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In my modern fantasy novel, there is a species of people called the Hammerts. The Hammerts are small orange humanoids who have issues running and jumping after they reach adulthood. To compensate for their limited mobility, Hammerts all have a supernatural ability to access a hyperspace dimension purely for storing items. Here are the rules of the Hammerts' dimensional storage:

  • Each Hammert has access to their own private region within hyperspace.
  • Nobody else can access a specific Hammert's hyperspace without consent of the owner
  • Items are stored in hyperspace by a Hammert touching an item they want to store for 2 seconds and saying "Banish!"
  • Items are released from hyperspace by a Hammert gesturing in a location for 2 seconds and saying "Summon!"
  • Living animals and sapients cannot be stored in hyperspace
  • No item that weighs more than 10 metric tons or with a volume greater than 20 cubic meters can be stored.
  • There is an unlimited amount of hyperspace available to each Hammert.
  • Hyperspace is a dimension without time, so nothing ever perishes or ages inside of hyperspace
  • Large items can be spawned up to 3 meters away from a Hammert.
  • After a Hammert dies, all of their possessions go to whoever they named in their will. If the Hammert didn't leave a will, instead all of their possessions will be placed in a public hyperspace region that any Hammert can access.
  • Hammerts can quickly and mentally filter and organize whatever items they want or need within their hyperspace region.
  • Hammerts are the only ones who store items in hyperspace. Another species uses hyperspace for travel, but they can't access private Hammert possessions this way (but they can reach the public hyperspace regions).

A huge issue I realized with making Hammerts is that they would be the world's best thieves. They can just touch anything they want, say banish, and as long as there were no witnesses, they won't get caught. Hammerts could shoplift with impunity. And the best part is that once an object is within hyperspace, it won't come out unless the Hammert dies or the Hammert wants it out. Hammerts would also be world-class drug suppliers and weapon smugglers, but that is another topic.

Without making a massive change to the rules of hyperspace storage, is there anyway to make sure that Hammerts can't or won't take everything that isn't nailed down as long as they aren't being watched? A society with endless theft would be very unstable. Well either that or Hammert nations would have to go full Big Brother with cameras everywhere.

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    $\begingroup$ Or their society is structured very differently. Small objects are viewed as common domain, without ownership (like how some human societies viewed land). Hammerts leave stuff they aren't actively using where anyone can access it, hoarding is socially looked down upon. Organizations pay producers to get more when supplies run low, just as they maintain the lawn or office supplies. There isn't a lot of variation in the quality you can get, because there is little motivation to invest in above averge quality. Governments can set standards. $\endgroup$
    – Cat Bisque
    Dec 4, 2023 at 5:07
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    $\begingroup$ How exactly does a Hammert access their hyperspace? If they summon an item, where does it appear? If there is no space for it to appear, will it "find" the closest available space? If they banish an item, what happens to the air? If there is a temporary vacuum, that could be useful for answering. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Dec 4, 2023 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ Admittedly, summoning is just as easily abused than banishing. There are lots of places with strict controls over what can get in -- most notably, around weapons -- and a Hammert subverting them all would be quite problematic. I think a good answer should address both summoning and banishing issues. $\endgroup$ Dec 4, 2023 at 8:47
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe you could actually leave them be petty thieves, with high end items having an anti theft device which simply interferes with this hyperspace (the item with this device on just won't go into the space, or putting it into the space make the Hammert spill out all his items although I guess this ones interferes with #2), first option gives you the possibility to add a Lupin-like or Robin Hood-like Hammert with a unique hyperspace that can actually take in those anti theft devices, since it's technically impossible no one ever suspects the best thief in the world is a Hammert. $\endgroup$
    – Daviid
    Dec 4, 2023 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ As to the question what's to prevent them from taking anything that's nailed down .. Cannot a Hammert put a "stay" spell on a non-stored devices, this makes them unable to send the device into hyperspace without lifting the spell -- Or have a "mine" spell which basically "assigns" that item to a specific Hammert and said item cannot be sent to any other Hammert's hyperspace "bin" until "mine" is transferred or lifted .. Think supernatural NFT $\endgroup$
    – Zak
    Dec 4, 2023 at 19:04

20 Answers 20

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Take a page from Bitcoin

Lots of people think that the "crypto" in "cryptocurrency" means that you can keep your assets hidden from everybody else. In such a way you can stash a lot of money where the government won't be able to see, and therefore you don't have to pay tax.

