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You'll begin to see a pattern emerge...

If there were teleportation points near major cities, at points of interest, and otherwise spread across a vast renaissance society, what would be the key cultural effects of this system? New points can be created, but they must be moved manually (not even teleported themselves) to the desired location. It's roughly the same area and distances involved as from the very south-western tip of Spain to the very northwestern corner of Germany, and spans from the north of France to the top of Italy.

Creating the orbs which form this network is difficult. Destroying or moving them, just as much. To use the orbs effectively, they must be connected to the network, which requires it to be in place, and for a powerful spellcaster to get it working properly.

Transportation is instantaneous, flawless, and can take one person per activation, plus anything they're connected to (so caravans and wagons plus goods are fine, but the floor, obviously, is not). It's not cheap, because even the capital city only has four (one at each compass point of the city walls), and generally the only people with the money to secure a front-of-queue service are important nobles, merchants and dignitaries. Ordinary people travel whenever they can, often waiting for days for an open slot.

I'm not looking for the obvious economic benefits, but I'm wondering what this sort of ability would have on the culture of such a civilisation. Normally, the distances involved would yield a vast array of cultures, but is the passage of wares sufficient to combat the distance, or would only certain aspects get passed along?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm calling dibs right now on an answer regarding floo powder. :-) $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Oct 8 '14 at 0:07
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    $\begingroup$ How long does a single activation take? Are we talking a minute and a person is through (limits it's use for warfare), or can people pretty much stream through? $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Oct 8 '14 at 3:19
  • $\begingroup$ Twelfth, it's pretty quick, maybe 30 seconds to dial in the destination, 5 seconds to actually disappear and reappear. Going through all the paperwork and documentation, the sec checks and whatnot is about a 15 minute check, but you can get that done while you queue. $\endgroup$ – Rowanas Oct 8 '14 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ You point out that destruction of one such point is diffucult - keep in mind that it is not needed to make it unusable though. So long as being at the point where the tp point is doesn't give you any advantage you might as well not use it. Someone trying to make them useless could just build a jail around the point. Or dig a pit beneath it. Or put it in a safe. What happens if there is not enough space for a person to teleport to a point? If moving is easier than destroying dumping it into volcanoes (or just the sea) is also an option. $\endgroup$ – Annonymus Aug 12 '16 at 19:55
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Okay, I'm following up on my promise to discuss floo powder in my answer. I'll talk about a few other things, but this is a great opportunity for me to geek out and actually accomplish something while doing it.

Section 1: The Floo network (TL;DR - some forms of transportation will be rendered obsolete only when the system becomes available to all people)

For those who don't know, floo powder is a fictional substance used a few times in the Harry Potter books and films. It's a cheaply purchased powder (2 Sickles a scoop) that is readily available to pretty much all witches and wizards. Your teleportation system probably doesn't involve this powder, but I can still discuss the social aspects of such a system.

Floo powder allows one to travel through the Floo network, which in the Harry Potter franchise is a network of fireplaces. One thing that is different about this is that any fireplace can be for this, but according to Arthur Weasley, the fireplace must be connected to the Floo network in advance. So I suppose it is really an analog to an easy-to-set-up teleportation station.

The Floo network is used pretty much how I think your teleportation system would work - for some minor travels (i.e. to shop), as well as commuting to and from work. It is important to note that this does not render normal transportation obsolete, because of the many other ways to get from one place to another (I'll ignore Apparition because it has no place in your world). I would assume static teleportation would have the same effects in your world, and would have the same uses. One major thing to note is that because vehicles and other objects can be taken with the person, many forms of transportation for goods would be rendered obsolete. You wouldn't need a horse and wagon to get from one place in town to another if there were teleport stations set up near where you wanted to leave from and go to.

So we've established that many forms of transportation would be rendered obsolete. But this is only if the stations were widely available. In your scenario, they are a privilege that only a few can use regularly. For this reason, many forms of transportation would not be rendered obsolete - yet. I would guess that, over a period of time (many decades, granted), the system would become readily available to the general public, and the system would resemble more the Floo network. I could make other comparisons here, most notably the New York City subway system or the London Underground, but I doubt these are necessary, and would only apply when the system becomes ubiquitous.

Section 2: Warfare (TL;DR - the system could be a big problem if enemy forces get control of it)

This is actually the first thing that popped into my head, partly because I recently took a look at another question involving technology and warfare. The following scenario would only be an issue if the system proliferates - but then it would be a huge problem.

