Monday, November 5, 2012

Thought Question.

So, TheBoy and I were having a philosophical discussion the other day. He asked me if I thought that we would see teleportation in our lifetime - I guess there's a humor video on YouTube about a teleportin' fat guy or something. This is something I've actually thought about, both being a *huge* Star Trek geek as well as someone who freakin' hates to fly. It'd also be really neat to be able to travel on business and still be home to tuck my kids in at night, too.

From a technological standpoint, I can't say for certain if teleportation is possible or not. I'm sure if you had described a smartphone to someone from 1912 they'd think you were one helluva science fiction writer - and now they're so plebian that no one thinks about them any more. We can send and receive data instantaneously anywhere in the world you can get a phone signal - that's pretty amazing. When you look at the Star Trek series of the late 1960s - at the height of the American space program - and compare it to what is commonplace today, we've already surpassed many of their technological wonders.

I can't say we'll never have teleportation; in fact, I think it's highly likely that we will be able to transmit matter - or, more precisely, take a physical object and re-create it exactly somewhere else - in the future. I think that actual teleporation of human beings will not occur in our lifetime, based on several considerations.

It's a paradigm shift - think about how many institutions will be affected by teleportation, if not outright shuttered. Why would you need to fly if you could step onto a teleportation pad and instantly arrive at your location? For that matter, who would need a car? Rather than a parking lot, you'd only need a series of teleport pads. Think about the real estate implications - you could live anywhere in the world and work anywhere in the world! You could live on the most desolate 100 acres in Montana and work in NYC, and be home for dinner (heck, lunch) every night.

I won't even get into the security implications. You think it's bad when a spammer hacks your computer? Imagine them hacking your home teleport pad and arriving at 2AM. Imagine once the technology matures and you can teleport yourself anywhere you can get a GPS signal. Imagine the National Security implications - how do you keep the country safe when spies and saboteurs can literally appear anywhere at any time?

I don't believe we'll see teleportation in our lifetime - agree or disagree?

That is all.


Bob said...

Agree. I'll be happy to be proven wrong, however.

The Big Guy said...

For an interesting treatment of the concept, read some of Larry Niven's stuff... He has several interesting examples of using the teleporter pad technology- and one or two especially about teleport-enabled flash mobs.


Bubblehead Les. said...

Well, it really doesn't matter if we get Teleportation or not. We'll STILL have long lines to be groped by the TSA!

JD said...

and then comes the question of are you still you if you have been teleported? If I have been broken down to atoms, mapped, and reassembled someplace else am I still me or a new person since the atoms are different? Does my "soul" teleport? The "religious" side of this is a mess. Too deep for a Monday = )

Glenn B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glenn B said...

Teleportation of information between photons and then teleportation of information between atoms have reportedly both been achieved within the last decade (I just realized we are already well into the second decade of the 21st century - wow I am getting old). While it was not teleportatiion of matter, it was teleportation from one atom to another of information (or the characteristics of one atom to another). This is not the sci-fi version of actually teleporting matter but consider that if there were a mass of atoms on the receving end that amounted to the same mass on the sending end, maybe someone will figure out how to transport the characteristics of those on the sending ending to thosde on the receiving end, thus recreating a person or other object on the receiving end in that mass of atoms. That is maybe in the next hundred years or who knows maybe in the next few years.

Here are some addresses for articles about teleportation of information from photo to photon and from atom to atom (the latest feat of teleportation).,2933,482264,00.html

The last article describes the first teleportation between atoms (not between photons)over a meter apart.

We are on the way - perhaps - to being able to say "Scotty, beam me up" and mean it!

All the best,
Glenn B

Phillip said...

I was thinking about teleportation the other day, and realized that there were a lot of things that would have to change in addition to what you mentioned. For example, if you can teleport anything anywhere, that would close down all shipping and transportation once it was monetarily feasible. Also, if you could scan the quantum state of a person's atomic structure, this would also mean that you could record that quantum state, so if someone were to die, you could just recreate them from the recording of that point. It would also involve being able to do a complete scan of someone's DNA and make it so you could fix health issues, from cancer and heart conditions to obesity. Suddenly anyone who could enter a teleporter would be immortal and the physical ideal for their genetic structure.

Sounds like I'm going far afield, but it just makes logical sense to me that the ability to analyze matter down to the quantum state would come with the ability to manipulate that matter.

