Recently, Ars Technica ran a monumental article on beaming in Star Trek and its implications, and more importantly, whether it's plausible to beam consciousness without killing us in the process.

It seems possible in the Star Trek universe. However, currently physicists find the idea absurd and unreal because there's no way you can transport matter and its quantum state without first destroying it and then recreating it perfectly, due to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. The biggest conundrum of all is the fact that pretty much everyone understands that conciousness is a physical state of the brain, which features continuity as its primary principle; yet it surely seems like copying the said state produces a new person altogether, which brings up the problem of conciousness becoming local to one's skull and inseparable from gray matter; this idea sounds a bit unscientific because it introduces the notion that there's something about our brain which cannot be described in terms of physics, almost like soul.

This also brings another very difficult question: how do we know if we are the same person when we wake up in the morning or after we were put under during general anaesthesia?

What are your thoughts on the topic?

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    You say "The biggest conundrum of all is the fact that pretty much everyone understands that consciousness is a physical state of the brain..." This is a false statement. It needs editing to say "Lots of people conjecture that ...". Then you could add "and not one of them can prove it or understand how it is possible".
    – user20253
    Dec 30, 2017 at 12:04
  • When you wake up in the morning you pull together reminiscences and play with them. In doing so you are constructing somebody whose they are. Then you label that person "me", during coffee. Meanwhile, you are projecting how to live and what may happen this day; this attaches meaning to that ego and its belongings; but it is never the ego who actually projects and sketches your being - ego is an inert psychical structure, and a fake bearer of continuety.
    – ttnphns
    Jan 6, 2018 at 8:03
  • Consciuosness cannot have states. Psyche can. Mind can, possibly.
    – ttnphns
    Jan 6, 2018 at 8:09
  • Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. Please visit our Help Center to see what questions we answer and how to ask. Invitations for users' personal opinions like "what are your thoughts" are considered off-topic, we are taking more pointed questions that are more or less objectively answerable based on existing literature. The issue you describe is known as "persistence of personal identity", you can find long discussion of it in SEP.
    – Conifold
    Jul 21, 2018 at 20:48
  • Is it necessary to know if I'm the same person? I have thoughts and memories right now. I remember what I did yesterday, regardless of whether there were the same or similar "i"s, and regardless of whether there are several other duplicates of me with the same memory. Sep 21, 2018 at 19:16

2 Answers 2


Philosophers have been pondering these questions for a long time. Here is a beautiful explanation from a bbc (I think) program with Derek Parfit, a philosopher who is known for his book Reasons and Persons on this subject matter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS-46k0ncIs

In short it appears that neither physical continuity, nor the teleportation of a physical system can satisfy our intuitions on this problem.

Here is another short and funny video on this matter which should destroy the appetite of any reasonable person to go into a hypothetical teleportation machine: https://youtu.be/KUXKUcsvhQc

I occasionally come across people who appear to refuse to admit any problem with a star-trek style teleportation, even when challenged. I find it very peculiar.

  • Thank you so much for your link to the short and funny video, which seriously nails it! However, there is still the question of where is identity located. When you are put under GA and there is no conscious activity at all, when you are revived, is your consciousness an entirely new copy, reconstructed from the "instructions" left behind by the old one? Seems to me, it doesn't really matter, one way or the other.
    – JohnRC
    Mar 11, 2021 at 22:52

I believe that it should be possible to be "teleported," as in Star Trek, without the loss of our consciousness. This is based on the supposition that "consciousness" is based/depends only on the state of the brain cells, at the moment of "beaming." If this is correct, then the person would be "reconstructed" exactly as he/she was, before being teleported.
Regarding the other two questions, they are much easier since only part of the brain is "turned off." When we are asleep or under anesthesia, the state of our brain is maintained, therefore we are the "same person" we were, before either event.

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    How does this address the OP issue? What you describe is indistinguishable from making a copy with a separate "consciousness", and it is impossible anyway due to the No-cloning theorem.
    – Conifold
    Jul 21, 2018 at 21:51
  • 1
    It isn't possible to clone certain quantum states. Do we have any evidence that those states would have to be cloned in order to keep the brain operating? Sep 21, 2018 at 19:11

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