There are some problems with that assumption, too many to go over in an answer, but there is one feature of Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies which undermines the idea of hidden stashes. Everyone can see where each single sub-unit of bitcoin in circulation is right now, as well as all places each sub-unit has ever gone through.

When NFTKing69 sends half a bitcoin to SexxyFurryGirl, what actually happens is that the transaction is permanently recorded in what is known as the blockchain. The blockchain can be interpreted, for the purposes of this question, as a publicly and openly accessible database of every transaction that ever happened. This is how the Bitcoin network knows that half a bitcoin went out of someone's wallet and ended up in another dude's.

Likewise, when a Hammert teleports something, the teletransportation gets logged somewhere. The record contains date, time, the Hammert's identification, location in regular space, direction of teletransportation (in or out of hyperspace), and at least some generic identification of the object involved. This log is also accessible to anyone (or at least any Hammert) at anytime. This may even be what makes it possible for things to be transferrable among hyperspaces when a Hammert dies.

Anyone who can see the log can also determine what the contents of a Hammert's stash were at any point in time (as far back in the past as the log goes), and there is no way to erase or edit a teletransportation record.

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The ability to move something into hyperspace is akin to fingerprints

Ignoring the value of gloves, when a human tries to take things, they leave fingerprints behind. At first law enforcement doesn't know who the fingerprints belong to, but after tracking thefts where the same fingerprints are found, the number of suspects is narrowed. Eventually the list is small enough that the police start collecting fingerprints until they've found the culprit.

The act of pushing something into/out of hyperspace leaves, for want of a better word for those of us who can't, an... odor. The odor is distinctive. One hammert, one odor. Hammerts in law enforcement take classes in the methods of detecting, cataloguing, and tracking odors.

For the most part hammerts live their entire lives with nobody caring about the odor of their hyperspatial access. In fact, there are areas where it would be hard to distinguish one over another: the checkout line at a supermarket, for example.

By creating this "odor" you've created the concept of a fingerprint in your society. It's not a foolproof way to stop all theft anymore than fingerprints are a foolproof method in human societies... but it's enough to rationalize that the average hammert would generally not steal things.

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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps radiation would be easier to explain than odor. $\endgroup$
    – Daviid
    Dec 4, 2023 at 12:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Daviid You might be missing the point. Call it radiation, odor, feeling, consequence, insight... the proper noun is irrelevant, that's just window dressing. The world rule is the means of accessing personal hyperspace can be tracked like fingerprints. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 4, 2023 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ This reminds me of the Stasi collecting odor samples. Perhaps the Secret Police might want to be able to snoop inside your personal hyperspace? Or the regular police have a search warrant? Open up the jar and a specially trained person could poke their head into your hyperplace? spymuseum.org/exhibition-experiences/about-the-collection/… $\endgroup$
    – Tangurena
    Dec 4, 2023 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ DNA might be a better option. $\endgroup$
    – cybernard
    Dec 4, 2023 at 20:56
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    $\begingroup$ @cybernard I don't think so. It needs to be something residual... something left behind... like a fingerprint. The OP didn't give us details about how the Hammerts pull this off, but it's going to be either "the power of their mind" or some gland that has no terrestrial counterpart. Either way, it needs to leave something behind. And considering the nature of "hyperspace," DNA doesn't make much sense. At least to me. But, as I mentioned to Daviid... what it is, isn't that important. That's window dressing and part of the story, not worldbuilding. The OP can work that out to best fit the story. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 5, 2023 at 1:20
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A possibility is a short-range hyperspace disrupter. The Hammerts must have quickly realized the problem and applied to such a solution.

Neither banish nor restore work within a short range of the equivalent of a hyperspace white noise transmitter.

In time, the Hammerts have probably saturated their whole planet with jammers, with the exception of private houses and public "banish/restore" booths.

Another difficulty, however, is that this mechanism allows creation of energy from nothing. Banish a ten-ton lead weight three meters below you, apparate it three meters above, and on Earth that's more than half a megajoule of gravitational energy from nothing. Let the weight compress a piston with a turbine once per second, and you've got around 300 kW for free.

