I got back from a wonderful visit with a dear friend last week. It had been ages since I had taken an airplane anywhere. But as I was enjoying the sensation of being lifted into the sky in this silver bird, it got me thinking of traveling in the age of Star Trek; most importantly, The Transporter.
How often have I wished for a transporter in real life to visit out of state and country friends in the “wink of an eye” 😉 To see all the places in my life without having to book a flight. Oh, and to never need planes again, or cars, buses, taxi’s or trains! To always be on time for any event, any where, and to get back home the same way.
Yet once I put my mind to it, the logistics of real transporter travel became a bit less enticing. Indeed, if it existed in real life, I don’t think humanity would survive! I wondered, how, in the Trek Universe, were Transporters perceived by governments and public alike? Were there funding problems? Protests? And no doubt there must have been horrific accidents in the development stages.
Now obviously I am not an expert on the fictional historical facts of Trek Transportation. So I will borrow these bits from Wikipedia:
According to dialogue in the Star Trek: Enterprise (ENT) episode “Daedalus“, the transporter was invented in the early 22nd century by Dr. Emory Erickson, who also became the first human to be successfully transported. Although the Enterprise (NX-01) has a transporter, the crew does not routinely use it for moving biological organisms. Instead, they generally prefer using shuttlepods or other means of transportation unless no other means of transportation are possible or feasible.
Well that was a good start. and I can understand why transporters at this early stage were not the standard of transportation. What a miracle to transport items large or small within moments! Yet I wonder how this affected commerce and general capitalism? With instant delivery of most purchases and goods, would there be no more equivalent of Mail Delivery Services, let alone the trucking industry, or any in-person shopping? (watch out Amazon!) I imagine it would have needed a ton of regulation to avoid damaged or altered goods. Man, wouldn’t that open a whole can of worms for thievery and illegal trafficking? Let alone mishaps of people transporting into the wrong places situations. No doubt wars could easily erupt over say, top secret documents ending up in the wrong hands or worse, weapons of mass destruction.
Then there’s the physical effect of a human being being transported; again Wikipedia:
Whenever a person or object is transported, the machine creates a memory file of the pattern.
And this makes me completely sympathize with Dr. McCoy, who said:
“I signed aboard this ship to practice medicine, not to have my atoms scattered back and forth across space by this gadget!“
Indeed, if transporters really existed, then technically, the first time you enter one is the last time you will be your actual self. If you are nothing but “a memory file” in the transporter banks, and now just a copy of your original self, how does one ever know if they are truly the same? How is every complex memory still there? And what about all of your life’s knowledge and experience. Yes, transporting is sounding ever more dangerous. Not to mention accidents! Like this truly horrific one referred to on Wikipedia:
(In) Star Trek: The Motion Picture when a malfunction in the transporter sensor circuits resulted in insufficient signal being present at the Enterprise end to successfully rematerialize the two subjects, and Starfleet was unable to pull them back to where they had dematerialized from. The transporter system attempted to rematerialize what little signal was available, and despite the efforts of Kirk and Scotty, the system failed and both subjects vanished from the transporter pad and back to Starfleet, where both subjects died from radiation and disfiguration. Kirk, visibly shaken by what he had witnessed asked, “Starfleet, do you have them?”, to which the response was made “Enterprise, what we got back didn’t live long, fortunately”.
No, I DEFINITELY would not want to come back as a pile of radiated, disfigured oatmeal – AAAHHHHHH!
Yep, traditional transportation will do nicely for now. I wish you all happy travels!