The Philosophical Impossibility of Teleportation and Mind Uploading

A simple thought experiment reveals hidden truths about the nature of consciousness.

Sam Padilla

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Image by the Author — Made in Canva thanks to Pablo Stanley’s Illustrations.

Death is scary. We are naturally fearful of the idea of no longer being. We create rituals and legends to explain what happens to our loved ones who no longer “are”; and we create technology that enables us to delay the fearful destiny that we all share.

With the technological progress in recent years, we have started to look with seriousness at alternatives to curb death that previously seemed to be mere fantasy. Some examples include stopping aging (recommended read: Fable of the Dragon Tyrant by Nick Bostrom), creating DNA backups, and even uploading your mind.

We know that, at least as of today, death is inescapable. Yet, I always hoped that technology would reach a point within my lifetime where I could preserve my consciousness long after my physical body had perished. I thought I could be part of the first generation of humans to have their conscious experience preserved by uploading it to the cloud.

I would love it if my consciousness remained after my body’s due date. I could continue to interact with the people I love, continue to gain knowledge, but mainly, I could see what the future holds for humanity. However, I recently realized that while I may live to see technology reach a point where consciousness uploading is theoretically possible, its practical implementation is fundamentally impossible.

Comparably, ever since the advent of telecommunications, humans have dreamed about the possibilities of teleportation. It seems intuitive, really. If we can send information using energy, why couldn’t we send ourselves? After all, matter and energy are interchangeable (E = mc2). Take, for instance, the Transporter in Star Trek — the manifestation of teleportation technology across popular culture shows how we have long dreamed about this possibility.

How incredible would it be to live in a world in which distance would no longer separate any lovers, families, or friends; or a world in which commute times would be practically reduced to zero; or even a world in which visiting any place on earth is just a few clicks away.

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Sam Padilla

Philosophy, technology, society, and economics. Deep, sincere, first-principle thinking. Succinct, original, independent writing.