Redundant infrastructure and jobs create an industrial wasteland

Today’s youngsters do not know a world without teleportation. To them it is a fact of life. It is like the air they breathe – and they never think about it at all.

As the world celebrates the 25th anniversary of the first successful teleportation of a living entity on 1 October 2020, it is hard to remember a world in which objects and people had to be moved physically.

The road, rail and air infrastructure so much a part of the industrial 20th Century now lies barren and unused; sad relics that attract vagrants and weeds in equal measure.

Governments strain to cope with a sub-class that has grown up around the wasteland of airports, railway stations, rail lines and vast networks of highways. Unemployed and unemployable in today’s high tech world, they have their own rules and lifestyles, increasingly distanced from the shrinking middle classes.

China has been one of the hardest hit. Investments in infrastructure development came to a sudden halt after five years into Teleportation Commerce (or T-Commerce as it became known). It became obvious that the days of physical logistics were numbered.

No one knows quite what to do with the vast unused infrastructure.

First, 3D printing threatened all intermediaries in the value chain between designer and consumer. Then T-Commerce took away the final vestiges of physicality from manufacturing, and destroyed transportation, logistics and the travel industry.

Virgin sold its Virgin Atlantic business to Alitalia years ago, and their Virgin T-ravel (their brand name for Teleportation Travel) and VV (Virgin Virtual, their express ‘parcel’ service) is booming.

The two surviving global airlines still deny that this is the end, even while they try to compete on ever-lower prices and ever-older aircraft. Boeing and Airbus filed for bankruptcy in 2040 on the back of a dwindling order pipeline.

Today we try to cope with the social and political consequences of vastly fewer jobs and disappearing ‘old’ industries.

No one can quite understand how FedEx, UPS and Li & Fung, and most of the world’s governments, didn’t see this coming.

ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be

Teleportation is the transfer of matter from one point to another, more or less instantaneously, either by paranormal means or through technological artifice. Teleportation has been widely utilized in works of science fiction.

The word was coined in 1931 by American writer Charles Fort to describe the strange disappearances and appearances of anomalies, which he suggested may be connected. He joined the Greek prefix tele- (meaning “distant”) to the Latin verb portare (meaning “to carry”).

One proposed means of teleportation is the transmission of data which is used to precisely reconstruct an object or organism at its destination. However, it would be impossible to travel from one point to another instantaneously; faster than light travel, as of today, is believed to be impossible.

The use of this form of teleportation as a means of transport for humans still has considerable unresolved technical issues, such as recording the human body with sufficient accuracy to allow reproduction elsewhere, and whether destroying a human in one place and recreating a copy elsewhere would provide a sufficient experience of continuity of existence. The reassembled human might be considered a different sentience with the same memories as the original, as could be easily proved by constructing not just one, but several copies of the original and interrogating each as to the perceived uniqueness of each.

Dimensional teleportation is a mechanism often shown in fictional works, particularly in fantasy and comic books. It involves the subject exiting one physical universe or plane of existence, then re-entering it at a different location. This method is rarely seriously considered by the scientific community, as the currently predominant theories about parallel universes assume that physical travel is not possible between them.

Another form of teleportation common in science fiction (and seen in The Culture novels and The Terminator series of films) sends the subject through a wormhole or similar phenomenon, allowing transit faster than light while avoiding the problems posed by the uncertainty principle and potential signal interference. In both of the examples above, this form of teleportation is known as “Displacement” or “Topological shortcut” (Scientific American) which implies that this kind of teleportation may be similar in mechanism to time travel.

Displacement teleporters would eliminate many probable objections to teleportation on religious or philosophical grounds, as they preserve the original subject intact — and thus continuity of existence.

(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

2004: First teleportation of atoms
In June 2004, Nature reports that scientists in the US and Austria performed successful teleportation of atoms for the first time.
It relies on a strange behavior that exists at the atomic scale known as ‘entanglement’, whereby two particles can have related properties even when they are far apart. Einstein called it a “spooky action.”
“This development is still a long way from the transporters used by Jean-Luc Picard and Captain Kirk in the famous Star Trek TV series,” reports the publication.

2007: A new approach
Physicist Ashton Bradley’s team at the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Quantum Atom Optics in Brisbane proposes a technique that avoids quantum entanglement entirely. “We’re talking about a beam of about 5,000 particles disappearing from one place and appearing somewhere else,” says Bradley. “We feel that our scheme is closer in spirit to the original fictional concept,” he adds.
While the technique can also transmit quantum information in the beam, the technique itself does not rely on the quantum properties of particles, so the team has dubbed the new method “classical teleportation.” (Watch an animation here)

2017: Fusion power gives teleportation a boost
Breakthroughs in fusion power and hyper-laser energy provide the missing ingredient: How to provide enough concentrated energy to stabilize a wormhole, and control the displacement process.
The solution lies in creating anomalies at the nano scale, then ‘growing’ them to a practical size with precisely controlled, massively powerful lasers.

2020: First teleportation of a living organism
As a ‘first’ it doesn’t get much bigger than this.

A project funded by the Chinese government research agency has managed to transmit a bacterium from Beijing to Shanghai by moving only the information about the atoms and cell structure. The bacterium arrived in Shanghai fully functional and ‘alive’.

So far scientists had teleported only single photons — a packet of light — across miles.

The Chinese team put paid to a lot of what they call ‘theoretical limitations’ of teleportation:

  • Measuring the quantum state of an object essentially destroys it.
  • Teleportation of organisms is too complex.

But the average person is made of more than 10 to the power of 27 atoms — a 1 with 27 zeroes behind it — and each atom is made of subatomic particles such as protons, neutrons and electrons. Measuring the quantum states of all of a person’s particles might just take too long.

2025: A cat is teleported and gets Amazon’s attention
A joint US-China team takes the technology to the next level by teleporting a cat from Houston to Beijing.

The team promises “commercial teleportation of inanimate products” within five years. Amazon invests massively in the new venture, while Federal Express and UPS rank it as “unlikely to affect our business in the short term.”

How could they be so short-sighted?

2032: First person teleported
An unsubstantiated report in the China People’s Daily reports that two prisoners have been teleported to a jail somewhere in China’s remote northern provinces.
Over the months more and more information is discussed that seems to add credibility to what started as a rumor.
Late in 2032 Chinese researchers call a major conference to establish the results of what turns out to be ‘mass teleportation’ – more than 1,000 people have been successfully transported, allegedly with no failures.
The Richard Branson Trust is shown to be behind the new commercial teleportation company to be established next year.

2040: Economic effects start to emerge
Trading in transportation futures demonstrates that these related industries are seen to be doomed.
Actual revenues and profits drop slowly but the race between investors to rid themselves of pre-T-age stocks is rampant.
As always, the hype precedes the actual commercial viability, but Virgin sells its Virgin Atlantic business to Alitalia. Virgin T-ravel (their brand name for Teleportation Travel) and VV (Virgin Virtual, their express ‘parcel’ service) bookings are up; the priority personal travel segment is sold out for the next five years.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

Despite appearances to the contrary, Futureworld cannot and does not predict the future. Our Mindbullets scenarios are fictitious and designed purely to explore possible futures, challenge and stimulate strategic thinking. Use these at your own risk. Any reference to actual people, entities or events is entirely allegorical. Copyright Futureworld International Limited. Reproduction or distribution permitted only with recognition of Copyright and the inclusion of this disclaimer.