A Thought Experiment

My friend put this experiment to me a few weeks ago.

Imagine the quantum teleporter has been invented, a device that can destroy any object and recreate it exactly as it was in another location, in a very tiny fraction of a second. Imagine that you are being asked to use it, knowing that it is completely safe, and that it will preserve the electrical states of every atom well enough that your thoughts, personality, and body functions will all be the same as before.

Would you do it, Best Beloved? Would you still be you? (really, feel free to comment with an answer and your reasoning, as I find this question terribly interesting)

My friend would not, because he believes there is a nonphysical, nontransferrable something that would be missing when he reached the other side. I would use the teleporter, because I think the entire self is a product of the body. The physical stuff of the brain is wondrously labyrinthine and amazingly engineered, and knowing what I know of biology, chemistry, and electrics, I believe this is all there is. It was supposed to be a difficult question to ponder, and I think I frustrated him by being so completely sure of my answer, but if the slopping chemicals, electrical impulses, and connections in the brain do not create a person, what does? And why is the person irretrievable? This is probably a matter of the difficulty in restoring the electrical state of the entire body and the brain; the reason we laugh at Frankenstein’s monster is that we know merely shocking a corpse will not cause it to become a person. It’s much more complicated than that, and if it does not start simply, with the few, carefully monitored cells in the womb, it is impossible to get exactly right.

But I am getting a bit off track. My friend also asked me, what if the teleporter did not destroy the original? Would you consider both physically identical (at least for a moment) copies ‘you?’ There was a corollary involving personalities backed up on computer networks, each running stimuli identical to the flesh original, to expand on the point of the exercise. And I? I say that if the programs cannot tell themselves apart from you, they are functionally (if not actually) you. The teleporter copy, however, soon receives different stimuli and by the time you meet it, it will be an extremely similar person who you will probably hate (we, as a species of hypocrites, hate nothing more than our own defects in others).

I cannot quite communicate the sense of what I mean, but I hope it carries enough meaning to be interesting for you to think about, Best Beloved.

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Two Poems

A Binary Rhyme

A speck of dust in H-less night
On black satin flecked with light
See by clouding unimpaired
Watch electrons jump downstairs

Tiny bitwise speck of know
Add to others, watch it grow
Find the whole of whole within
Electron fjord inside a pin

 

Fugue in Silence

the blinking eye makes a quiet, moist clicking
noise is nonintuitive and unexpected
when you sit each day all day in a soft numbing humming
stultifyingly and warmly arrhythmic, atmospheric
if only in the sense that it replaces air

or would you rather inhale arpeggios that throw themselves into the walls
draw into your lungs an étudinous glutiny of chords
glutinous mutiny
of your ears in being told to breathe
how much of a chord will diffuse through the skin
muffled cacophony created by the vibrational harmonics of each dying cell
like ripples smashing at high speed into circles and circles of themselves
running rings

sings
in silence, over and over
repeating distorting until it runs back over itself
fugue in silence

Dislike is not a crime

A few days ago my friend expressed great frustration to me at their ex’s unwillingness to talk to them, and their inability to do anything to mitigate this. I have been used to express sympathy for this plight, but for whatever reason, in this particular case I was unable to do so. Perhaps it is because I have experienced this from the other side–I have been extremely unwilling to interact with certain others because they make me uncomfortable, or because I do not like them. I have been terse, I have ignored, but I have never let vitriol escape my lips. This is not rudeness, but politeness to myself and others (for would it not be less polite to tell them to piss off?). My friend, however, complained that the object of their continued affections did not talk to them except by outside initiation. To me, this seems an absurdly privileged view, as it assumes that having attention paid to one is a right.

I wonder, Best Beloved, whether you have noticed the recent–or ancient, as it may be–trend of martyrdom as impressive and laudable. Suffering is particularly in fashion right now; we glamorize the mentally ill, the poor, those incapable of helping themselves, and most especially those who put others before themselves to their own detriment. This has become so deeply ingrained that we criticize those people who value their own happiness as paramount instead of making themselves available for use by others. I am one of those people, and it frustrates me endlessly that one is often forced by convention to associate (closely even, at times) with people one dislikes, else risk being labelled ‘toxic,’ ‘bitch,’ or simply bearing the full emotional brunt of someone else’s unhappiness.

Dislike is not a crime. Others’ perception of my dislike of them as a heinous insult is flattering, to be sure (how much they care about my opinions!) but I have no obligation to like anyone, nor to put myself in their way if that will decrease my happiness significantly. As I am somewhat angry, allow me to reiterate: nobody has the right to your time unless you have made a contract to give it to them. Nobody has to right to receive conversation, support, or favor from you. Human interaction is a privilege to be earned, not a natural right.