There is a time in history when there was no teleportation. Most of us do not remember such a time, as it crept up on us over the span of three centuries in an era when most Homo sapiens lived for only one. This period prior to teleportation, now shortened to ‘Pre-T’, was a different age – akin to the Bronze Age, the Iron Age or the Industrial Age – in the sense that you could draw a line between humanity as it was then and humanity as it is now.
An advertisement was recently delivered to me in the ‘post’. It struck me as marvellous for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to, the fact that all the things it discussed had only come into existence within my lifetime.
The clipping was for an upgrade to my three-year-old Atomatic™ – a bench-top device that enables the sending and receiving of personal deliveries by circumventing the tyranny of distance. The improvements since my last investment were a literal doubling in atoms per second (ATS) with only a slight increase in my energy consumption. It also came with a detachable hood for the transmitting of larger objects.
When I was a child, the word ‘post’ had very different connotations. I am an oldish man, I confess, but when I was of the learning-to-read age, dipping my mind into historical literature, I understood that ‘post’ was how deliveries were made, by whatever means necessary for the territories they had to cross, i.e. pony, truck, boat, plane or pneumatic tube. Early bots, and even humans, if I understand this correctly, were employed to ‘deliver by hand’. Just to be clear for my coevals, what I’m saying is that the way you might carry a glass from one room to another is how all things were once moved from place to place. This is not a myth or a story created by old people. The system peaked in the 21st century and then fell into decline with the collapse. It was reprised in limited fashion during the second dark ages, until it was eventually redefined by the advent of teleportation. For those of lesser years, I can’t underscore enough how life has changed in the age of teleportation and would put forward that this is one of those innovations that has profoundly transformed the nature of its creators.
Technology, from the very beginning, has eroded the power dynamics between nature and beast. The beast garners abilities that enable a command over the world around it that was previously inconceivable and, though technological in nature, to take those developments away would be an act of atavism. Over the last ten or so millennia, there have been several technological revolutions that have had such a transfiguring effect on humanity. Harnessing fire must have been one, making us the only animal that cooked its food and heated its homes as and when it wished. This Promethean discovery could very well be the most significant ingredient in our ongoing ability to bend the environment to our control, as it also enabled the mastery of metals, chemistry and pyrotechnics. I suppose we should also mention the wheel, whose rolling function allowed the animal to rely less heavily on its own two legs. Then there is clothing, which let us protect ourselves from the elements and colonise areas our bodies would have been too weak for without. And writing, which gave us a way to communicate beyond oral transmission, enabling us to speak to humans beyond reach, to future generations, to share knowledge and deposit it for all time. Plus electricity, whose uncountable changes I could spend all day describing. And the weave . . . need I go on?
There is of course one other that, while oft proclaimed as miraculous in advertising materials, is not always recognised as the catalyst of evolution it really is. (One does, naturally, differentiate between evolution as a technological substratum and as a natural system affecting living organisms; the latter being intrinsic, the other erodible, as seen to horrific effect on some colonies lacking a pyramidal tech foundation.) From crude beginnings, the tech of teleportation developed and, though at first some saw a weapon – as some always do – others saw a tool that has since gone on to touch every molecule of human life. The following list of human concerns altered radically by this tech is by no means chronological, only thematic. Each segment has developed in stages to where it is today, but I have skipped the minutiae.
War and crime
No truly pioneering enterprise is victimless, be it colonisation, space exploration or medicine. Teleportation suffered in development twofold: through accidents and because it made a brilliant weapon.
At first, the digestion of matter to data and then the translation back was fraught with errors, leading to explosions as well as unique and mischievous chemical compounds, not to mention casualties and fatalities. It was precisely these mistakes that led to one of mankind’s most hideous weaponisations: teledistortion.
Harming didn’t require accurate recomposition. Quite the opposite. During the worldwide cultural breakdown that ended in the second dark ages, the Örjians made popular that now famous weapon the ruisbuss (or scramble pipe), which used teledistortion to great effect. They would sweep their home-made tubes across an opposing crowd or army, blithely displacing organs and muscle, twisting guts in ways guts had never been twisted before, until none could stand and few would live.
