Posts Tagged teleport

Location Untethered

I got back to Seattle area today but I have spent time in roughly a million different individual places – the hotel in SF in the morning, Mountain View for brunch, the airport in the afternoon, and now home again in Seattle. I have this deep feeling now of location fatigue.

Usually, even when I travel, I’m only in a handful of places per day, and I don’t have this unsettled feeling when most of the places are familiar – ones I’m in every day. Maybe there’s a limit to the number of places my brain is comfortable with?

This has interesting psychological implications for teleportation. Yes, that was the first thing I thought about when I recognized this feeling! There’s a clear answer… I can get used to more places, and in fact, would get used to more over time while I lived a teleporting life. Still, interesting aspect to consider.

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I didn’t bring up the mode of teleporting where people just do it, from anywhere to anywhere, without any specific technology, because I don’t think it’s particularly likely. However, it does make an interesting perspective for how the world might change if everyone could “freecast” (Dan Simmons’ term for it from his series Hyperion/Endymion.)

First off, I feel like right now, people organize into communities based at least somewhat on who is around.  This is selective to some extent (I only hang out with people I want to, if I have people I already know in an area when I move there I tend to associate with them over others, etc.) but it is largely defined by distance as well.  I used to call this the Theory of Beats – as with two interfering waves, there’s the interaction of long distances (which is like the slow long wave) and the interaction of short distances (which is like the quick short wave bound by the larger wave).  If everyone could freecast, I get the sense that these communities would disappear to some extent, and “distance” would be more defined by emotional distance.  (For example, I might still stick around friends at work simply because I am closer emotionally to many of them due to how much shared experience we have.)

Secondly, what about the organization of cities?  Or more specifically, if you could imagine current cities as vestigial communities around a mode of transport (ports, usually, sometimes crossroads), what might they develop into over time?  In Simmons’ Hyperion, communities are connected over vast distances by fixed-portal teleporters, but when people are free to teleport from wherever to wherever, I expect that residential sections would transport entirely out of “city centers.”  If there even would be city centers!  It’s interesting that a lot of discovery in terms of new physical communities happens physically (I see a coffee shop, I follow friends somewhere) whereas freecasting would force it to act more like the Internet.

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Teleportation 3

I wanted to conclude my series on Teleportation before moving on to discussions of Identity, since the Identity problem (am I the same entity before and after the teleport?) is most strongly felt in this method – it is the method that is “most classical” and hence easiest of which to grok the consequences.

3. Teletransport (a la Star Trek)

All humans (and in fact, all stuff) are comprised of smaller bits of stuff, and that stuff is arranged in a particular way (we’ll call that information).  It makes sense, therefore, that if you want to move from point A to point B quickly, you just need to move the stuff and the information – no need to transport the full human.  Classical teletransportation involves either the decomposition of a human into a stream of particles (along with the information needed to recreate the human at the other side), or the transmission of just the information (not the particles).  In the former case, the receiving station uses the particle stream to regenerate the human.  In the latter, the receiving station generates a new “version” of the human by using some matter bucket at the destination.  We’ll call these methods Stream and Bucket, respectively.

Star Trek has historically drawn a fuzzy line between the two, but you’ll note that most transports from ship to surface don’t have a receiving station.  This implies something else is going on – the bundle of particles and/or information actually has some programming attached to it capable of reconstructing a human at the destination.  This seems crazy to me, just thinking about how complicated a human is… even if you sent a bunch of nanobots along in the stream, how could they possibly reconstruct the human in no time at all?

The Bucket method is the one most ripe for Identity criticism, since you literally destroy the human at the transmitter and construct a new one at the destination.  Depending on what you believe constitutes “you,” this may or may not be grounds for calling it death.  Also worrying in the Bucket method is the fact that if there’s some malfunction and the origin human isn’t destroyed, we’ve now cloned you!  I much prefer thinking about the QT version of Teleportation since it sidesteps this “accidental cloning” problem due to the destructive nature of measurement at the quantum level.

One thing that thinking about all these methods of teleporation have convinced me of, however, is the relative unlikelihood of “freecasting” or “Jaunting” (to borrow terms from Hyperion and The Stars My Destination, excellent science fiction works that deal with teleportation) – that is, not requiring a station origin or destination… being able to teleport from wherever to wherever.  The complexity of the process – “reading” the information content of a person, deconstructing them, packaging them for transport, reconstructing them – just seems too high to do outside of a controlled (laboratory-esque) setting.