On the other hand, if it wasn't so, if you banished anything at sea level you wouldn't be able to restore it once you climbed a mountain, because the energy expenditure might easily be excessive - or even lethal.

A way around this could be an energy store associated to everyone's pocket dimension - you can replenish the store slowly from your own energy or quickly by banishing things from very high places. To restore objects, you need to have enough energy available to cover the expense.

There are some points of contact between this mechanism and the power of renging from Vernor Vinge's The Witling (there, the teleported object's excess energy is freed instantly, so that teleporting a large boulder from the farthest moon is the equivalent of a nuclear tactical strike. Teleporting also happens in zero time).

Thinking about it, the total effective kinetic and gravitational potential of any banishable object would vary slightly in time depending not only on height (the overwhelmingly largest effect), but on the planet's position. Objects banished in winter might be slightly less expensive to restore in the summer or with a moon right overhead, and you could have a "banishing cost inflation" due to the sun's movement through the Galaxy. Also, banishing objects to null-time would cause really, really small gravitational "ripples" that could invite no end of WTFs from nearby races, that might mistake them for low-bandwidth communications.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd imagine such disruptors might be modifiable. Perhaps I could set up my home to allow me and my family to summon and banish things, but not a stranger I invite in for tea. Ideally you might have some way that a object that was recently summoned would have some sort of identifying connection to the one that summoned it, so that one can easily summon and banish things already in their hyperspace even if they can't take anything new etc. If there aren't some sort of flexibility like this their hyperspace becomes far less useful once everyone blocks it. $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Dec 5, 2023 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ @dsollen the hyperspace Bag of Holding transforms all un-jammed space into "public space" - an area where goods are at any passersby's mercy. Society would probably evolve to have "public areas" inside one's own home, for the purpose of entertaining visitors and strangers; either jammed, or devoid of anything valuable. Possibly, having valuable goods in the public area might be regarded as a sign of power and/or wealth, a status symbol - you can expose things because you know that either they're not worth all that much to you, or are confident that no one would dare steal from you. $\endgroup$
    – LSerni
    Dec 5, 2023 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ More crucial than potential energy would be kinetic energy... What if a Hammert traveling on a plane summons a 10 ton lead weight outside the cabin? $\endgroup$
    – fgysin
    Dec 21, 2023 at 10:03
  • $\begingroup$ @fgysin it could be summoned with the same kinetic energy [in respect to what, though?] it had when it was banished. This would seem to create energy from nothing, e.g. if the reference was the center of the planet, something banished at midnight would possess 215 kJ per kilogram at midday. Exploiting this energy would decrease the planet's momentum, and the actual energy would come from that. Also, this would make summoning anything almost certainly lethal. $\endgroup$
    – LSerni
    Dec 21, 2023 at 10:09
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Mundane answer

Camera security around precious items, in stores, etc. Audio recording that picks up on the word "Banish" specifically, and triggers alerts. Voice recognition would be developed much sooner in this world.

Silly answer

The gaseous substance phlebotinum has the unique property that it doesn't stay confined to hyperspace as readily as regular matter: it wants to escape as much as wound spring wants to release. Someone's hyperspace-stored phlebotinum will leak out. Stores need only to coat their wares in phlebotinum, clean it upon sale, and install a gate at the door that detects the substance (escaping from a stolen good).

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The magical/Hyperspace system links with the Hammert's mind

If a Hammert tried to Banish something that they know isn't theirs, it won't allow them to.

However, you'll note I said 'Know' - if a Hammert is under a genuine belief that the item is either theirs or is otherwise unclaimed - then they can still Banish it.

You can have all sorts of fun narrative games with Mens Rea in that case.

