The transporter has always raised interesting questions in the fields of science and philosophy. The inner workings and technical limitations of the transporter have been thoroughly explored in numerous episodes before. And between degrading patterns, faulty equipment, and the horrific results of attempted transporting gone wrong, it’s hard to blame someone like Lieutenant Barclay from being afraid of using the transporter.
However, one bizarre type of transporter accident, duplication such as that experienced by William T. Riker, is a great example of how transporters can change our perception of personal identity. Transporter twins put this issue front and center by sparing the officer on the transporter pad from dematerialization, but still materialize them on the surface. This week, we present to you a similar hypothetical scenario with a twist.
You are the captain of a Starfleet ship, patrolling through a relatively calm sector. Your ship receives a faint distress signal from a research facility on a nearby planet. An explosion of some kind has disabled their systems and injured several staff members. When you arrive, an atmospheric anomaly is interfering with communications. Your first officer, Commander Jones, volunteers to lead an away team down to the surface to provide assistance to the injured scientists. Most of the transporter beams reach the surface, but the transporter chief is worried Commander Jones’ signal didn’t make it and is able to cancel dematerialization at the final moment. Relieved to have narrowly escaped death, Commander Jones returns to the bridge and waits for contact to be re-established with the away team.
The away team manages to get a message through the interference reporting that the situation is under control and they will begin beaming up survivors. Everything seems to be fine until the away team rematerializes in Transporter Room One with Commander Jones. However, Commander Jones is sitting right next to you on the bridge. It would seem that the transporter chief was mistaken in thinking that the transporter signal wouldn’t make it to the surface intact.
When the second Commander Jones returns to the bridge, both commanders realize what has happened and claim themselves to be the “real” Commander Jones in unison. According to the Commander Jones who stayed aboard the ship, cancelling dematerialization was the proper thing to do and that the effects it would have on his duplicate are unknown. He believes that he should remain the executive officer. His transporter clone counters that the transport was successful and that the other Commander Jones only exists because of the transporter chief’s error. He is entitled to the position of first officer and the commander who remained on the ship is the “copy”. Both officers look to you to settle this case of duplicate identity.
How would you handle the dispute between Commander Jones and his transporter duplicate?