Alan said...

I think it's entirely possible that a Star Trek style teleportation for simple, non-living things is not only possible, but probable. We can already do it with 3D printers today.

Since the 3D replication technology already exists, the rest is just engineering and legal.

Teleporting of living things, on the other hand, requires more than just a blueprint. You have to accurately model every atom in the creature you're sending and then recreate it on the other end, still alive. Then what do you do with the original? I don't see that happening.

If living things ever get teleported it will be through a worm hole like device, similar to the Stargate technology.

Dave H said...

I'm skeptical that we'll have teleportation the way the Star Trek envisions it, where an object is analyzed down to its subatomic particles and it's re-created elsewhere. (The processing power necessary to analyze -my- mass would be horrendous.) But if we consider other ways of getting from point A to point B without going through points in between there may be other options.

Something involving a wormhole would be nice; it bypasses all those difficult questions like "but do you still have a soul?"

Dwight Brown said...

How old is the boy?

In addition to seconding the work of Larry Niven, I'd also recommend Alfred Bester's "The Stars My Destination", which is sort of a combination of revenge fantasy/space opera, set in a universe where teleportation is universal. Bester does a pretty good job (I think) of sketching out the social and technological implications of that.

It is also a rip-roaring good story. Though I'm not sure what reading level would be assigned to it...

Old NFO said...

Agree with Alan, and can you imagine the LINES??? portal to portal is great if it's a 'private' portal on both ends, but a 'public' portal on one end??? How would you juggle arrival/departure to make sure you didn't 'corrupt' the other? And take NYC, half to 3/4 million commuters...

Ferret said...

Two of Peter Hamilton's books (Pandora's Star & Judas Unchained) involve transport via wormhole technology and using railways to ferry material and passengers between planets.

The prologue involving the first use of wormhole transit can be found here:

Alien said...

Glenn B is pretty close. About 20-25 years ago DARPA started talking about moving bits rather than atoms, a topic dealt with in Nicholas Negroponte's 1996 book Being Digital (Negroponte was head of MIT's Media Lab at the time). DARPA's interest was in shipping digital info to local production facilities to produce stuff on the spot instead of shipping it. We've been doing a version of that for a couple decades with CNC machining, and we're at the beginning of the next generation, using 3D printers.

Glenn's concept of shipping the characteristics of atoms to have other atoms adopt those characteristics is, I think, doable. I suspect it will require "a pile of usable atoms" at the receiving end which are capable of performing as desired after adopting the characteristics of the atoms at the transmitting end.

I'd bet on being able to do it with materiel rather than people, although one is continually surprised by technical advances that seemingly come out of nowhere, and it would not strain belief to have someone figure this puzzle out.

I forget from whom the quote came from but some personage who was on their deathbed in the late fifties, when asked if they had any regrets, said their only regret was not living long enough to see how it all came out. I understand the concept.

Anonymous said...

I think 3-D printers and other forms of data transportation will be developed, but teleportation of living beings will not. Anything that interrupts the electrical activity of nervous systems is going to cause trouble. Plus we'll need to have a better term - teleport to me implies the use of psychic power to effect the matter transfer, even if it is as guidance rather than the actual disassembly and reassembly (See A. McCaffrey's Pegasus series).


dustydog said...

My imagination goes in different directions. Imagine everybody in the gasoline business (tankers, refineries, gas stations) being on the dole funded by taxes on teleport pads.

Imagine the US dumping tons of Round Up on third world countries, because we are at war because they are outproducing our farms.

Imagine a home with no windows or outside doors, and you have absolutely no idea where it is physically located? Discontents' homes are at the bottom of the ocean, just in case some bureaucrat feels the need to push a button and flood a home.

Patrick said...

Disagree on a lot of the paradigm shift comments - if the technology is developed, it's likely to be a paradigm shift over a generation, not in months or even a few years. It would've been just as easy to say the same about horseless carriages or flying machines, but both technologies took decades to progress from super-expensive prototypes to relatively known but expensive items in niche markets (the military most prominent among them!) to everyday items.

Cell phones have followed a similar progression, as have personal computers and the vaunted 3D printer, the cheapest useful example of which still has a per-item cost of many times the hardware store price. If and when matter teleportation/transmutation comes about, it's likely to follow a similar progression.