At the end of the Örjian conflict, the Siberian Terminus would be formed through the monstrous overuse of displacement tanks, where the destruction of such a vast terrain created the first and only ecological disaster caused by teleportation.
Once the technology had been mastered, it led to all sorts of strategic breakthroughs and the defeat of many defences that had been impregnable for millennia. It is impossible to list the new potentialities for aggression that were suddenly within the reach of any person with an off-the-shelf Atomaker™ or Atomatic™, but here is a start to get the imagination flowing: kidnapping, theft, evidence disposal, explosive and virus delivery, the removal of vital structural supports, and decapitation.
Such power to steal and destroy indiscriminately has led to a downturn in the profitability of traditional warfare and malfeasance, or at least a changing of the battlefield, and while there was a monumental upsurge in crimes, big and small, a balance is always found, as the forces of law and order used the new technology to pursue and capture criminals and gather evidence, as well as developing new rescue and emergency-response approaches.
Magic and miscellany
By the time it became safe to use, it could be attributed with over a billion deaths, if you take the ruisbuss and its ilk into account. So, even once teleportation was fully functional, the public was sceptical and afraid. After the second dark ages and the prolific use of teledistortion, teleportation was so stigmatised by the public that it disappeared into obscurity until 2277 ce, when the venerable Royal Mail of the IK (Incorporated Kingdom) gambled its survival on making the technology safe to use. In order to allay public concerns, teleportation purveyors such as Royal Mail, Atomaker™ and Atomatic™ funded a stage magician called Cypress Clay and his Amazing Teleporting Circus for a straight 38 years to tour the ecumene of greater Earth and demonstrate the safety and reliability of modern teleportation. From 2382 to 2420 ce, with three evening shows and two matinees a week, he and his performers would amaze and astound packed atriums, shopping forums and private residences by taking centuries-old illusionist tricks and acts of daring and performing them with what he called the ‘New Magic’.
When I was merely seven years old, he came to our family home to deliver a solo performance. Cypress started his show in the parlour with a bowl and a solitary goldfish. It was presented to the spectators for inspection and unanimously deemed alive and real and certainly not a carved carrot. Then, placing the bowl on an undressed table, he removed himself to the other end of the room, where the bar was, and collected a glass of white wine, which he drank between quips about certain alcoholic tendencies that he had to assuage before commencing the show. Upon emptying the glass, he thanked us for our patience and then held the vessel aloft. Inside it, water appeared and then a singular swimming goldfish. Our eyes turned back to discover the bowl suddenly goldfishless.
Here, the show really began, as some cluey folk meanly suggested that Cypress had distracted them and had the fish on his person the whole time. But he countered with this refrain: ‘Good people, I understand your disbelief. I understand that you are incredulous. I understand because what I am to show you is unbelievable. It is impossible.
‘It will be impossible for me to move the water of the bowl to a series of glasses, or to take personal possessions from each of you and secrete them elsewhere in the room. It will be even more impossible for me to walk to one side of the room and then be returned to the bar before you can blink. It is possible at this time that I will require another drink. I’ll need another drink before embarking on my next set of tricks, involving the teleportation of any object you suggest, within reason, inside a now empty wine bottle.
‘I have many such tricks for you tonight, each more complicated and impossible to believe than the last, and at the end of it I guarantee you that at least one of us will be able to deny what they saw on the grounds that they were very, very drunk.’ Cypress then performed his tricks one by one, exactly as he had outlined, as well as accepting challenges from the audience – always with a drink in his hand and a casual disregard for the miracles he was demonstrating. I recall at one point that he accidentally drank his fish and had to teleport it out of his stomach.
There is much footage on the weave of the daring feats performed by Cypress Clay and his circus – my favourite is the perpetually falling elephant – and in this way the world was placated. The terrible accidents of the past were forgotten, or at least overcome, and teleportation was accepted into daily life. Not only was a technological leap hurdled, but it also returned to us the older concept and love of magic.
Post, transport and trade – teleposting
The rest, as they say, is history. The Royal Mail established a monopoly on transport, rolling out its red and black columns across the globe, onto streets and into homes and offices, making them as ubiquitous as chairs. People could suddenly ‘post’ their epistles into the dark slit of the scarlet barrel and be rewarded with a glimpse of a flash. That flash was then echoed somewhere else across the globe to indicate a ‘delivery’.