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  • $\begingroup$ What if I let them banish something that's mine? $\endgroup$
    – Seggan
    Dec 4, 2023 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ This also seems extremely consistent with the "cannot banish a living animal" rule from the OP, which sounds like a psychological block. $\endgroup$
    – Stef
    Dec 4, 2023 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ Along the same line of thinking, only the owner of an item can banish or transfer something. Once you buy it, and become the owner then you can banish it. $\endgroup$
    – cybernard
    Dec 4, 2023 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Seggan - If I give you permission to do something, then you have an honest belief that you are allowed to do it. $\endgroup$ Dec 4, 2023 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ I really like this, mostly because while I think it does solve OP's desire to have a solution that renders theft almost always not a risk I also think it would be fun to see how some people game the system. A Mother gives her young son something to hold for her when he is young and gullible enough to not realize she just stole it, a person spends a long time training away this mental block to learn how to break the rules, maybe a kleptomaniac or psychopath considers everything to be naturally theirs and/or lacks a guilt on taking it allowing them to naturally take anything etc. $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Dec 5, 2023 at 17:27
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You can make so that the Hammert have a strong code of honor which deeply despise theft, similarly to how samurai despised someone fleeing in battle or not cleaning their honor with their life after being defeated.

It won't be a 100% sure system, still it will allow for most of the Hammert to behave and refuse theft to preserve their honor.

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  • $\begingroup$ Was literally typing the exact same idea up, just 20 seconds behind you :) $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2023 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ @BlueSkinandGlowingRedEyes sometimes I think that a feature showing "X is typing an answer..." might be useful $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Dec 3, 2023 at 18:22
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    $\begingroup$ maybe, but how do you know they are tying the same answer as you? $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Dec 4, 2023 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ Don't really see this as a viable answer. There is no way that humans given this ability could just be trusted on the honor system. No matter their culture, race or background human nature is mostly the same. Most people are decent enough, but there are enough bad apples that you can't just trust humans 'code of honor' to protect you. Yes hammert's aren't human, but if you want your readers to relate to them they are human like. Making all hammert's have a trustable level of honor humans wouldn't have feels way too 'planet of hats' for me, it makes them unbelievable as a race to me $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Dec 5, 2023 at 17:17
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It's noticeable

When a Hammert stores an item in hyperspace, it isn't moved there gently, it ceases to exist in our dimension almost instantaneously. This leaves behind a partial vacuum, which immediately collapses with a deafening crash of thunder.

Maybe it's not deafening (and window-shattering), but still makes a loudish pop sound. Or a distinctive *hum-zzzshsh~. Or bright lights or St. Elmo's fire, possibly that continues to dance around the area afterward. Or a reek of ozone. Or the Hammert's hair stands on end.

The point being you don't have to observe the act directly, because there are enough noticeable signs that it draws attention.

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Living animals and sapients cannot be stored in hyperspace

Living Glitter Bomb Animals

So hear me out. Since this is in the distant future people have genetically engineered sticker like creatures that are dormant and don't do anything. However, they really do not like when whatever surface they are adhered to enters hyperspace, which causes them to explode in a cloud of glitter big enough to ensure the Hammert that did the deed is well covered.

These living stickers can be killed by a particular tool that is only present at the checkout registers. So if that Hammert wants to stick that very nice shiny item in their hyperspace, they will need to take it to the checkout register first.

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    $\begingroup$ Not all transactions go through a checkout register. And for those that do, in practice now you have the problem of securing the GlitterBs removers as well as leaving the supply chain unprotected until they are assembled into the final product. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Dec 4, 2023 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like something the Mark Rober of the future invents :P $\endgroup$
    – Seggan
    Dec 4, 2023 at 22:43
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  • After a Hammert dies, all of their possessions go to whoever they named in their will.

Your hyperspace Hammert physics seem to obey inheritance laws. Strange, but that is your choice.

To find out what a Hammert has, simply make them legally will it to the police and then legally die.

They don't actually consent, they just legally consent, nor do they actually die, they just legally die.

Afterwards, they are legally no longer dead and their consent is removed.

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    $\begingroup$ A brilliant use of legal fiction! $\endgroup$
    – Trang Oul
    Dec 6, 2023 at 9:19
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The Hammert economy will work very differently than here on earth.

Given that they can store unlimited items in hyperspace and those items won't age, their economy will be much more efficient. And their society will have much less scarcity. People won't steal, because they don't need to.

Also, making the Hammerts have a high sense of morality will help. In some countries here on earth, if you leave your wallet on a bench somewhere, no one is going to steal it.

Here are some exmaples

  • Moving objects is a lot easier.

