Why Do We Still Have Airplanes?

I’ve been listening to the Hyperion Cantos on my iPhone while I run/bike (it’s amazing – I’m almost done with book two) and I’ve been wondering why we still have airplanes.

We’ve already figured out how to go from analog form to digital form back to analog form. Consider the telephone.

We’ve already figured out how to go from atoms to bits to atoms. Consider the 3D printer.

We can transmit energy and information, so why can’t we yet teleport?

Who is working on this?

In Hyperion, the machines (the AI) ended up figuring this out for the humans. It feels like we are on the cusp of this as a species.

Ponder that as you board your next plan. Wouldn’t it be better to farcast to where you are going? Or would it?

  • Felix Dashevsky

    you haven’t heard of teleport.ly? hard to iterate though. not many beta testers volunteering.

  • Rick

    “…so why can’t we yet teleport?”
    We can. But we do it via copies instead of originals. The bigger problem is figuring out how we can teleport without losing so much of the pleasure from a trip.
    BTW… Do you know if that thank you note arrived?

    • The thank you note did arrive – I just saw it yesterday when my physical mail caught up with me. Thank you for the note!

      • Rick

        You’re welcome. Which one did you like best – 1 or 2 or 3?

  • David Young

    I love Dan Simmons and the Hyperion series. It is a bit disturbing that there does not seem to be any serious efforts to deprecate flying. A worldwide network of Elon Musk style hyperloops, perhaps?

    • It was only around 100 years ago that humans had no way of flying. Pretty amazing.

  • RBC

    I’m not scientific enough to venture into the main question – however I do remember reading recently about the convergence of three factors that was going to make the jetsons like pod a real thing… maybe it was even on this blog. The only one that I can remember is the advance of self-driving cars – which would help avoid midair collisions

  • Yes, but will be ever be able to transmit energy and information… while also getting served a full can of soda for the in-teleport beverage service?
    If not then I want no part of this.

  • B12N

    If teleportation is atoms > bits > atoms, wouldn’t we also be able to replicate ourselves?

  • SomeEngineer

    We don’t teleport because of those pesky physics.

    We are nowhere near teleportation technology.

    • Matt Kruza

      Yeah I agree. This post actually really bugs me (full disclosure.. feel a little like an ass making this me my first post on your blog.. love everything you have done for entrepreneurship and Denver / boulder – I often reference I want to do what you did for the area to what I intend to do for clevleand ohio.. but I digress. just want to preface this so I don’t sound like a troll).
      The answer is simple. PHYSICS. It is nearly (if not indeed nearly) physically impossible to reassemble all the components of a human body. Like I mean we will be lucky in 500 years far away from this happening. We know SO little on how the brain works.. there is literally almost no way that we can recreate any sort of matter teleporting if we don’t even understand the brain. Also, an INSANE amount of energy would be needed to move that much matter, that far, that quick etc.
      The reason it bugs me, and MAYBE your post was completely sarcastic? (I don’t think so though), is there is this idea in people and especially tech people that anything is possible. It is not. Physical laws of nature will / do always remain. This causes major problems in people wasting insane parts of their life working on things that are not just unknown, but in fact are KNOWABLY not possible.
      Concrete example:
      – Density of the basic wet cell / lead acid battery (invented early 1800’s I believe) hasn’t changed much in 200 years.. because of physics! Instead of wasting all the time on electrical vehicles in 1990’s with lead acid.. we could have moved onto lithium and other battery technologies decades earlier
      Probably overkill on my comment.. just frustrating to me to see things are very easily answered being tossed around. I suspect / hope you realize this but many aspiring entreprneeurs and technologists surely look up to you and may not be aware that spending time on this problem is fruitless.

      • I was being lighthearted and provocative.

        I disagree though that “physics” is the constraint. Our current understanding of how things work is the constraint. And physics, and our understanding of how things work, are continuously evolving.

        As humans, we might not be able to evolve this very fast. But once the AI becomes sentient, we have no idea how fast thought and discovery will occur.

        The farcast reference is an ironic twist on this. In Hyperion, human’s didn’t create the farcaster system (which is used for teleportation) – the AIs did. And, without going deeper, there’s a MASSIVE twist in that one… All envisioned by a human in 1990.

  • Have you had a chance to see a quantum computer? I got to see one at NASA. Nothing really to see except a big, sleek-looking box but there was also a lecture by the guy who runs their supercomputing center. Spooky stuff.
    The most amazing factoid was the computer’s processor is cooled to about 0.2 degrees kelvin. He said they will get even colder within a couple years.

    • I love the sci-fi notion that computers don’t need physical boxes. It’s at the core of the core in Hyperion.

  • For a different POV, read Stephen King’s short story “The Jaunt”. It’s also about the advent of teleportation, but will quell any desires you have to do it.

    • I haven’t read it. Grabbing it now. Stephen King scares the shit out of me, which is good every now and then.

  • williamhertling

    We don’t have any ways to move atoms at great distances. We can scan and we can 3d print, but neither is at the required resolution. The approach I’d take (as I’ve described before), would be to look at the improvement in human body scanning resolution over time, and the improvement in 3d printing resolution over time, and extrapolate when we’ll reach the necessary resolution.

    Of course, do you really need to be embodied in your own flesh body at the other side? If you had a neural implant, and a robotic body with all the necessary sensors to give you a realistic in-the-flesh experience, why bother building a body? Just control the robot at the other end.

    Or, if you’ve got unemployed humans looking for work, maybe one of them will rent your their body to use to remotely control. Even better fidelity.

