I grew up a huge Star Trek fan, running around yelling “beam me up Scotty” to my friends as we jumped out of trees, pretending like we were teleporting out of a spaceship. Then when Galaxy Quest came out, I absolutely loved Tim Allen trying to teleport away from the rock monster only to see the first attempt accidentally turn an alien pig inside out. Needless to say, the satire of teleportation was pretty darn clear.
So over the years, my passion for science fiction has only gotten stronger the more I understand science reality. I mean, the simple fact that I’m typing letters on a screen that mean something to someone on the other side of the world would have been science fiction just a few short decades ago. So where does science fiction end and science reality begin? Or maybe the better question is not where, but when does that transition happen?
Teleportation is a reality today
For me, the science fiction to reality transition happened recently when I realized we have already invented teleportation. It just isn’t what I was expecting from my Trekkie perspective. We’ve had the ability to ship ideas around the world at the speed of lights for a few decades now, and once those ideas were shared people in other parts of the world could recreate an object based on plans and directions that we’re shared over the internet. But these objects, whether a car or a table, we’re replicas of the original idea. Not exact matches. Synthetic biology, however, has changed that paradigm.
Imagine this scenario — a novel virus is discovered with characteristics that cause scientists to worry about its impact on the world. Those scientists sequence the virus and understand its exact genetic makeup. They then share that information with other scientists across the world via email, and those scientists then synthesize a replica of the virus in a controlled lab environment so they can study what makes it unique. Suddenly, we don’t just have two replicas of a virus, but we have genetically identical versions of the same virus. We have achieved biological teleportation.