First of all, here on Earth we have a container shipping industry that in 2021 shipped 2 billion tons of cargo for a price of $11.3 trillion dollars. For the Hammerts, shipping vast quantities of materials would just mean banishing them, transporting the Hammert, and then summoning back the material.

A Hammert can banish and then summon 10 tons in four seconds. Assuming no other limitations, one Hammert that engaged in four solid hours a day of summoning/banishing 10-ton containers for 200 days a year could move 7.2 million tons of material. That means the entire container shipping industry of earth could be replicated by as little as 277 Hammerts!

If they are willing to use the less secure public hyperspace to move the goods, then they don't even need to move the Hammert's themselves.

This becomes even more valuable when you consider moving materials into space. Currently it costs a few thousand dollars per kg to move material to orbit. For the Hammerts its not so. If they can get one guy to orbit, then they can summon all the material they need.

  • The entire warehousing industry basically becomes pointless.

  • Hammert's will use items more efficiently because they don't need to throw them away.

People throw away a lot of stuff just for lack of space. For a Hammert, being a hoarder is not a problem. Store that old screw, or empty milk jug just in case you need it later. They may wind up recycling nearly everthing. 

  • There will be much more food.

Food won't spoil while banished. In times past there was often famines when the crops had a bad year. But the Hammerts can store many years' worth of crops for safe keeping.

People often discard food when they don't have a way to store it. You don't need to throw away that part of a meal you didn't finish. Just save it for later and it will be as fresh as when you put it away.

There will be much less need for the following industries, canning, refrigeration, food preservatives, warehousing. Not having people in these industries, frees them up to do other work.

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There are of course interesting applications of powers like these in realms like combat, terrorism, ideological revolutionary activities, and villainy. (Frankly, the 2-second charge time would not dissuade any army from using their hammert troops to delete 1.28 cubic meters of steel or 4.5 cubic meters of stone each. Especially when they can each do it every 2 seconds) But I'll confine this answer to the subject of the question: preventing theft.

The answer will have to be something of a frame challenge: in a world such as you've described, hammert theft cannot possibly be an issue, except in the rare cases of sentimental objects being stolen in small, personal ways, as between friends or acquaintances. Or, perhaps, capers and schemes to steal major unique works of art. In either of these cases, standard preventive measures would be considered enough.

Why would hammert theft be no issue at all? Well, simply because none of them would have any desire to shoplift or steal anything. They'll simply be too rich to need to. Allow me to explain why.

All the work of the world boils down to only 2 things: (1) uncertainty, and (2) relative position.

(1) Uncertainty is simple enough. It's the basis of investment, marketing, research, all that stuff. It's just asking (and trying to answer) the questions like "will the harvest be good?" "Will this product sell?" "Will this company succeed?" We do a lot of work trying to figure these things out.

(2) Relative position is about getting things where you need them to be. You have a load of lumber here, and you need it to be in London. You have a lot of seeds, and you need them to be in the ground. You have a lot of stone at the quarry, and you need it in the walls of the castle 10 miles down the road. &c, &c, &c. We do a lot of work trying to rectify the discrepancies in where things are, and where we want them to be.

Hammerts have little effect on the first, but they absolutely upend the second, throwing most of it out the window. Hammerts transport infinite amounts, with perfect certainty, and a loading/unloading cost of 2 seconds per 10 metric tons. This is groundbreaking. Even if you rule that they can't teleport boards of wood out of trees, or chunks of rock out of the ground, they still revolutionize logistics. Suddenly, instead of needing to ship thousands and thousands of tons of lumber across the country, the continent, the globe, you just have to send one little orange man. Even if he dies on the way, the payload will just devolve on his heir, and can be recouped. No longer do castles need to be near quarries, no longer do cities need to be near rivers or the ocean, no longer does anyone have to be impeded from doing anything practically anywhere just because it would be hard to source or transport resources there. As long as a single man can transport a child by some means (wagon, canoe, balloon, horseback, dogsled, carrying... &c &c), there simply isn't any sourcing or transport issue.

