21 October 2011

#fridayflash: the timeline

  • 2039: Scientists working at the University of Melbourne successfully teleport a coffee cup from a dedicated departure pad to a dedicated arrival pad. Later that same year, they work with another team in Wellington, New Zealand to teleport another coffee cup, this time with a note in it laying bets on which team will win the Rugby World Cup. The New Zealand team confirms the coffee cup and note arrived safely, and in their original states. This proves that a) long distance teleporting is possible and b) teleporting two things at once will not "blend" them or stick them together. The Australians win the Nobel Prize for physics that year, but lose their bet.
  • 2040-2045: Development of the technology continues. Pads may now be built large enough to accommodate a shipping container.
  • 2047: The first commercial teleportation pads are rolled out around the world. Ship's captains, seamen, and freight airline pilots demonstrate in New York, Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, and elsewhere, claiming the technology will destroy their industries.
  • 2048-2053: Shipping via teleport becomes the norm for anything but very large items. Several industries are transformed as shipping costs flatten — the Australian corporation founded by the scientists uses a global flat fee, scaled only by the size of the item to be shipped, rather than weight or distance.
  • 2053: a dock worker in Hamburg shows up for work drunk, gets sacked, screams he's going to kill himself, and runs into a departure pad just as a shipper hits the teleport button. Much to everyone's complete shock, he arrives in Johannesburg with the shipping container alive and unharmed. The teleportation company owners hold an emergency meeting to discuss human and animal transport on a large scale. The South Africans arrest the dock worker for entering the country illegally, and decide the least expensive thing to do is deport him back to Germany the same way he arrived.
  • 2053-2055: Countries around the world start using teleportation as a method of deporting illegal refugees en masse. Human rights groups complain that often people are deported to countries they did not come from, without being able to speak the local language and with no means to either return to their home country or find a new safe haven.
  • 2056: the teleportation company applies a global firmware upgrade that checks the DNA of any organic matter on the destination pad. If more than two kilos of it belongs to any single human, the pad will not operate until it is removed. Shipping companies complain this slows transmission speeds to unacceptable levels — one tenth of a second instead of one hundredth.
  • 2057: the first "parallel" teleport networks are set up using discarded and reverse-engineered components. After two fatal accidents, one involving a political leader who encouraged the alternative network, the Australian company decides to allow licensing and franchising of the pad centres. They insist, however, that there be one global network, pointing to the problems caused with the Internet when countries tried to split off and form their own.
  • 2058: the first public transportation pads are rolled out. No more than four people are allowed on a pad at once, and destination keycards have to be paid for in advance. Most pads are for only one person to use at a time. 
  • 2060: Suburban areas around the world get retrofitted so that their residents can walk to the nearest pad centre in a reasonable amount of time. The average fitness levels of North Americans and Western Europeans improve for the first time in decades.
  • 2062: The automobile and train industries run a smear campaign against teleportation, resurrecting the old twentieth-century slogan "Getting There is Half the Fun" and claiming teleportation uses more energy and is more polluting than internal combustion vehicles. Unfortunately for them, the scientists who own the teleportation company have been studying energy consumption and the total carbon footprint of their technology almost from the start, and have hard numbers (and a good ad agency) to refute this. They start a counter-campaign aimed at families: "Never have anyone ask 'are we there yet?'".
  • 2065: teleportation leads car driving in terms of kilometres travelled. More and more neighbourhoods are becoming "car free zones".
  • 2070: most countries have laws banishing the few remaining cars to rural areas. No one notices much.


  1. I like the way you worked in "Are we there yet?" and kudos for resisting any references to "Beam me up, Scotty." This all seems very plausible to me.

  2. @Tim VanSant -- thank you! I did have a small Star Trek reference at one point, but I took it out. Maybe next time.

  3. Oh, this is an absolute joy to read, very nicely put together. I like the way the facts are blended in with snippets of information, and do I detect a tad of underlying humour- or is that just me?

    Great sci-fi, well done.

  4. Wow the way of progress - I really liked this, and loved the counter campaign slogan of "Never have anyone ask 'are we there yet?'

    I like the format it was written in a bit like a history report lightened with snippets of everyday facts.

    Enjyed this sci-fi - who knows in the future it may not be fiction!


  5. Very well thought out history. I wonder whether these teleportations result in pollution, or whether it's win win.

  6. @Steve Green, @Helen -- I was aiming for something that would sound more like a recap in a magazine article, rather than something from a history book. So yes, the humour is supposed to be in there. Besides, James Burke's Connections series has taught us that the most absurd things can lead to important discoveries.

    @Aidan Fritz -- the teleporters would need electricity, and plenty of it. The total pollution would depend on how electricity is generated in that era.

  7. I like this, very interesting and well thought out, helped along by a decent portion of humour. I like the action/ reaction dynamic of it as well.

    I wonder that there is no mention of war, though, or a terrorist act, but then I suppose that might spoil the light-hearted nature of the flash.

    Good work. =)

  8. @John: I did have an entry about specifically military uses earlier, but I cut it out. Maybe it will get used in a future flash post.


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