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Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Idle conversation

My friend (who shall be identified as KY) and I went for some tea, and we had an interesting conversation. Yes, I know we're full of crap, but at least we're not dull.

KY: I had an idea on how to improve traffic congestion. We could have a chopper service to fly people over the congested areas.
AQ: Sounds nice and expensive.
KY: Then I had another idea on how to reduce wait times at airlines. Teleportation.
AQ: Dude, the technology for teleportation does not exist yet.
KY: Yeah, but just give it another hundred years.
AQ: That's way too optimistic an estimate, man. There's not even a theoretical basis for teleportation.

Ed: As I understand it, there actually has been some experimental evidence to suggest that teleportation is possible, but these have only been experiments with, like, subatomic particles or something. So don't be looking for Teleport-O-Matics around the street corner from where you live anytime soon.

KY: *refers to aforementioned experiment* See? It is possible! All you'd have to do would be to disassemble a person into his component particles and then transmit them to the destination. The other terminal reassembles the person and voila! Teleportation. Even if we transmit them over cable, it would be a helluva lot faster than air travel.
AQ: Well, disassembling a person into his component particles is already possible with current technology, dude. It's called "death and decomposition". It just takes a lot longer than the time it takes to boil an egg, that's all.
AQ: I doubt that many people would be willing to actually die to avoid travelling by air.
AQ: *thinks about it* Well, maybe not. Airlines can be a real bitch sometimes.
KY: *doesn't get it* What do you mean about dying? The guy is reassembled on the other side, exactly as he was.
AQ: Well, yes, but that would only be a copy of the original person and not the actual person. I mean, we don't understand consciousness yet, and, since the experience of consciousness is a subjective one, we'll probably never quantitatively understand it.
AQ: Therefore, even if the reassembled person does possess the original consciousness, no one could ever prove it. Hence, it is unlikely that teleportation as a means of transport will ever catch on.
KY: Well, since to all intents and purposes, the reassembled person is identical to the original person, I think I would be willing to give it a spin. After all, no one would ever know the difference, including myself.
AQ: That's exactly my point. You wouldn't know the difference because you'd be dead.
AQ: You may be willing for that to happen, but I doubt you'd be able to find a second person in the world who would.

Ed: We started to discuss the possible problems with a practical implementation of this style of teleportation. You know, stuff like the enormous amount of memory required to model the precise states of each and every molecule of the subject to be transported. Then, we started to discuss consciousness again. I mentioned that I think Man is the only creature that actually comprehends its own existence because Man is the only creature that is aware of its own death.

KY: No, man! You mean that dogs are not aware that they're going to die? That's just bullshit.
AQ: Well, we're not really sure whether they actually understand the concept of death, but it's likely that they don't. I mean, we hardly understand it ourselves.
KY: What's to understand? Someone is alive, then he stops moving and responding to the things around him, bam, he's dead.
AQ: Yeah, but we know that it will happen to us someday. It is entirely possible that dogs don't. I mean, they're probably vaguely aware that if they do not run when being stalked by a lion, Something Bad happens, but it is probable that they do not know what actually happens.
KY: No, man. I can't believe that. I mean, even the stupidest dog is bound to catch on if its parents die in front of it, right?
KY: Even if this weren't so, all it would take would be one smart dog telling other dogs that death came to all of them, and demonstrating by killing any disbelievers, you see?
AQ: That's provided a dog has a concept of itself, which is in turn connected with the knowledge of death, isn't it? I mean, some things do take a minimum level of intelligence to understand, you know. Take, for example, this joke.

Ed: This is an old joke. It goes like this.
The president of some poor country visits Singapore and one of our high-ranking officials, let's call him Mr. Leeky, shows him around. The president was astounded at our level of progress and asked Mr. Leeky why Singapore was so wealthy and why his own country sucked so bad. Mr. Leeky offered a demonstration and summoned one of his subordinates, Mr. Tontan.

He asked Mr. Tontan, "Who is your father's son?"

"Me, of course," came the reply.

Turning back to the president, Mr. Leeky asked, "Do you understand now?"

"Of course! How simple!"

So this president went back to his own country and summoned his cabinet of ministers for a lecture. "Now I finally understand why our country sucks so bad. It's because you're a bunch of nincompoops who don't know who's who in the book of fucking what!"

The Prime Minister protested. "Really! That's not fair, Mr. President!"

"Oh, yeah? I can prove it. Answer me this question, PM. Who is your father's son?"

"Ooh, that's a tough one. I'll need a day to come up with the answer."

So the PM of that poor, benighted country racked his brains for the answer and finally, at his wits' end, he called up the smartest man he knew, Mr. Billy Gates.

"Mr. Billy, who is your father's son?" PM asked.

"Why, my dear man, it's me, of course!" came the reply.

At that, the excited PM called for a meeting with his president and told his president the answer. "My father's son is Billy Gates!"

The president shook his head and said to his whole cabinet, "See? This is why we are so poor. The best of you can't even answer this simple question. Your father's son is Mr. Tontan, you idiot!"
The point of my telling KY this joke, of course, was not to rip on the officials of poorer countries, but to illustrate that there are some things that stupid people just cannot understand.

AQ: So you see, even if your hypothetical smart dog were to exist, the other dogs might be like the president and the PM of that poor country.

Ed: At this point, we had finished our tea, and I stood up and took a look at the bill. He was paying, of course, but still I thought I would see how much it cost.

KY: Hey, we have to go pay at the counter?
KY: *after some thought* Oh yeah, we always had to pay at the counter at this place.
AQ: You see! You're just like one of those dogs that can't learn!
KY: *adopts the pained look all my friends learn to adopt sooner or later*

Disclaimer: KY is not stupid. I just explain stuff a lot clearer when I'm writing than when I'm speaking, that's all. So when I say he doesn't get me, it's usually my fault, not his.
I sensed a little bit of Orion in there, man.
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