The Situation

A colony of 100 teleporters (between the ages of 20-40) have been hidden away living like monks for 1000's of years to prevent their detection.

With the death of their old leader, a young new leader takes control and wishes to push the colony out into society and break the shackles of the boring monotonous mountain lifestyle.

The new leader has some very clear initial goals. In order of importance, he wants to:

  1. Retain the absolute secrecy of the colony. No one must know that the colony exists or that they are teleporters
  2. Do everything ethically responsibly1 and sustainably (this operation should be able to keep running even if he needs to step away for a few weeks)
  3. Have each of the 100 teleporters make at least \$100,000/yr (or collectively have the colony make >\$10,000,000/yr)
  4. The colony members must all be free during key times of the week, so time-sensitive jobs are only good if the time can be planned in advance.

As the teleporters have been living in the mountains their whole lives, they don't have many skills to offer society. While the new leader considered having them work office jobs, after several brutal interviews he's decided the only answer is their teleportation.

The Teleportation

Each teleporter has a finite number of base teleports a day before they become too tired to continue teleporting. This base number is found by having each member teleport a 10lb box 100 miles repeatedly. The colony members' base teleports range between 100-300 teleports/day. A teleport of distance $d$ miles carrying an object weighing $w$ pounds would use $d/100 \cdot w/1$ base teleports of the 100-300 (if $w \lt 1$, $w$ gets rounded up to 1).

ie. A trip from San Diego to New York (~2700mi) carrying 5lbs would burn $2700/100 \cdot 5/1 = 135$ base teleports and would likely leave them too tired to teleport much more for the rest of the day.

In practice this means a teleporter can make tens of thousands of teleports a day from the couch to the kitchen to grab a cookie, but could probably only make 2-3 teleports a day with a new car between neighboring cities.

Things to Note

  • The technology level (currently) is that of modern (real-world) Earth.

  • While the colony is removed from society, they have been keeping tabs from afar. A group of elites does scheduled reconnaissance--picking up newspapers and going to libraries to use the internet, so the colony has knowledge of the outside world.

The Question

What is the best way for these teleporters to make this amount of money ethically and sustainably while also keeping the secret about their teleporation?

1. I've chosen "ethically responsibly" over "legally" given the audience here on World Building :) By this, I essentially mean avoid outright stealing or killing for the money. Clearly the books will have to be cooked and lies will have to be told to hide the teleportation. I'll be adding to this footnote to patch any other ethical loopholes found.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Tim B May 7 '18 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ what are the condition of teleportation, do they have ot be in physical contact with the object? how much do they need to know about where they are going? $\endgroup$ – John May 7 '18 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ w /1 is effectively the same as simply w, no? $\endgroup$ – htmlcoderexe May 8 '18 at 9:21
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    $\begingroup$ See "The Merchant Princes" series by Stross. $\endgroup$ – Kevin McKenzie May 8 '18 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ Also, can they control their momentum at the target location? If not, if they teleport 2700mi east or west do they arrive plouging into the ground or flying into the air? Ditto for north/south, do they arrive with an extra few km/hour angular momentum. If they can control their arrival momentum are there limits such, like can they teleport into or out of a car going 60mph without their bones being crushed by colliding with something going 60mph faster/slower than them. $\endgroup$ – Murphy May 9 '18 at 12:32

38 Answers 38


One answer advised, think small. But think smaller:

A: Lock smith/safe breaker. (There are ethical reasons to break into a safe.) B: Plumber. Someone who can unplug a stuck sink without making a mess? C: While hard to be discrete, you would be a wiz at getting cats out of trees, or out from behind wall board.

What are the limitations of teleporting:

  • Can a teleporter remove a 2 atom thick plane of substance (tiny mass) a foot (tiny distance) and thereby cut a steel beam?
  • Can he remove a rusted bolt from a machine?
  • Can he teleport a 1 lb rock into a bolder and shatter the boulder.
  • Can a teleporter use his power to sculpt an object, removing bits
  • Can a teleporter reverse the chirality of molecules, turning, say dextrose into levulose? Or separate mixed chirality molecules into separate jars.
  • Taking that a step further, can he separate U235 from U238, or heavy water from plain water, or gold from seawater.

Can a teleporter 'feel' what he's grasping with his power? E.g. Does he have to see the rusted bolt or does he have a sense of perception about how it lies in the machine.


Skimp on Shipping Insurance

Lots of importers/exporters have to worry about insurance cost because of theft, fire, mechanical failure, atmospheric conditions. Depending on what you ship to whom. For your monks these cost are non existent. The trick is deceiving people in that you are shipping the stuff. You just happen to have that specif item always on hand in there closest warehouse.

