How Would Teleportation Change the World?

By Deane Barker on October 25, 2005

What science fiction technology — if it suddenly became a reality — do you think would change the world most fundamentally?

My pick: teleportation. Specifically, telelportation that was afforable for everyone and could not be blocked on a large-scale (you couldn’t block ‘porting into a country, but you could into your own house).

Think about it — this invention would completely eliminate the physical barriers that humans have been constrained by forever.

I could get up in the morning, teleport to China for work, go to Mexico City over lunch for some enchiladas, back to work for the afternoon, to a client’s office in Sydney for 10 minutes to discuss his latest project, to Berlin for beers after work, then my wife could meet me in Rome for an opera in the evening, before we ‘port back home to Sioux Falls and go to bed.

The entire landscape of the world would change. Borders would disappear, since they could no longer be enforced. You would no longer have to choose a place to live, since you could do multiple things in multiple places. You could live in the mountains of Montana, work in Silicon Valley, and go to church in Manhattan.

For that matter, would cities disappear? People are grouped in Manhattan because that’s where people and businesses are. But if I could teleport anywhere instantly, then my “office” could be anywhere — just everyone come to the same place. I could have a group of friends from all over the world. We just teleport together a couple of times a week to hang out.

Worth thinking about. How do you think teleportation would change the world?

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  1. Not to sound pessimistic, but here’s one word for you: terrorism.

    The ability to screen or block transmissions would be the most important aspect of this invention.

  2. Most likely teleportation will be rationed to “so many” trips per week (you probably have to top up the rations just as you do with your cell phone); this should take care of your border issues…

    There is also the need for the government to know where its citizens are so there will have to be an infrastructure in place that accounts for the whereabouts of everyone and also there has to be some locations where you cannot teleport to (such as the white house).

    There is also the issue of citizen’s rights (you don’t want the police teleporting willy nilly do you?)

    Just as the internet has forced us to examine some issues such as digital copyrights, teleporting will do the same … except that I would prefer if there was some infrastructure in place first…

  3. This was discussed on /. a while ago, too. Are you the same person on the other side of the teleporter? Does the soul get teleported along with the atoms of the body? Etc.

  4. Not to sound pessimistic, but here’s one word for you: terrorism.

    It was the same thing with gunpowder and the atomic bomb. You can’t “uninvent” something. If it gets out into “the wild,” then there it is and now you have to just deal with the consequences.

    You raise an interesting point: with teleportation, terrorism would suddenly be stunningly effective. Anyone could teleport anywhere and kill people, then disappear again. Crime would run rampant.

    Would this essentially end civilization as we know it?

  5. Are you the same person on the other side of the teleporter? Does the soul get teleported along with the atoms of the body?

    Yes and yes. I don’t know why, but you have to make up some arbitrary rules, I guess.

  6. The ability to teleport would require a root technology that would probably create an even more drastic change — atomic assembly (a la the Star Trek replicator.) Think of it; a machine that you’d plug a recipe into and it’d spit out an exact duplicate of something that had been previously scanned. Food, tools, machinery, etc… Even more replicator machines. And when you’re done with that something, you stick it back in the replicator and it is disassembled. No waste, no garbage.

    Such a device would radically alter exchange values around the world. Money would basically become worthless because anybody could replicate any amount of money. or any object of value. Any physical thing of any worth would become worthless; only those things with no true physical manifestation would retain any value; knowledge, ideas and talent would remain. Also the people who carry that knowledge, possess those valued talents and develop those ideas.

    “Work”, as in a way to earn a living, would be irrelevant. I’ve always said that work interferes with life; people would be freed to pursue interests and “work” that time doesn’t allow today.

    And with sufficiently powerful design software driving it, a replicator wouldn’t be constrained by traditional machining, construction & assembly methods, opening up new possibilities for design & engineering. Imagine a car that appears to be built from a solid block of ultra-light, ultra-strong and ultra-energy absorbing material; no seams, no bolts, no rivets or welds. Ditto with houses.

    I’m sure that politics would remain, so it’s unlikely that poverty would disappear, at least for a while.

  7. Okay, let’s dial back the technology for the sake of argument —

    Let’s say that the teleportation that was invented doesn’t have anything to do with matter assembly. It’s like hyperspace — a portal to another plane of reality through which you can travel instantaneously and re-enter the current plane anywhere you like.

    But, Dave, you bring up some insanely interesting points. Namely, how much society depends on physical things like money, natural resources, manufactured goods. If you take the power of these things away (by making them trivial to create in whatever quantity you like), where does that leave the world?

  8. I thought about this a few years ago. What seems to happen is:

    1. You Get Replicated on the Other Side, atom by atom
    2. You are destroyed at the departure, atom by atom.

    What happens if you are not destroyed? Which one of you is you? You have the same everything. Who gets the girl? Who gets the house? Who gets destroyed? Does it matter?


