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Poll of the Week: The Case of the Duplicate First Officers

Laria Herren

Poll of the Week: The Case of the Duplicate First Officers  

8 members have voted

  1. 1. How would you handle the dispute between Commander Jones and his transporter duplicate?

    • The Commander Jones who remained on the ship is the “real” Commander Jones and should remain in the XO position.
    • The Commander Jones who led the away team is the “real” Commander Jones and should remain in the XO position.
    • Someone else should be named acting first officer and both should be relieved of duty until the situation is sorted out.
    • Ask both commanders to discuss the situation and determine which of them should request a transfer off-ship on their own.
    • Consult with the transporter chief and see if there is a way to merge the two copies of Commander Jones back into one.
    • Would you handle the situation differently? Let us know below!

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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?

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I believe the correct response is to relieve both of their position temporarily until the situation is figured out. The ship doesn't need to be split on this issue and it does nothing good to the morale of the ship's crew to be questioning if one of the leaders of the ship is really worthy. True, that doesn't really answer the question of which one is real, only what I would do as commanding officer.

Now, as regards the moral and philosophical answer it depends on one's view of what makes up a person. Is it only the molecules that form the person? Most would say no. Then every time the person transports they are a "different" person. The person must include the entirety of their experiences in life. Their thoughts, memories, experiences. So, at the time of the transport they become two separate people. This divergence is unfortunate but must be resolved. Unless they can come to an equitable agreement together, they must choose a means of random decision-making. Time for rock, paper, scissors!

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Damn that’s a good question!

Jona makes a valid point - as soon as the ‘original’ Commander dematerialised, he ceased to exist. Which would mean both of the current versions of him are copies - neither of them is more or less real than the other.

I’d also go for the option of relieving them both until the issue is resolved, which might involve merging them back into one person again. 

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Threaten to cut the ship in half and give a half to each Commander. The one that says no don't do that give it to Commander Jones...that's your Huckleberry 

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