Lets give some examples

  • Anti-venom/toxins: Lots of expense easily spoil-able medicine (and rare blood types) out there that hospital just don't stock-up and order only when a person enter's bitten by that specific creature. Have a small warehouse in each major city and advertise you have a stock of every type of anti-venom in every one of them. You only have one central warehouse staffed by monks.
  • Fresh Seafood Build small aquariums in big cities and again advertise you have a large supply of Seafood shipped overnight still fresh still alive in some cases. Restaurants and other catering services will pay you more money for that service than they will charge their customers, The prestige of having still living wild tuna freshly caught from the other side of the globe is worth allot. also as a bonus lots of restaurants would see there food waste decrease if they don't have to pre-order a day in advance.
  • LEO Already suggested by others but send a empty rocket into space then if the launch is successful. Which is not a guarantee, (which is why insurance is expensive on launches). They teleport the food, water and/or spare parts up there. Unfortunately you wont be able to transport specialty parts because you wont be able to explain them surviving a crash. Just offer it as a cheap service using old rockets engine with high change of failure. These regular supply runs can be very profitable if you only send up air and fill it up once in orbit. While commercial space flight is in its infancy. A estimate for cost charged per kilo to the ISS can vary between 20.000 and 100.000 dollars.
  • Diplomatic mail. Lots and lots of things gets shipped through diplomatic pouches every day. They are handled by commercial shipping companies like any other but they over a tantalizing benefit nobody is allowed to open them. Again you can overbook private charter flights. Advertise you offer secrecy above all. Nobody will know what route it took to reach its destination. If a plane is lots by accident just claim its contents where private. The first res ponders already removed the cargo before other people showed up or just say it was flying empty which was the truth.

A side note about how keep secrecy. Is plain obvious: Them are (like?) MONKS.

You can dress your monks as... monks, but with mystery! Them can cover their heads/faces, and dress equally.

Now, you can put a church in the locations you want. Then, you can put the monks in equal numbers and 2 locations. Because all dress equally and you try to match them on other attributes (so them look as equal as possible), nobody will note that all the time everyone is moving inout.

You play the "mystery" aspect as hard as you can and very little people will be surprised.


Generally their skills are lended best to crime. Theft, smuggling, murder, terrorism, etc are all very easy to perform with this skill set, particularly if they don't need to make immediate physical contact with the objects they're teleportation (which I presume they don't for the purposes of the test that you described since otherwise they would have to factor in their own mass and potentially the disorientation caused by the teleportation of themselves).

For example, one could easily empty a gallery of famous paintings after teleporting the wiring/lenses out of the cameras, or perhaps even doing something particularly skilled like teleporting the electrons within the wiring to create static, should that level of accuracy be possible. After ruining the electronic and mechanical security systems, they could teleport in, teleport the paintings back to their base of operations and then sell them with ease and little to no risk of capture. If necessary, escaping authorities should be fairly easy considering they just need to be out of sight for one moment to disappear.

If the leader/colony is more ethical than this demands, they might instead choose to do a robin-hood styled campaign, teleporting huge amounts of medicines to people who need them for a cheaper, more affordable price, or more interestingly they could teleport resources out of the ground/air/sea/whatever to render them more accessible (moving either the pure gold or the gold ore out of a mine, for example, provided a level of precision and remote-control).

It may yet be useful to define some of the limitations of their powers. Specifically things like

  • what happens if they teleport x into the space that y exists in, eg a person into a rock.
  • can they teleport a resource without direct physical contact, and if so what are the restrictions on this? Could they, for example, teleport money out of a closed till into their pockets? Could they teleport gold from a vault in New York City into one in London whilst holding conversation and climbing in the Alps? Can they teleport fine mechanical systems like a gun, and if not, how do the things they teleport have consistent shape? Or is it a bit more like the trans-matter ray or whatever it was called?

hope this helps!



Your teleporters can get to the cabinet meetings of governments and large companies. They can plant non-transmitting recording devices before meetings, and collect them later. They can know every important decision before it goes public. Selling this knowledge can be worth millions, and can be done through various fronts in locations away from the colony. It can also be used to play the stock exchange and make huge money through inside information.

Having done this for a few decades, your colony will have amassed over a $billion, which can be invested to make an income stream that no longer requires active teleporting work.


Steal money from drug lords.

First: It's ethical in the sense that it will disrupt their operation.

Second: They can't report it to government/international agencies since it is drug money.

Third: There are always traitors inside the drug operation, so the internal investigation will provide a large volume of noise they will not suspect outside actor.


Cancer surgery.

Patients would to undergo an enigmatic treatment ritual, perhaps spanning a number of weeks. At a key moment tumours would be teleported a short distance out of the body by an unseen teleported. One or two teleporters could handle the workload of an entire hospital.

There could be 50 such hospitals around the world


I don't know if this meets your ethics requirements or not:

Sneak in, photograph the North Korean nuclear arsenal. Build mock-ups of the weapons, go in and replace the real weapons with the mockups.

As soon as this is done, deliver an envelope to Washington--put it on the desk of someone a few levels down from the President. (You don't want to do that in front of security cameras, nor do you want security thinking it's a bomb.) "These pictures are free. If you wish the real items the fee is $1 billion, no questions asked and no taxes owed, payment once you have had a chance to examine the merchandise. This deal is only good for 48 hours."

While this is obviously a one-time thing you can easily earn enough off that $1 billion to meet your $10 million/year requirement.

(While disarming Pakistan might also be a good thing they keep moving their bombs around, stealing them would be far harder.)


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