Elon Musk Floats Theory Star Trek's Transporter Could Split You Into 2 People: Think Before You Say 'Beam Me Up, Scotty!'

Elon Musk Floats Theory Star Trek's Transporter Could Split You Into 2 People: Think Before You Say 'Beam Me Up, Scotty!'

Tesla Inc TSLA CEO Elon Musk answered a hypothetical question on Thursday, which might pour cold water over Star Trek fans who would love to say “Beam me up, Scotty.”

What Happened: On Thursday, the writer Tim Urban polled his followers asking them to imagine an “Atom Scattering Machine," which completely disassembles their body into a “cloud of floating atoms” and then perfectly reassembles them. He asked his followers if the “new you would still be you."

The machine, mentioned by Urban, is eerily similar to the “Transporter” featured in the sci-fi series Star Trek. 

What if one atom at a time in your body was switched out for another atom? There would be you with all new atoms and another you with the original atoms – Human of Theseus.

Musk responded to the poll, saying, “What if one atom at a time in your body was switched out for another atom? There would be you with all new atoms and another you with the original atoms.”

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Why It Matters: Musk's comment referred to a philosophical thought experiment called the "Ship of Theseus", based on Greek mythology, that tries to answer a quandary: if an object has had all of its components replaced, does it remains fundamentally the same object?

Meredith Kirby, a philosophy graduate from Portland State University, in a Medium post has applied this thought experiment to the Star Trek Transporter. 

“If your atoms were disassembled by a tractor beam, would it be the same person reassembled on the other side? Could you tell the difference? Does it matter?"

The tweet from Musk, who is also the CEO of SpaceX, points to the idea that replacing a single atom in a device such as Star Trek's Transporter would give rise to two people.

Most people who responded to Urban’s Twitter poll felt that if all human atoms were perfectly reassembled, they would still be their old selves. At press time, 66.3% of the 26,050 voters chose 'Yes', while 33.7% chose 'No'. 

Price Action: On Thursday, Tesla shares closed 2.4% lower at $838.30 in the regular session and fell 0.75% in the after-hours trading.

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Posted In: Elon MuskShip of TheseusSpaceXStar TrekTim UrbanNewsTech