The only things that would need to be actually transported, physically, would be those things that can't be broken into pieces of 10 metric ton mass. (Since the density limit for using all the volume of the hammert power is 0.5g/cm^3, the mass would always be the limiting factor. 0.5g/cm^3 is the density of gases, not solids). And since these would be the only items being transported physically, the demand for them would drop precipitously. We're looking at a world where the only discrete objects with mass more than 10 metric tons that exist are those that absolutely positively must must must be that massive. Everything else would simply be redesigned so that it could be transported by hammert.

So, then, why no theft? If all creatures had this ability, it would necessarily become relatively worthless. Like reading and writing, which take a dozen years or more to learn, and enable a frighteningly wondrous array of things, but which are so ubiquitous nowadays that their value in-and-of-themselves is nil.

But this is an ability held only by hammerts. Which is to say that there are a great many people who need this ability, but who cannot get it except from the hammerts. And this is a situation crying out for organization. Whether it's the hammerts who organize it, or the more physically able races that would rule (and protect) them, either way there's going to be a hammert guild. And, frankly, I believe it would be a "hammert guild", and not a "transporter's guild". Because there simply wouldn't be a hammert alive that wasn't a member. Their skills are by and large too valuable to be wasted elsewhere, and if there was a great scholar or religious figure or business magnate who somehow could justify (to themselves and others) not being a transporter, then they would certainly be under an agreement with the guild not to use their abilities personally in any but a private capacity.

As a result, transport would be quite cheap (compared to reality), whilst still being ridiculously remunerative for the hammert guild. And while there would certainly be a pecking order, it beggars belief that there could be a hammert anywhere who wasn't both respected and prosperous, not to mention civil to a fault. Hammerts would be seen in fine clothing, with bodyguards and attendants, moving constantly upon the roads between each and every settlement, perhaps even with a religious solemnity to their "great perambulation". And if they wanted anything that could be shoplifted, you know that they would be able to buy it. Even if not, the guild attendants couldn't let their charge be caught up in any kind of activity that would imperil the reputation of the guild or the timely delivery of their cargo. And these attendant retainers would be omnipresent, at least in public.

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Three small changes:

  1. All transactions with the hyperspatial storage are logged with place, time and the item deposited/retrieved.

  2. The Hammert authorities can view (but not access) an individual living Hammert's stored goods.

  3. The penalty for theft is death, so that the stolen goods can be recovered.

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    $\begingroup$ For me, despite being supportive of the Death Penalty, As a deterrent, it's never been effective. It's great for recidivism rates, but not as a deterrent. $\endgroup$ Dec 4, 2023 at 0:54
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDemonLord The death penalty isn't a deterrent, its so that the stolen goods can be recovered. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Dec 4, 2023 at 1:02
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    $\begingroup$ In that case, probably add that to your answer - as it makes it a better answer IMO $\endgroup$ Dec 4, 2023 at 1:27
  • $\begingroup$ @TheDemonLord Have a look at my edit. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Dec 4, 2023 at 1:30
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild: You don't need death for recovery. "Cough up the item or else..." is sufficient for a Hammert to willingly pop the item off their hyperspace. $\endgroup$ Dec 4, 2023 at 8:45
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Hammerts accused of theft in a recognizably-human society can be tortured until they summon all items from their personal space...then tortured a bit more to assure the friendly Police Torturer has really seen it all.

Make them sign a new will, so if they die (aw, gee, oops) everything goes to accessible Public Space for inspection. If the stolen object is not there, then a polite apology to the family and on to the next suspect.

This will, of course, backfire when rebel Hammerts --aggrieved by the persecution-- summon a suicide-bomb that destroys the entire police station. Or a super-bomb that levels most of the town. They're not stupid. They know how to prepare.

So, obviously, policing of one society by another won't work. (It has never worked) Either one society will migrate away, or be extinguished, or both societies will adapt.

Adaptions might be as simple as a philosophy of having few possessions...and carrying most of them around with you. Or complex like blended households of different species that have different roles and mores (we do that with dogs and cats).

Alternately, the setup seems ripe for a rather straightforward caste system...with humans on the bottom. Hammerts can safely store and transfer wealth and knowledge and tools, and humans cannot. Humans will be reduced to physical tasks that we are better suited for, cleaning gutters and polishing statues that decorate the estates of our Hammert overlords.