There were still quirks to be fixed, of course. It was the first iteration of a new technology. Amusingly, though, the dead-letter office was another excavated concept from the past, and its new incarnation was more of a mess than ever, sometimes belittled with the tag of ‘confetti room’.
Trade followed. Once sufficiently large transducers were built and their energy demands met, it spelt the end of long-haul trucking and cargo ships, and the beginning of an all-new nightmare for customs and quarantine.
Agriculture and farming
Prior to the invention of modern dibble sticks, planting and seeding was done by hand. Before harvest locusts, the work of collecting fruit and grain was achieved by ‘fruit pickers’ and ‘field workers’, or, for some kinds of plants, by enormous harvest machines that tore them to shreds to remove the edible portion.
Another great change came about – in tandem with the breeding and clone farms – due to the new simplicity of impregnation. This had the double-positive of expanding the gene pool in domestic herds to include animals of other continents, which in turn helped with disease control, as more resistant strains could be gestated within the very beasts who would soon succumb to the sweeping plague.
Conversely, the tech has also humanised the business of abattoirs, whose history must be investigated to be believed. This positive aspect of the tech has led to the end of famine. One can scarcely understand the civilisation of Pre-T man that allowed hundreds and thousands of people to starve to death. 24th century readers may need to study this area to understand what this means, as the last human to die of malnutrition was 54 years ago.
Architecture and engineering
There was almost nothing that teleportation didn’t change in the engineering field: from the manufacture of basic materials and the divination of new ones to preservation and the entire construction process.
The example used in architectural training schools is of how ancient Venice itself was raised from its seabed one building at a time (no cranes required), reinforced with steel splints that were teleported directly inside the original walls (no rebuilding), and then cleaned with a fine-toothed teleportation comb (no brushes or chemicals).
Buildings are now bought and sold and teleposted – at great energy expense, of course – which has enabled the relocation and renovation of our cities to better suit their geography and has also led to such neo-retro composite metropolises as Torontreal, Reno-Atlantic and Brisbourne (or Melbane in the perforative).
One limit that had always burdened engineering and construction was that of access. For example, it was necessary for a doorway to be sufficiently wide to allow a piano to get inside a room. This problem was entirely obliterated. Architecture was finally released from the tortuous confines of logistics and other traditional limitations. Thus, teleportation was the key ingredient in the rise of the Escheresque movement, a style that focused on making buildings that were previously impossible. It is worth noting that while hammers, screwdrivers and drills have become relics, doors, though no longer strictly necessary, have stood the test of time.
Plumbing and waste disposal
The second wave of teleportation tech began with mastering the ability to transmit liquids, flora and then, finally, fauna. Running water and plumbing could also be classified as a species-changing development; teleportation simply made it easier. Pre-T, every abode was connected to a mains water system by a series of pipes. Entire cities were latticed by metal pipes that pushed clean water in and dirty water out. It was an integral part of their infrastructure. Many references can be found in literature that document how proud people were when they had achieved running water. Like electricity, it was a sign of civilised society. Pre-T, rubbish was collected in bags in a receptacle in each room and then collected again into a bigger receptacle near the house, and that was collected by trucks that took the waste to dedicated areas where enormous piles became their own islands. There were indeed entire populations that lived among and sorted through the waste to stay alive.
Thankfully, those days are gone. With the increased ability to analyse down to the molecule, waste recycling has become a sort of mechanical degeneration. All matter is now scanned, demolecularised and sorted for reuse. Nothing goes to waste. The same process has also made filtration of water for reuse de rigueur.
Mining and excavation
Once upon a time, and I’m not sure when the practice stopped, people used tools such as pickaxes and sledgehammers to break rocks apart, and explosives to smash open hills and mountains in order to access the ores and minerals within. Nobody of the 24th century would believe the size and scale of Pre-T mining technology. What now requires a hand-held control no bigger than a coin previously necessitated machines larger than a modest home.