One of the great things (or bad things, depending on your perspective) of a Renaissance-like society is that wars are so darn slow. Well, troop movements, at least. Assuming you've read at least one book when you were young that revolved around a Middle-Ages-esque epic good-vs-evil premise (and if you haven't, go out and read one right now!), you know that it takes an army (or even a few individuals) a long time to get from Point A to Point B. That's really good for a second army if the first army is attacking their fortress/castle/town/other-settlement because if they have any scouts at all, they will know in advance (even if it's only an hour or two) that the enemy is coming, and they have time to rouse the soldiers and get the other citizens to safety.

That all comes crashing down with the advent of this teleportation system. True, there are only a few teleport stations (again, unless the system develops), but even a single terrorist could potentially climb on one and set off a bomb (medieval-style) in the city center. Scary stuff. If the teleport cubicles are available to all, that means that multiple terrorists could get through - or even a small army. Defense forces would have absolutely no warning, and a city could be taken within a very short period of time.

By the way, long after writing this answer I found this question, which discusses this point in more detail.

Section 3: Relations between nations (TL;DR - everyone gets to know everyone else)

This is the last bit. I promise.

Anyway, lets look at the history of our world - or rather, some bits from the Age of Discovery onwards.

In fourteen hundred ninety-two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and sailed from Spain

He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

(From here)

Christopher Columbus first reached "The New World" in 1492. He was an Italian but sailed for Spain, funded by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. After such a momentous voyage, one would think that Spain (and everyone else in Europe) would be eager to colonize (or at least make friends with the folks who were already living in "The New World" - naaaah), right?

Well, everyone else in Europe was pumped up about the new opportunities that lay ahead. The trouble is, it took time. Things really didn't start rolling until the early 1500s, and even after that, colonization wasn't exactly smooth sailing (pun absolutely intended). The first players were Portugal and Spain, thanks in part to the Treaty of Tordesillas. It took decades for other European nations to get hand- and foot- holds in "The New World".

Would this static teleport system have made things any easier? Probably not at first. It is true that Span and other countries would have invested a lot to get a few stations over in the Americas because of how long it took to cross the Atlantic, but there wouldn't have been a whole lot while the technology was in its early stages. But I can almost guarantee you that, whatever phase the teleportation system was in prior to a Columbus-esque discovery, it would be very much improved afterwards. So it would definitely make relations between nations easier, because travel would be much quicker.

Summary

What you should get out of this is that such a system might not have a revolutionary impact at first if the system was only readily accessible to a few people. There would be other problems to solve, such as just where the power for this whole thing comes from. But I think that the technology would be developed pretty darn quickly once people saw its uses. It could lead to faster transport of people and goods, quicker and deadlier warfare, and better international relations.

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    $\begingroup$ Your point 1 can be summarized as: "just like what bus stations do to us, only without all the waiting and vandalism" $\endgroup$ – Raestloz Oct 8 '14 at 8:15
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent and very detailed answer. +1 for both Harry Potter and Redwall references. $\endgroup$ – Danny Reagan Oct 8 '14 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ The whole Harry Potter Floo powder thing seems like a really long winded way of mentioning something with only passing relevance... and I mentioned that the orbs are placed -near- to cities for exactly the reason you gave. Everyone going or coming is vetted, if they're using a near-city point. $\endgroup$ – Rowanas Oct 8 '14 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Rowanas I wanted to analyze another proposed "teleportation" system to see what effects it could have. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Oct 8 '14 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ actually, the warfare one may be less of an issue. the implication from the OP seems to be that there is a limit on how fast people can be transported across the network. If so portal invasions are less concerning, sending one person at a time through a portal armed with a half dozen crossbow men each taking turns firing and reloading is a fun way to block a portal with dead bodies. For that matter you could go stargate style and add an iris for warfare. terrorist can be handled the same way immigration across borders are handled. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Dec 20 '14 at 20:16
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I want to point out a few non-obvious changes.

Columbus wouldn't have discovered the Americas

Columbus was trying to reach India by what he thought would be a shorter way. If they had teleportation, he wouldn't have been looking for a shorter way. They'd just have set up a portal in the normal way, either sailing around Africa or overland. The Americas might be discovered eventually, but not for the reasons that Columbus did.

