Imagine that society has created the teletransport technology described by Derek Parfit in this week’s reading and made it available to you. Recall that this technology works by scanning your entire body (and brain) and recording every last detail of its structure, encoding it in digital form, and destroying the body in the process. The resulting data is then beamed to a distant location, allowing an exact replica of your body to be built from new atoms.
Now you enter the teletransporter. Destination: Mars! You are excited, and a little nervous. You remind yourself that when you press the button, you will lose consciousness, but then wake up on Mars in a new (yet identical) body, at what seems like a moment later. But now suppose that after you press the button, the scanning occurs as expected, but the scanner malfunctions and fails to destroy your body. It does, however, fatally damage your heart in such a way that you will die four days later. What’s more, no replica of you could be built on Mars due to the malfunction. When a technician informs you of these failures, your heart sinks.
But there is an upside: a copy of you will be forthcoming, here on earth – in a year’s time. Will this make you feel better? How will your best friend or partner feel when the replica is generated? How should they feel? If they love you, will it be wrong for them to love your replica? If they love you for who you are (and why else might they love you?) is it coherent – or reasonable – to suppose that they couldn’t, or shouldn’t, love your replica? Should you feel happy for them to “get you back” in a year’s time? Or should you feel bitter and desolate because you’ll be gone forever and no one will mind, given that there will be someone exactly like you to step into your life and take over everything you care for?