Star Trek Transporter: the Continuity Problem
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 discussed this issues several times on this blog and on the SGU, including on this week’s show. The topic always provokes lively discussion. One common observation that I hear in response is that the continuity problem is not really a problem at all - we lose continuity every night when we sleep, and we are not worried about it when we wake up.
I have always found this analogy to be puzzling. It seems so transparently false, why is it so commonly used? When you sleep there is absolute continuity, it has no analogy to the transporter situation.