like in a
legal system (assume the destruction part is not nessesary for the
teleportation)? Not so hot, I have to admit. It involves the
destruction of a human being. This destruction is not necessary, but
contingent. It is permited by two facts: the existence of a copy, and
the physical state of the current being (unconscious).

Neither of these issues show much sign of being elevatable to a legal
principle. "He was very similar to another person" and "but he was
asleep" are not going to be good defences against murder charges.

Then there is the whole issue of "unconscious". Probably the
"original" will have to be preserved for a short while for quality
control, and to check the other has arrived. Will the original be
asleep, or frozen in time? Will some part of his brain be active? What
procedure will be used to distinguish an "original" that can be safely
eliminated from one that is a human being, worthy of every civil

Then there are some special considerations:
1) An run-away criminal escapes through the teleporter, and the police
demand his "original" be awoken and interogated.
2) Someone starts shooting people at the "receiver station", and
shoots someone who has just come through. They call back to the
sending station, and ask them to awake the original copy...
3) Though a mistake, an "original" is awoken, and then goes public
with the story about how he was nearly killed. Campaigns are
4) Some scandal happens about originals that we not properly drugged, etc...

The only way I see this being legal is if
a) law becomes utterly libertarian; by signing a contract, I agree
that I will get killed (in some sense) as part of the process.
b) a specific exception is carved out for destructive teleportation
(unlikely unless the economic advantages are large), or
c) someone comes up with a general ethical framework involving
duplication, that allows destructive teleportation to happen.

In fact, c) is a bit what we are engaged in for the last week or so.
But the issue of destructive telportation will be a sideshow, I feel,
to the eventual ethical/legal consensus on duplication. And seeing as
that is the most controversial, I think that we should not focus on

To sum up my position: I agree that, in principle, that destructive
teleportation, perfectly implemented, is the same as walking out of
the room. But if the only fact I knew about the next century was
"destructive teleportation is permitted", then I would be worried.


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