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Teleportation 2

Greg brought up an interesting conundrum when it comes to use of teleportation – is it possible to call the “you” that comes out the other side someone different?  For many methods of teleportation, this is debatable – it depends on what you consider to define identity.  For more on this topic, check out Identity.

Today, however, I wanted to talk about the one form of teleportation that I believe avoids the identity problem, and which also might have the most reasonable chance of being possible, although with quite a few “ifs”:

2. Wormholes (Gates)

All massive objects distort spacetime.  You can imagine the fabric of the universe as a rubber mat of some thickness suspended over, well, nothing (!), and that all objects with mass sit on top of it, sinking down into the fabric and distorting it into wells.  Supermassive objects will distort it enough to break it at the bottom – these are singularities.

So now you could imagine distorting spacetime by a bit in one location and by a bit in another faraway, creating two gravity wells – and then punching through the surface of spacetime to join the two wells.  This joining tube between two locations in the rubber sheet is called a wormhole.  (Alternately, if spacetime folds around by itself – as in, sometimes two apparently faraway locations are actually on top of one another – then you can naturally create a wormhole via one well.)  The kind of wormhole I described is very unstable – any mass that passes through it will destroy it, since all mass distorts spacetime, and the wormhole are MADE of spacetime.  To stabilize it, we need something called “exotic matter,” which is like negative matter – it pushes the walls out (gravitational repulsion) and stabilizes the wormhole.

Anyway, in theory that’s how it works.  So, if spacetime happens to fold itself, or if we can punch from one gravity well to another, and if exotic matter exists and we can find it, and when we have a process for directed spacetime distortion… then we can “teleport” via wormholes!

Once a wormhole is created, you should be able to drag around the “mouths” to change the distance it spans.  (By the way, if you can drag a “mouth” at near-light speed, you can create a time machine… assuming the exotic matter disperses radiation moving through it.  I’ll talk more about this in Time Travel.)  So I think you would have a transportation agency moving mouths around to major transit points, and a lab or few making them (given the constraints of exotic matter and the energies required to make a wormhole, I think there would not be very many Wormhole Creation Facilities.)

Wormhole travel is not instantaneous.  You still have to move at regular speeds through the tunnel.  This would require short range (miles rather than light-years) space vessels.  So probably the character of transportation is our current airline system, with bigger voyages (more like cruises?) and longer range.

Science fiction has many examples of wormhole travel – Star Trek, Stargates, the farcasters from Hyperion, and any space travel that does faster-than-light travel without a special spacetime-bending technology (FTL drive).

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Teleportation 1

How would access to instantaneous transport change the world?  In some ways, it’s a monumental task of imagination to think through all the implications.  To start, I figured I would think through the various ways in which we (the human race) might one day achieve teleportation.

1. Quantum Teleportation (QT)

We know that it is possible to transmit very tiny bits of information across large distances without transporting the underlying physical system.  Due to the nature of these quantum states, the information is the system.  QT is a destructive operation – when you measure the state-to-be-teleported sufficiently to be to able to define it, you destroy that system.  You then transmit the information (classically; meaning, at the speed of light) over to the receiver and the state-that-was-teleported is reconstructed from that information.  Matter is required at both ends – you are measurable a real physical system, and you project the information into another real physical system.  In some sense, the destination system is imprinted with the character of the teleported system, becoming it.

So how would this process be evolved to become a reusable, effective teleportation system?  Could it be that classical beings, seen as the combination of a huge number of quantum states, can be destructively measured and then reconstructed state-by-state?  I’m not sure anyone really understands the boundary between quantum (uncertainty, entanglement, wavelike) and classical (predictable, measurable) physical behavior.  Is there a boundary?  It is very hard for my classical brain to grasp the nature of quantum mechanics intuitively — as Richard Feynman said, “I think it is safe to say that no one understands Quantum Mechanics.”

But let’s imagine.  If it is possible to QT a person, and it became widespread technology, the concept of body would be secondary (or maybe even meaningless) to the information content of your person.  Since the process of measurement before teleport “destroys” the quantum system, I guess your original body would be trashed (and reclaimed?) in a facility, and then your person would be imprinted on available material at the destination.

Ugh, this method doesn’t sound too great.

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