Thursday, April 5, 2012

The economic potential of teleportation in "Jumper"

Right now the American film Jumper is playing on television before me. Jumper tells the story of an unpopular teenage boy called David who discovers that he has the ability to teleport. David abandons his abusive father and lives the high life, "jumping" into bank vaults to steal piles of cash, then jumping about the world's most glamorous cities.

David's criminal jumping gets him in trouble with the police and, more importantly, a weird sect who hunt and kill jumpers.

What a waste! Yes jumpers could live as parasites breaking the law, but the possibilities for legitimate enterprise with teleportation are endless. Transportation costs for relatively small objects (the jumpers could teleport objects as big as a doubledecker bus safely) would be brought to zero. Precious metals would be jumped from African mine to Asian factory, and finished products from Asian factory to American market with no fuel costs, CO2 emissions, border issues or delay. How about space flight - can these guys jump into orbit? If so, they could simply don a spacesuit on earth, jump into space to take photographs, and be home for tea in ten minutes. (Or further - jump to Mars? To distant planets on the other side of the universe?)

Even if we stay grounded, the potential is immense. Jumpers could carry medical supplies to distant communities in mountains or islands, to the scientific communities working on Antarctica. Jumpers working with emergency services to get first aid supplies to accidents and to carry victims back to hospital. Jumpers flooding disaster zones with aid workers, food, robots, supplies.

The darker potential is great too. Imagine jumpers as spies and assassins, slipping into the secret service offices of their enemies. Technology would rush to catch up with the danger of jumpers with nuclear weapons. That would change everything.

So I have these geeky thoughts when I see science fiction or fantasy films sometimes. The superheroes who use their powers to fight crime might be far more productive in transportation, health, engineering and industry. What could we do with Spiderman's mass-produced spider silk? The Human Torch's ability to superheat himself and materials around him could be handy in industry. Storm's ability to control the weather could be used to stop the droughts and floods that kill millions. Not as exciting as crime-fighting, perhaps, but possibly more beneficial to humanity.

And also more likely to happen. If some bizarre new superpower could be used to make money, somebody would try to do so.


  1. Imagine how rich Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty could have been!

  2. Haha exactly Vidar! Or remember Mel Gibson's What Women Want, in which he is able to hear the thoughts of women. He used this power boost his career and woo a woman.

    ...WHAT? He could hear the thoughts of HALF the human species! He could have conquered the planet if he'd wanted to - what a failure of imagination!


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