    I think neural implants should be commercialized by the mid-2030s, if computer components continue to shrink as they have.

    • Imagine if we were approaching the problem completely wrong and there was a completely different set of science behind it.

      • I love this idea, as it could allude to a transference of consciousness or “spirit” rather than physical matter. Brb, writing a screenplay!

  • Stephan Froede

    Teleporting is nice, but the problem is that the fundamental theory to do it is missing.

    The fundamental theory is not only about teleporting, it is about the whole universe.

    So a lot of people are working on that (GUT/great unifying theory).

    But teleporting is probably always a bad idea, disassembling a living organism could have very problematic consequence, death for example. Further it is not clear – at least for me – if there are any quantum related states in a human body.

    Wormholes could be a more realistic approach.

    It makes more sense to focus on exploring the solar system, and develop approaches for real starship designs, instead of improving hopping around the planet.

    • Since the fundamental theory is missing, how do we know it would be problematic?

      • Stephan Froede

        We do not know how the universe works.

        Based on the existing model teleportation is impossible, if the existing physical model is only partial, another model is needed (that fits to the given universe).

        But that model is missing.

        Even without this model Teleportation is problematic even as an idea, if teleportation is based on disassembling a body and sending the particles to another place (beaming), it also would be possible to copy bodies.

        But I doubt that it will work that way, one problem is protein folding, proteins do fold within a billionsth of a second, that means any living body would have to be snapshot in less than a billionsth of a second, and send and build together…even quantum computers would have problems with, not to mention IO.

        You would need mechanism that is able to snapshot all quants in a given area at once.

        But even that is unclear is there a way of time dilution?

        Another very important thing is anti-gravitation or gravitation it self, it is not clear where gravitons are from.

  • arifgan

    The medical implications excite me and scare me at the same time. Inoperable tumors would now be operable…just teleport it out. Possibly even outpatient surgery. Alternatively, used by the DOD or the DOJ imagine how frightening it would be if they could teleport someone from their home to a jail cell and then how do you keep them there so that they aren’t teleported out?

  • Brent Halliburton

    I always use teleportation as my example of an idea that an MBA has and it sounds stupid (The market cap = (Airplanes + Fedex + Cars) x 10) because they have no credibility, but if one or two of my favorite engineers said they had some ideas in this area, I would quit my job and do their start-up tomorrow because it is what the world needs. This shows the power of great engineers – they are the true hope for advancing civilization because they know how to solve hard problems, not just figure out what the hard problems are.

    • “Nothing is impossible.”

      • Brent Halliburton

        Yeah, this is just a very hard problem. We can do this, one day.

  • ZekeV

    Isn’t the farcaster-linked universe just a metaphor for the world we actually live in?

    • I don’t know yet – I’m only in book two!

      • lunarmobiscuit

        Hang on for the ride… it’s gets even better. 🙂

  • lunarmobiscuit

    It’s a nice argument, but substitute mail, telegraph, email, telekinesis and the argument form is the same. Some things are Impossible, and some things just yet to be invented.

    If I remember correctly, Hyperion takes place 10,000 years from now. And far casting invented after hibernation-based hyperspace drive. 🙂

    • Hyperion takes place in the 28th Century (600-ish years from now).

  • Watch ‘The Fly.’

    • I don’t know you Pete, but you have the hell of a good sense of humor! LOL!

  • stevewfindlay

    Two of my favourite blogs (this and WhatIf) have mentioned teleporting in the last 2 days – thought I’d connect the dots for anyone who may be interested: Into the Sun http://what-if.xkcd.com/115/


  • Robert Krishan Srivastava

    Brad — My father (RIP) was a Quantum Physicist that told me that it has already been proven that it is possible to teleport and to be in 2 places at the same time. He worked for:

    – Stanford University Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC),
    – Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
    – CERN ( European Organization for Nuclear Research)

    He also wrote a book on Supersymmetry, Superfields and Supergravity: An Introduction by Prem P. Srivastava and recommended to watch the film: “What the bleep do we know” which explain the basics of what quantum physics is.

    You want answers on teleport, 11th dimensions, and time travel? You will have to start hanging around those 3 places mentioned above. Too bad he is not alive to answer your questions.

    All best,

    Roberto Krishan Srivastava–

  • Robert Krishan Srivastava

    And the basic explanation that Teleport is possible is because the universe is mostly empty. It is all an assembly. Nothing touches nothing. Research quantum superposition.

  • Interesting discussion Brad. I didn’t read that book, I will check.

    Problems i see:
    – the scanner have to destroy us.
    – the destination printer have to re-create us instataneously to avoid the blood go away.

    Good aplication: would let us create a backup of us each morning.

  • It’s bound to happen, the question is when…

  • Don’t take this in the wrong way, ’cause I mean this with the utmost respect, but were you high when you wrote this?
    LOL, just poking fun. Seriously, I thought I might have been high when I read this, ’cause…
    I don’t see this happening. And this is one activity I don’t want to be experimented on.

  • Antoine Valot

    This is not a physics problem, it’s a UX problem. Sufficiently advanced telepresence, undistinguishable from actual presence, will solve this problem much sooner, and at much lower cost, than actual, messy transportation of atoms. Heck, if we really wanted to, we could start solving this problem today.
    I’d venture that already, today, a high-bandwidth, high-resolution two-way video conferencing, with full direct eye contact (cameras directly behind the screen pixels) and high-quality audio, would solve half your use cases. It will take a little longer for smell, taste, touch, and motion with force-feedback to join the picture, but there’s already a lot we can do with just sight and sound.