The Theseus Paradox

The Theseus Paradox

Theseus was an ancient Greek king who was known as a great warrior and hero. To honor him, the people of Athens chose to keep his ship preserved through the years, and over time they replaced each rotting plank with new timber until none of the original ship remained. This led philosophers to ask the question: is a ship with all new parts still the same ship? Though the question arose many centuries ago, it still baffles us today, especially when it comes to the future potential of teleportation. As far as we can imagine, a teleportation device would have to scan and break apart your atoms, then send that information to the destination, where you would be reassembled anew. So is that teleported person still you? Or did you die in the first location, and leave only a copy of you -- with all the same memories, elbow scars, and lunch-stained clothes -- in the second? This isn't a question that's easily answered, and we probably won't come to a definitive conclusion, especially not before teleportation becomes a reality.


Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    It seems that teleportation via Star Trek transporter might actually "kill" one version of a traveler and make a new version on the other side. (1:18)

  • 2

    The Ship of Theseus paradox asks, if you gradually replace each part of a ship while sailing, is the new ship still the ship of Theseus? (2:33)

  • 3

    Because we can only inhabit our own brains and bodies, you can only know for a fact that you yourself are conscious. (4:04)

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