Large empires would be easier

One of the problems with administering a large empire is that you need to maintain reliable troops throughout it to put down rebellions, etc. With faster transport, that's much less of an issue. Troops can quickly get to the nearest loyal area and stage in closer.

Other administrative personnel could also move around quickly. For example, think about a French governor who lives in Paris and governs England.

Science would spread faster

Want to send your scientifically gifted child to the best school? Now you can. Also, scientists can conference or quickly consult with each other.

Culture spread

There used to be far more languages than there are now. Some of them are still spoken but have become secondary languages for most people who speak them. For example, are there any Welsh people who don't speak English? With fast transport, people have more interaction with people who speak other languages. Inevitably this results in people learning at least one more language.

Want to see an authentic Italian opera? After a quick portal trip, you can. People have more cultural options in the near term. Over time you can expect these options to dwindle though. Why go to a local opera when you can go to the best performance in the world?

You can see this happen in our world in places like Hollywood. Big budget movies are overwhelmingly based in Hollywood (although they may be shot elsewhere). Star Wars, Die Hard, and ET are all examples of cultural icons that transcend single cultures. They may originate in English-speaking Hollywood, but they are known around the world.

Also, if there's a large stable empire, culture would tend to spread through the empire. The route to power in such an empire is in the capital, so the ambitious will gravitate there. Those who return home will spread the cultural interests from the capital to home. Those who stay in the capital will bring some of their cultural interests from home to the capital.

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First you'd get a vastly increased rate of cultural homogenization.

Secondly, to all intents & purposes, the entire world could be one city, as soon as it has a portal, it becomes "next door." This would reduce urban sprawl in the near-term because the big land-consuming entities like

Thirdly, people with priority access would have a fantastic advantage in trade and information (and consequent further benefits) Increasing their own power to the point where.

Fourthly, in the putting-down of rebellion.. one of the major advantages of established powers in putting down rebellions has always been in their ability to deal piecemeal with rebel forces, in such a scenario the first thing any rebel force would do is to take a portal and thereby largely bypass any such problem, they would be (ish) instantly connected to any other cell of rebels and with the government forces only able to send through one person at a time from wherever they were mobilized from.. well..

Fifthly,see: The establishment of international telecommunications

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I'm going to make a couple assumptions.

Once a point is part of the network, you can travel to any other point on the same network. A node can only be connected to 1 network, and that someone would have to have access to a network to create a new node.

This could/would allow for richer countries to have 2 or more networks to 'separate' travel. Maybe have an 'ambassador' network for the 'kings' business highly secure and always available. Then there would be the 'public' network. For business and pleasure of the rest of the people.

This could work well for trade, say one country (lets take Germany) went to all the trouble to transport a node all the way to China. If they connected it to the current network, everyone on the network would benefit from Germany's labor. However, if they had a separate network, then everything would go through Germany and then out to ally's, with a nice hefty profit margin in there. They could also 'sell' a node on the special network to close friends and ally's to keep them such.

There would likely be more exchange of goods between different places, but not too dissimilar from today's world market.

Discovery would and exploitation would be much faster, because once a node is placed somewhere it isn't like it's month's long trip back to say what you found surviving all the same trials and everyone else will just need to make a quick hop to come and exploit, make a buck and hop back. Of course whoever controls the distant node will be wealthy beyond compare, since they would set the prices to return. But it would likely still be worth the cost.

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In the era of society you propose, it is most likely that such orbs (assuming that it is accepted and integrated into society by the state and the church, as opposed to being thought of as something of evil origin) would wind up being tightly controlled by the rich and powerful. Especially if they are expensive. I could see defensive structures being built around such orbs, entry and exit taxes levied, bribes paid, and so forth.

Flawless teleportation would protect against inter-penetration, however you did not mention the ability to communicate through the orbs, so I imagine that would still require couriers.

Shortened transit (and hence communication) times would impact society much in the way that modern travel and communications impact people today, though perhaps to a lesser degree given the limitations proposed. Faster response times and decision making are the primary aspects, which affect all aspects of life - trade, governance, construction, military positioning, logistics and so forth.

Socially, people could be further apart and still feel the sense of community. It would also tend to increase the division between the haves and the have-nots, if my thoughts on access control prove correct.

It seems unlikely that the common person would gain frequent access to such a device, except perhaps as part of a caravan or convoy, unless there is some powerful organization behind either the orbs or the common people who for some reason insist on common access.

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