  9. We actually discussed this same thing a year ago here:

    I commented and said:

    When you think about the theory of teleporting, you really boil down to the fact that you’re doing one of two things:

    Theory #1: Taking something and transporting it to somewhere else. The thing that started in Point A is ending up in Point B. This is the “classic” perception of teleporting — the way everyone assumes it would be done.

    Theory #2: Taking something and destroying it at Point A, then telling some other device how to create a perfect replica of it at Point B. So the thing that started at Point A never gets to Point B — the thing that appears at Point B is just a perfect copy.

    Everything I’ve seen about teleportation that they’re doing lately tells me that they’re concentrating on option #2. That said, I’m never teleporting anywhere (because it’s such a viable option, you know…). The idea of destroying and recreating myself just doesn’t sit well with me.

    Being a Christian, I believe we have a spirit apart from the body and the physical brain. So I guess there’s a religious aspect. I don’t think you can “create” life, so you can’t just duplicate me in another spot. I may be a correct biological creature, but I would never be Deane.

  10. Being a Christian, I believe we have a spirit apart from the body and the physical brain.

    That being said… wouldn’t your “apart from the body” soul find its way into the replica?

    (I’m a Catholic, not that it matters. My problem with teleporting stems from watching Spaceballs.)

  11. I think that, sadly, if teleportation was invented, regardless of how it worked, there would be some fairly tight restrictions put on it (more so on international teleportation than domestic) and for international teleportation you’d probably have to wait for hours in a airport-terminal-like setup. and the initial price of the equipment would probably be cost prohibitive to setup, so it’d be expensive to travel.

    My conclusion? It probably be a neat trick, but I doubt it’d change the world.

  12. An old sciene fictiion novel addressed this issue in an interesting way. Alfred Bester’s “The Stars My Destination” did it lovely! I don’t know if it’s still in print….

  13. What science fiction technology — if it suddenly became a reality — do you think would change the world most fundamentally?

    Time travel.

  14. There’s a great sci-fi story on some of the ramifications of what it might be like. For those inclined to read old sci-fi, the title of the story is “The Stars My Destination”; it was copywrited in 1956 and written by Alfred Bester. No technology involved, BTW – it is a technique based on training a region of the brain, but I won’t ruin the story for you.

    I started writing this before I read where someone else had already cited the same story – glad to see someone else remembered it! It is available here.

  15. The problem with replicators (even if such a device could be created) is energy-matter conservation. Every time matter is created energy must be expended (more than just E=mc^2, because the machine will surely require energy to perform the conversion). All that energy has to come from somewhere. Even teleportation, in which matter is converted to energy here, and energy converted to matter there, requires a net energy input.

    So even though no specific item would be rare (and thereby valuable, usable as currency), energy would still be in demand. Currency might then consist of “energy credits.”

  16. Well, the bottom line in this discussion is that we have to answer some questions about the nature of the teleportation we just made up.

    1. Is it technology based, or otherwise — magic or something?
    2. How instant and affordable is it? Does it require a bunch of machinery to make it go, or does it just happen with the snap of your fingers?
    3. Can it be blocked? On what scale?
    4. Does it have range? How far, and what happens when you get to the edge of the range — does accuracy decrease?
    5. For that matter, how accurate is it? Could I teleport to a bar stool at a pub in London from Sioux Falls, or do I run the risk of ending up 200 feet above the Thames, falling fast?
    6. Can you teleport to a place you cannot see or do not know the exact location of? Can I say, “Take me to the Oval Office” and suddenly be there, just because I know the Oval Office exists?

    The easier and more simple teleporation is, the more quickly society would fall apart. If everyone could go anywhere effortlessly with perfect accuracy whenever they wanted and could not be blocked from doing it, the world as we know it would end.

    Society is just built around the concept of physical barriers. Take them away, and we’re screwed.

  17. Joe and I had a good conversation about this over lunch:

    Me: I like the idea of dropping anvils on the enemies head.

    Joe: Why not just teleport a big pocket of air into his skull?

    Me: Or you could just teleport the enemy to a spot over the Grand Canyon and let him go.

    Joe: Or just teleport half of him.

    So, can you involuntarily teleport someone else? We need a new rule.

  18. Maybe you would have to run your fingerprints or retina scan to activate the teleporter. Good security, and easy to track who went where and when.

  19. Joe: Or just teleport half of him.

    I think it was the original Stargate movie (or maybe a series episode) where one of the bad guys was eliminated by this sort of thing. The transporters involve a set of rings that drop down over whatever is to be transported, and the bad guy wasn’t all the way inside the circle. Ouch!

  20. As regards to Deane’s queries this discussion is based on assumption that this technology is achieved in the future.Anyway advancements have been made in this field recently.But the all imp. possibility “Is human teleportation posible?” remains to be seen. Teleportation though a exciting possibility would pose serious security threats. Blatant Acts of terrorism would become easier for evil doers to conduct.Crime rates would be on the rise. Just imagine Bin Laden Teleporting WMD’s to the White House or any location of strategic importance.Undoubtedly teleporting would make matters much easier for them. Inspite of such concerns this futuristic technology would change the face of civilisation.The telecommunication industry would be hit real hard. Maybe our desperate search for fellow beings on other planets would become much easier with the advent of teleportation.

