Want to be beamed up like Captain Kirk? We are probably closer to developing this technology than you realize…
Ever since our ancestors invented the wheel, humanity has searched for better ways to travel from one place to another. The horse-drawn wagon, bicycle, automobile and airplane have all enjoyed varying degrees of success; and tomorrow’s driverless cars and hyperspace crafts promise even more efficiency.
However, many future followers believe none of these will equal what may become the most efficient mode of travel ever – teleportation. Rapidly moving from Sci-Fi to real science, a few bold futurists predict this far-out way of going from point A to point B could one day become the Holy Grail of transportation.
Most people were first introduced to teleportation in the Star Trek TV series, where Capt. Kirk beamed away to his many hair-raising adventures. We were fascinated watching people step on the transporter and instantly appear at their destination. Michio Kaku explains teleportation in the 3-minute video below:
How close are we towards realizing this futuristic technology? The following list reveals milestones in teleportation development:
1993 – IBM’s Charles Bennett was the first to prove that teleportation is possible with quantum research. Some predict Bennett could be in line for a Nobel Prize in 2012. Reuters article explains.
1998 – Caltech physicists turned the IBM idea into reality by teleporting a photon. See 3 minute video. 2002 – Australian National University successfully teleported a laser beam. 2006 – Denmark scientists beamed information stored in a laser beam into a cloud of atoms. 2012 – Scientists reproduce the characteristics of a photon over 143 kilometers in the Canary Islands.
Quantum teleportation transfers information between two points without anything physical, like a radio wave, passing through space. This means it can’t be intercepted and could provide a basis for totally secure mass communications, super-fast quantum computers, and eventually, a quantum Internet much more powerful than the one we have today.
Far from being a dream, quantum teleportation is happening routinely in laboratories around the world. Currently, this is restricted to tiny particles, but enthusiasts believe that as the science develops; it will be possible to send larger objects; and eventually, a human body will be teleported from point A to point B.
However, the challenges are enormous. Researchers must first create a machine to pinpoint, analyze, and store information from quintillions of atoms and bits, including our consciousness. The machine must then transmit the data to another location where an exact replica forms and the old body dematerializes. But some may wonder, “Is this new body really me; or could something have gotten lost in the transition?”
Forward thinkers believe all of these issues will be solved with future technologies. Molecular nanotech, expected by late 2020s, will enable devices that can capture and store the colossal amounts of data. And quantum computers aided by future artificial intelligence, predicted for mainstream use by late 2030s, will process the information needed to record every atom in a body insuring that nothing gets lost in transfer.
One of the features of quantum teleportation, the only form of teleportation that allows the creation of a perfect copy of the original somewhere else, is that the original is always destroyed. Is this OK? Most experts believe it is. Biology tells us that all the cells in a human body are replaced periodically anyway.
But perhaps a non-quantum form of teleportation where the original would not be destroyed could be developed for humans. However, this would result in the existence of two identical people, which poses other issues; what rights will this new person be given; should it own my belongings, share my spouse?
Regardless of these perplexing scenarios, more and more physicists believe that human teleportation will happen. IBM’s Bennett predicts future technicians will scan a person using a futuristic MRI-like device, and then transmit the data somewhere to be reassembled into an exact replica of the original person.
As this science advances exponentially into the decades ahead, by as early as the 2030s, we could be teleporting information; and sometime during the last half of this century, the first humans might step onto a transporter and beam themselves instantly to anywhere on Earth; or to some faraway space colony.
Are we headed for a teleportation future? If we blend tomorrow’s predicted nanotechnology and artificial intelligence advances with human ingenuity, the answer is a resounding yes! Comments welcome.
Dick Pelletier was a weekly columnist who wrote about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He passed away on July 22, 2014.
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