Teleportation as Transportation
Scientific Possibility or Media Dream?
Whenever someone mentions "Teleportation" or "Transporters," most people, fans or otherwise, think of the generation-spanning Sci-Fi saga Star Trek, or any number of other shows, novels and films in both Science Fiction and Fantasy, laughing or cracking in-genre jokes like the ever-popular "beam me up, Scotty" and ultimately dismissing the notion as little more than a dream of science fiction whose realization is as yet centuries away. But is it really something that should be brushed off so casually, or is there truly some merit to the idea? Just how far are we from being able to instantly transport things from point A to point B? The truth is, in a sense, we already can.
Now, don't let that fool you; Scotty's not down at the post office with a team of engineers from the Enterprise installing the latest doohicket to get your mail to your door the same day it was sent (though that would be awfully convenient, wouldn't it?) And we're still (at least) several decades from actually being able to transport something as complex as, say, the daily mail, much less a living organism, but we have made a number of important, indeed critical advances in the field, most namely, in the form of the transportation of an honest to goodness laser beam. (Sounds far-fetched and genuinely hokey, I know, but check it out for yourself:
- Australian Scientists Teleport Laser
A team of Australian scientists says it is able to teleport a laser beam from one place to another almost instantaneously.
So sure, while transmission of a laser beam is still a long way from the actual transmission of solid matter (even individual atoms) from one place to another, the future for teleportation does look promising, or at least enough so that an incredible number of labs have started working toward it, and even the United States Air Force (USAF) has spent some time and funds looking into it (and not just from a standpoint of using technology to achieve it -and this is even more wild than transporting a laser beam- but also through the use of psychokinesis, or the transmission of matter [more specifically, the broader category of simply moving it around] using only the "powers" of the mind; now that's some interesting and controversial stuff.)
Conspiracy theorists shouldn't get their hopes up, however- while the Airforce has invested tax-payer money in researching different methods of achieving the instantaneous teleportation of objects and people (and I think that's as good a cause as any, considering how much of that cash normally goes into applications that are ultimately destructive) they haven't come up with much more than the Australians (the scientists who transported the laser beam.) They do, however, utterly (and purposefully, as they state) ignore what they refer to as "sf-teleportation" (the transportation of people and objects by "advanced (futuristic) technological means" as it has no (current) basis in scientific fact (and they are right about that- we won't have that technology, barring it simply falling out of the sky, until we manage to achieve it on our own.) What they do address, however, and in great detail, is the teleportation of states from point A to point B (also known as quantum entanglement- i.e. the transportation of a laser beam) and more interestingly, vm-teleportation and e-teleportation, the transportation of people and objects by bending space (to bring two points closer together- this is observed naturally, in a sense, in the way the tremendous magnetic force of planets and stars actually manage to bend light and curve the shape of space itself) and via extra-space dimensions and alternate realities respectively (though neither has gone beyond theory into any sort of even remotely practical application at this point- unless you consider the over-popularized and questionable results of the Philadelphia Experiment, but that's a completely different can of worms, and something that's too cloaked in mystery and conspiracy fluff as well as too far outside of genuine and acceptable fact to really have any rational place in this article.)
And yet, perhaps the most interesting (and seemingly far-fetched) aspect of the Air Force funded research into teleportation is their work on the aforementioned use of psychokinetic means or "p-teleportation" to achieve the same results as we might expect with some piece of futuristic technology. Involving similar ideas (in function) as it's brethren (and ultimately accomplishing the same end result- the instantaneous transmission of an object from point A to point B) p-teleportation is a whole different ball game from other forms of transportation (primarily in that it is accomplished through genuinely "organic" and traditionally "mysterious" methods in a manner that is not widely understood or accepted by the scientific community) and while I won't go into it in depth, the data collected by the Air Force is definitely worth looking into yourself (see the link for the Davis Report, especially if you think telekinesis is a hokey idea with no rational place in scientific theory.
- The Davis Report (.pdf)
An 88 page study of teleportation
So, as you can see, there are a host of different methods being explored by researchers all over the world in the pursuit of achieving this ultimate goal of being able to create a sound, reproducible (and ultimately saleable) method of "beaming" people and objects places. But, like all wondrous and potentially revolutionary technologies (i.e. Cryogenics, Nanotechnology, and Digital Sentience, among others,) teleportation has it's own pack of exciting moral dilemmas just waiting to be turned into slogans shouted by sign-waving protestors. Why? Because, while it might seem simple and harmless, teleportation traditionally requires the "deconstruction" of an individual or object and a subsequent "reconstruction" in order to work properly (this is, of course, assuming that simply crossing over from point A to point B by bending the shape of time/space or via the use of extra-space dimensions and alternate realities doesn't work out for us.) This process therefore technically destroys the individual or object, even if only for a billionth of a second, breaking continuity of existence and therefore, effectively (and according to current law) killing the individual. This brings up a very valid question- if there is indeed a soul, or some sort of unique life-force that is a part of each human individual, what happens to it when a person is taken apart, atom by atom, and "teleported?" Is it detached and subsequently reattached upon rematerialization, is it taken apart along with the rest of individual and reassembled as effectively as his or her more material aspects, or is it simply lost somewhere in the process? Will the first test subjects be reconstructed without any ill effects, or rematerialize as mindless vegetables, empty bodies without thought or awareness? Only time (and experimentation, of course,) will tell for sure.
Regardless of the methods eventually used by mankind to instantaneously teleport a person from point to point, you can bet religious leaders (say, the pope, for instance) will have to approve the device and announce that (in their eyes) it is spiritually safe to use, even if it does hurl your atoms through an extra-dimensional pocket of quantum space at the speed of light or involve bringing New York and Los Angeles a little closer together than they were (perhaps) ever meant to be. Like kosher foods and condoms, the potentially revolutionary technology of the instantaneous transmission of living matter will have to be accepted by the clergy before it will be able to show it's true potential to the world, making those long car rides and plane trips a thing of the past, and providing a way for the working individual to return home at night, regardless of whether the commute is on the other side of town or the other side of the globe.