  21. According to history teleportation is indeed possible. In 1593 Gil Perez was teleported from Manila to Havana. In the Book of Acts, Phillip was teleported. The fact that science fiction, etc. is currently full of the concept is, in my view, also fairly convincing evidence that it is possible. Consider: If E=mc^2 is true, then it means any object having mass can be accelerated to become pure energy, then decelerated to become the selfsame object. How? My guess: Start with rotation of an electro-magnetic field in which the object is located. Convert object into electrons. Feed same into a FEL aimed at a receiver/decelerator. Shoot. Of course, I could be wrong.

  22. i think it will change the world forever, we could basically forget about cars and lorries so global warming wouldn’t really be a problem, think about it there will be no pylons for electricity ect so even if we don’t use the transporter 24/7 the landscape of the world will competely change.

  23. I would ONLY use a type of teleportation that DIDN’T involve breaking apart atoms and matter/energy conversion, since that would KILL you!!! In other words something like bending space (to reduce distance and travel-time to zero, or as near as possible), such as done by Hiro in “Heroes”, going through a wormhole or portal (doorway), or as in the classic children’s book “A Wrinkle In Time” using a tesseract (hybercube). The latter wouldn’t KILL you like the former, unless you teleported yourself into something like a star or something solid, but you should only do it if you can see where your going beforehand to AVOID this!! Also I DON’T BELIEVE that your soul, consciousness, or mind can be teleported if it requires atom breakdown and matter/energy conversion, it would just be a replica of them, NOT you!!! So in the “Star Trek” method, it would be an exact copy (an instant perfect clone, down to the last and finest detail, body, memories, etc), but you would be DEAD!!! And so would all the copies beforehand.

    So in conclusion if you want to teleport do it with a method that DOESN’T require breakdown or your body’s atom apart and convert them (you) into energy. Otherwise you’ll end-up teleporting yourself right into Heaven, Hell, or NOTHINGNESS!!!

  24. OOPS, sorry about my comment being three times. If two of them can be erased by who’s in charge that would be fine.

  25. I wonder, if extra-terrestrials exit, which method of teleportation do they use, if they teleport at all, that is? The breakdown matter/energy conversion KILL you method, or a method such as going through a wormhole, portal, bending space, etc. that SHOULDN’T kill you??

  26. About Theory #2, if you don’t get destroyed at Point A, and the device at Point B makes a copy of you, then it would be a easy cloning machine.

    Btw i think time travel would change the world even more, people could remake the world, think about that.

  27. I know that the context of this entry seems to be: how teleportation would change the world if it were made available to anyone via a tangible physical invention/gadget.

    But what if teleportation or transportation were achieved on an individual basis? As a skill learned from spiritual awakening to an unseen dimension or, (as I beleive) a grace/gift given from a source (God) with all the energy, knowledge and means for a perfect execution of movement from one place to another.

    I’ve heard several testimonies of christians being taken either in spirit only or in spirit and in body, to different geographical locations for missions, specific assignments or ministry. Of course this has to be taken by faith, even for me (until it happens for me)

    I wouldn’t put it past a God in whom we can do all things.

  28. Well, it seems like I’ve entered a discussion about two years later. God would be an excellent explanation for the operation of P-teleportation, which uses wormholes — not dissassemblage.

  29. If you teleport you just suicide and end up in heaven or hell and your replica ends up the same way. Even if you don’t get destroyed you’ll have to kill your replica or it may kill you.

  30. I have wondered about this q. myself for years. i think it a plausable theory, a few onstraints in the begining, but i think a world without borders would unite more and there wouldnt be so much of a balance issue. think of the things that would be cured so to speak; poverty, poor countries, fuel crisis, jobs would increse. i would think a substan.. amount. that was a few off the top of my head. military law for a united world. well there are various dept. maybe select a few and call it good. we seem to be afraid of the idea because we think we have so much freedom, haha i like to laugh at that inside because we are limited or how about our constraints are tighter than ever in todays soicety. its funny we watch it on tv and like it or think teleperting is cool, so why do we limit ourselves and give the old saying a shout i cant or thats not possable. after that statement we shouldnt even try to figure it out.” if we always add constraints then we will always fail “ACR As a child i loved watching the Turtals on tv. with my kids a few yrs. back i was watching the turtals again, one of the turtals said, we dont know defeat, we never bothered looking it up. and in life we too often start each challange out with defeat.

  31. “I could get up in the morning, teleport to China for work, go to Mexico City over lunch for some enchiladas,” … When you get up in the morning in South Dakota it’s already around 10 pm in China. Opera in Rome in the middle of the night? I guess the beers in Germany might work that’s only 7 hours later.

    Teleportation wouldn’t change our timezones.

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