Thursday, February 23, 2006


I teleported home one night
With Ron and Sid and Meg
Ron stole Meggie's heart away
And I got Sidney's leg

-- Douglas Adams
Quantum teleporter creates laser beam clones

As science fiction writers realised about ten years ago, if you teleport something you make a copy of it, you don't translate it from the place of origin to the destination. And the bits can get muddled up on the way. This could create some interesting ethical dilemmas. If you delete the original and retain the copy, is that murder? This problem is dealt with in a novel way in Empire of Bones by Liz Williams.


Anonymous said...

Peace on Earth...

Joe said...

Yeah, Liz is excellent - great to see her on the shortlist for this year's Arthur C Clarke award.

It is interesting how technology - usually preceded by SF - is giving interesting new spins to philosophical and even religious musings. In Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon people have memory stacks in their heads so they can have themselves implanted into replacement bodies. He has major religions dying off because their adherents won't have stacks because they think it is a copy without a soul and so die in a normal lifespan while others think, hmmm, could be right, could be wrong but I prefer the idea of living a few more centuries, so...

Simiarly research into AI and congitive psychology brings up all sorts of (for the moment) theoretical questions: if you creat true AI would it really be 'alive'? How would you treat it, if it is? WOuld you give it the same protections and rights under law as a human? Star Trek the Next Gen touched on this several times with Data. It gets even better if you download a human mind into a computer - if it is the essence and consciousness of that person then is it still them? Ken MacLeod had a nice touch in a story where he had a company using downloaded minds basically as slaves because they had no real rights.

Cloning by matter transmission or simply using genetic research to clone a person is a corker though and one we are probably a little closer to right now. And we haven't even touched on alien life yet!