Of course, many readers are unlikely to engage in much mining, so I might quickly explain how a squid works. Holding your hand towards the rock face from which you wish to extract minerals, set your squid’s sensors for the element you seek and watch as it extends gossamer-thin wires that push into the surface. These wires teleport the material at their tips to one of two bins, ore and detritus.
Deeper mining requires longer and thicker wires – a typical consumer-grade squid can only go 20 centimetres deep before requiring extensions – and the same device is used in excavation for tunnels and building foundations. Squids have also been integral in hollowing asteroids for living spaces.
In Pre-T times, to protect from oncoming floods, citizens would hand-make bags of sand and construct walls of them to diverge the flow around their town. There are about ten large-scale emergency teleportation nets that have been put to work on what, before the technology, could only be described as miracles, crossing the path of an enraged river and releasing its swell further downstream, thus skipping any populated or delicate zones.
In times of severe drought, teleportation nets can be flown across a part of the world in monsoon and used to deliver the catch to barren pastures. It only took a dozen attempts to learn the ecological havoc this generally wreaks, but it is a technique still used in extreme cases.
Teleporting a parcel or a bomb is one thing, but tinkering with the human body has always been a sensitive concept and gives many of us the heebie-jeebies. So progress was cautious, to say the least, and began with non-invasive scanning and precision excising. However, from the very first pain-free, infection-free and blood-free operations, both doctors and patients rushed to perfect the technology. No expense was spared on our new panacea.
It has now become a biannual ritual for people of all ages to visit a ‘sphere’ for their check-ups and rejuvenations – a practice that has extended the average lifespan of a citizen to well over 200 years. The sphere, for those who use it without even knowing what they are stepping inside, is a 360° by 360° full-spectrum scanner and translocator that maps and remaps the patient’s body, testing what needs testing, removing what needs to be removed (including excess fat), filtering blood of toxins, even performing complex surgical transplants, with internal stitching and cauterising, that in the past would have kept a team of medical professionals arm-deep for many hours.
One particularly notable development was the cessation of the historical Caesarean section. Prior to the advent of teleportation, Caesareans were performed with the sharpest of tools to aid mothers whose lives were in danger from the birthing process. What is now called a t-section has become the leading choice for modern mothers for health and safety reasons, and perhaps for aesthetic ones, too.
Planning and infrastructure
With certain necessities dispensed with, and the shedding of the traditional bonds that commanded the networking of cities, natural diversification has begun to show in the layout and planning of our conurbations. From a satellite view, one can see the changing of patterns from a line-based mesh to a stochastic spray of seemingly random clusters.
The millennial standards of centralised plumbing, sewerage, transport and electrical systems can be ignored by new cities and towns. Populations can now organise themselves into ghettos of common interest and belief, with minimal physical interaction. This has led to a tendency of isolationism, especially on colony planets, where people group by choice with nothing but winding footpaths connecting their homes and public spaces.
There are many areas I haven’t been able to cover here; I have merely highlighted the developments I feel have significantly changed human ‘nature’. Sports, of course, have also benefited, with all sorts of new hybrid forms: telehockey, teleball, teletennis, etc. Cooking and culinary pursuits have also made some interesting advances, though none I’d call species-changing. It is remarkable to me how the younger generation has absorbed the new technology and uses it without thinking, as if it always existed. Instantaneously, the problems that beset our parents disappeared and were forgotten. They shall never know blocked drains, frozen pipes, famine, transport delays, traffic congestion, surgical infections, flood or drought. One might be tempted by the privilege of age to suggest that they are soft and will never appreciate the hardships we and our ancestors endured. And thus, in teleportation I have been blessed enough to witness not only the metamorphosis of my species and its society but also the chasm of inter-generational memory.
There are still limits to the powers that teleportation has given us. We cannot, as yet, transmit between solar systems. Nor can we transmit light and energy – if we do master that, I can conceive of even greater changes to our societal structures. Why, if we could transport sunlight, we could make multi-level farms under the crust of the Earth or build a proxy Dyson Sphere to capture all the sun’s output. Imagine the world of difference it would make to space-based activities if batteries weren’t required. It could mean the end of torches!
The possibilities are still endless.