Being a Trekkie for many years, I’m used to the cyclical fictional debates of whether a Klingon Bird-of-Prey would handedly defeat a Romulan Warbird. Don’t even get me started on Kirk versus Picard. But The Nerdist’s “Because Science” YouTube segment asks an interesting question: if you teleport somewhere, are you technically the same person on the other side?
The question isn’t really one of science but one of philosophy as Nerdist’s Kyle Hill explains:
The transporter problem of identity is something we’ve been wrestling with for thousands of years. Greek historian Plutarch illustrated this problem with what he called The Ship of Theseus. It goes a little something like this. Theseus, the captain, likes to have his ship in tip-top perfect shape. When one plank rots away, it is replaced with another, perfectly good plank. Most would say this is the same ship, but what if all the ships planks are systematically replaced?
This systematic replacement of planks, or in our case cells, is exactly how transporter beams are theorized in Star Trek. As Hill points out, humans also replace almost all of our cells in a period of 7 to 10 years. Even if we’re not physically the same down to our cells, do we still remain technically the same person. Most would say yes, and but there is really no right answer. Just another sci-fi question that blows your mind if you try to think about it too hard.