Jessie Raymond: Teleportation? Beam me up, Scotty

You heard the news, right? Last week the Russians announced that they would like to get serious about teleportation. That’s right: They want to make that old sci-fi standby a reality by 2025.
Initially, I’m sure, the technology will be available only to the military, then to the very wealthy, then eventually to us common folk. It will probably start out being offered for businesses rather for individuals, at least until the cost comes down. That’s how it was with faxes. (Let’s just hope the data transfer is better; nobody wants to pay to teleport and wind up blurry and curling around the edges.)
Maybe it will start out as an extension of commercial flight. Passengers will climb aboard a Boeing 737 and fasten their seat belts as always, but instead of the plane flying six hours to the West Coast, the pilot will press a button (a big, sparkly one), and “pop!” the plane will instantly turn up at LAX.
I have no idea what you’ll do if they lose your luggage.
And, at least for the first hundred years or so, you’ll probably only be able to move from one specially designed portal to another. But eventually, you’ll be able to download a teleportation app (with a catchy name like “PopGo” or a hipster name like “There”) for $2.99.
The next thing you know, the young people will be popping all over the place. They’ll roll their eyes at the old fogies who prefer to walk from the living room to the kitchen (“Ugh, Mom, that’s so 21st century”).
The idea of real-life teleportation may sound ludicrous. But it has actually already happened. Kind of. In 2014, a Dutch group managed to transfer the properties of one atom to another, “teleporting” those properties over a distance of three meters.
Big whoop.
If you wanted to move something 10 feet, why not just get up and move it? That’s like teleporting the TV remote to the person at the other end of the couch (of course, teenagers will do this as soon as the app comes out).
Also, the Dutch teleported a single atom — not even an atom, but its “properties.” How hard could that be? How much does an atom even weigh? Not as much as a TV remote, I can tell you that.
I’m all for the idea of teleportation, but if the Russians are seriously planning to implement the concept within 10 years, they’re going to have to scale up, and fast. I don’t know how many atoms it takes to make a human body, but it’s a lot. Thousands, probably.
And you can’t just teleport those atoms willy-nilly. Accurate placement matters. I would love to teleport, but only if I’m guaranteed that all my atoms will end up exactly where they were, or maybe — to offset the effects of aging — just a bit higher in a few key areas.
On the other hand, that could backfire. Best to keep things the same. I’d want to be sure all my eyelashes, for instance, ended up back where they belonged, not sticking out of my forehead.
Of course, this raises the question of whether teleporting would be safe. My husband, Mark, is dubious. He said he wouldn’t care to be a candidate. But I assured him the first teleporters would no doubt be rats.
“Even worse,” Mark said.
“Why?” I asked. “Are you worried they’ll come out all mangled and creepy looking?”
“No,” he said. “I’m worried they won’t come out at all. They’ll just be floating around in ‘the cloud.’ No one will be able to retrieve their backup files because the rats will have eaten them all.”
That is a frightening thought.
But just think about all the ways teleporting could make the world a better place. The reduced road traffic alone would mean a dramatic drop in the use of fossil fuels and a possible slowing of climate change.
That’s great. And maybe even better, teleportation offers the solution to one of my biggest pet peeves: waiting for people who are chronically late because they fail to factor in travel time.
Unless the Russians really get to work on teleportation quickly, though, I won’t see the benefits in my lifetime. That’s a shame.
Just once I’d like to hear someone say, “I’ll be there in a sec,” and mean it.

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