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Analogue versus Digital Teleportation: The Philosophy of Space


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By Hervé St-Louis
Oct 21, 2014 - 21:05

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Time and space are the two limits humans perceive that give way to death. Time limits the body and the human. It creates a finite space for the human to thrive. Within the confines of time, which limits life through death, humans experience the constraint of space. They are not as mobile as they would like. Space's limit is usually time. To go anywhere; to travel the stars takes time. This time, humans have little of. Scientists have tackled both the problem of space and time. They seek to extend time and to reduce space. Extending life, battling diseases, living longer, reducing aging are all ways humans use to constrain the constraints of time. Transportation and communication allow the constraint of space. More time is less space to travel through. Conversely, constraining space and time inversely constrain the other. If you constrain time, you extend space. You can travel farther. If you constrain time, you can also constrain space. The length of a trip is shorter. Thus, you travel further through a reduction of space.

Teleportation does not illustrate the symbiotic relationship between space and time. I reject the premise that the symbiotic relationship of time and space is beneficial with regards to teleportation. Any beneficial relationship assumes that teleportation allows one to move in space in shorter time. The shorter time is the benefit. What shorter time means is hard to define at this point. One definition of shorter time, as it relates to teleportation, could be that it is always a shorter length then the time it would take to travel through other means. Currently, these means for humans are limited by transportation using vehicles such as aircrafts, watercrafts, spacecrafts and landcrafts. The means are also limited by the self powered living being who fly, swim, and dig through air, space, water, or land. For shorter time to be achieved for a sparrow, teleportation must be able to move from one point to another in less time than the animal could. If the sparrow can fly from one table to another in the same room faster than through teleportation, shorter time has not being achieved. We gain nothing from teleportation.

Today, the assumption in popular culture is that teleportation is instantaneous. It starts, happens, and ends all at once. There is no perceivable time lag. Yet, we can easily imagine one able-bodied sparrow moving from one table to another a meter away in less time than it would take the second sparrow, also able-bodied to move the same distance through teleportation. Teleportation need not be instantaneous. Yet, shorter time as a justification for teleportation appeals. If the sparrows have to travel miles or planets, then we see the limits of motion enabled by vehicles or self-propelled. If it takes two centuries to teleport the sparrow from one planet to another but five hundred years through a spacecraft, shorter time becomes a beneficial advantage, again.

Teleportation is thus about space. Time travel can be seen as another form of teleportation. Mass moves from one time to another. The assumption is that in time travel, space does not matter. Perhaps the mass changes location. Perhaps it does not. Both teleportation and time travel are about the motion of mass. One through space. The other through time. I am not willing to concede that time is absolute in time travel as I claim that space is all that matters in teleportation. Time and space may intersect in teleportation and time travel. If one teleportation mean forces motion through time to any extent then, yes, space is no longer absolute. Perhaps even, the relationship between teleportation and time travel is strong and not binary. Perhaps one includes the other in ways that we cannot measure or perceive in practice. Right now, I cannot test any so for the rest of this essay, I will run with the assumption that in teleportation, space is absolute.

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There are two types of teleportation and which one we rely upon changes the essence of the teleported. I am not making a rationalist argument. I am not arguing that I think, therefore I am. Teleportation challenges Descartes in interesting ways. When the X-Men swashbuckler Nightcrawler “banffs” from one room to another, he leaves a cloud of air that engulfs the spatial disturbances. It smells like rotten egg. This is the smell of the dimension he moves through to move from one location to another. The comic book super hero Nightcrawler practices analogue teleportation. He travels from space to another. If he forgets a body part, he loses the body part. It is no longer part of him. Similarly when the Avengers’ Thor opens a portal, he moves through it whole.

In comic books, Thor can control his own portals. In the recent Thor and Avengers films, Thor travels a beam of light stemming from Asgard. It feels oddly like the way characters in Star Trek travel through teleportation. In the context of Thor in the movies, magic is technology that has not been explained yet. In Star Trek, teleportation is not magic. The atoms of travellers are digitized and beamed through a light to another destination. Teleportation here occurs through a medium after the abstraction of being as information. Light is the medium. The medium could be sound, plasma, fire, water. This is digital teleportation.

Digital Teleportation already occurs on some level to information. 3D printing and other abstractions of information already transport one set of atoms from one place to another. In quantum physics, analogue teleportation occurs through gateways that we theoretically can tap into to reduce a trip’s duration. Both means of teleportation could be feasible. But each has drawbacks. My assumption is that analogue teleportation requires some form of environmental containment unit for the travellers so they can arrive at destination before being pulled apart through vortices. If the reception beacon is late or any problem occurs, the containment unit may not be sufficiently strong to protect its cargo from deformation. The cargo may not survive the trip in the same shape. The integrity of the being is preserved as it is not copied. However, the state of the being may not be integral.

Unlike analogue teleportation, the integrity of the being is not preserved as it is a digital copy of another that has ceased to exist and is being recreated in another location. My best friend Andy Doan argues that people die during digital teleportation. This means that the traveller can be preserved as information if the reception bay cannot accept it. Perhaps the traveller is sent to secondary posts and then sent back to his departure point as the ultimate safety measure. As long as the data is intact, operators can reconstitute the traveller. This makes digital teleportation an excellent means to extend time. If digitization happens, then time can extend as operators preserve the travellers constitution. They can copy it and improve it.

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Digital teleportation can extend life and thus time by abstraction. Do you have a birth mark on your cheek? Well, a benefit of digitization is that an average of the areas near your birth mark is usable. It can smooth out your birth mark. Have a cancer? Maybe in your reconstitution, medics can delete your your cancerous cells from your record. As you appear at the other location, something has changed about you. Andy Doan suggested that if you have a bad liver, doctors can produce a copy, identify what part to operate on, while your original liver continues to exist within your body. Through a third copy medics can make the right treatments and pull it from your body in a fraction of time. A new liver is now in your body without all the ailments of the old.

One main issue with digital teleportation is that although information is binary, the layer below the abstraction is not. It is always analogue. The information below is created by punctures on a medium. This is why digital teleportation is about abstractions. One of my professors, Doctor Brian Cantwell Smith researches this aspect of information. A copy of a digital picture seems to be similar but is not. On the actual medium, some dots are closer to .05 rather than the zeroes and ones that form a picture. How the system interprets this oddly shaped bit as a zero or one can change the image. The changes may not be perceptible to the human eye. This is why digital teleportation always involves a copy that is more abstract and not a perfect copy of the original. If you want a copy of the original, stick with analogue teleportation.


Last Updated: May 15, 2017 - 11:53

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