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  • $\begingroup$ More or less what I was thinking. The metaphorical version of the comic 'Lift them by the ankles and shake until the kitchen sink falls out of their pockets' should be possible. $\endgroup$
    – davolfman
    Dec 4, 2023 at 20:21
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Hammerts can sense where are the objects that were in their hyperspace storage for a while.

In example they can sense the object for a day, so they can tell where approximately it is, they can tell whether the object were banished and can identify the Hammerts who banished it after them.

Shop employees would banish and resummon their wares every day before the opening hours. Or shopkeeper would do this with a batch of a stickers, that would be then stuck on the wares.

Individual Hammerts would do the same with their valued possessions every evening as a part of a routine (brush your teeth and update on your teddy bear)

Using catalogues instead of on shelf shopping.

Since rebanishing all the wares in the shop would be rather tedious I can imagine many shopkeepers would keep them in the safe storage while their customers would be using catalogues to select the goods they want to buy. Preferably non-Hammert employees would then collect everything and deliver it to the counter neatly packed to be instantaneously banished by the customer.

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    $\begingroup$ I think the idea of catalog shopping or shopping via amazon.com or etc depending on their level of technology would at least prevent theft for vendors. $\endgroup$
    – cybernard
    Dec 4, 2023 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ And also plays into the whole "hammerts don't have good mobility" thing that is the entire reason they even have this ability in the first place $\endgroup$
    – No Name
    Dec 6, 2023 at 9:35
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Cameras and Witnesses

Why use a magical solution when a mundane one will work? If a store has cameras everywhere and keeps inventory of what they have, theft can be prevented. A store might need everyone entering to show id and have their face visible, but changes are manageable.

If your world doesn't have enough technology for cameras, don't leave stuff in the open without witnesses. You might need to change how stores work (make the store have a "menu" and have employees get stuff for customers), but in the end this still isn't a big change.

This should keep theft down to the level we have in everyday life.

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    $\begingroup$ FWIW, we already have such stores (you can take whatever you want, but it will be registered and you will pay for it). It'd require a massive surveillance to be applied to other areas than shops, though. $\endgroup$
    – Trang Oul
    Dec 6, 2023 at 9:23
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A human can easily steal a jewel if they're left unattended with the jewel. Because of this, we are careful with our jewellery. Rule one: Do not leave a hammert unattended with any valuable item.

If I leave a child alone with a marshmallow, and when I come back the marshmallow is gone, I can reasonably conclude that the child ate the marshmallow. Rule two: If you do leave a hammert unattended with an item, and that item subsequently disappears, then the hammert immediately comes under suspicion. Proving it in court is a little harder than normal, but the legal system would take this into account, perhaps by allowing a slightly looser interpretation of 'proven beyond all reasonable doubt'.

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Nothing is needed

Theft in our society isn't really affected by the thief's ability to store the items the steal, but precisely the thing you brushed off: being watched. Even if no one witnessed the actual theft, it is possible to deduce a culprit after the fact based on circumstantial evidence alone. Even if police never find the actual stolen goods, theft is one of the easier crimes to convict a criminal on.

This combined with the consequence of jail time is basically the main way theft is controlled in our society, not difficultly or impracticality of the actual action of theft itself.

Laws and detectives are all you need.

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You said that living animals cannot be stored. Perhaps people would take advantage of this feature and have tiny insects living in objects that you wouldn't like someone else to store in hyperspace.

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  • $\begingroup$ Or alternatively, store objects inside large beasts (although retrieval would be a bit difficult...). $\endgroup$
    – Trang Oul
    Dec 6, 2023 at 9:16
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Even if only the Hammert itself can retrieve items from their storage, maybe there is a way to list all items in that storage that can be used to find out if a given (possibly stolen) item is there?

It doesn't have to be an easy way, and it may require the Hammert to cooperate (possibly under pressure or threat of prison), but as long as the Hammert can't fake the list, it would serve as an investigation tool without compromising the basic features of the storage.

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As others have said or implied, this initially reasonable-seeming ability turns out to be vastly overpowered on closer inspection. When fighting, they can just summon a rock above their opponent's head. When attacking a stronghold, they can banish large chunks of the walls (or banish the roof, and drop 20m³ of molten lava or boiling yak innards or whatever). They can dig 1m² tunnels straight through mountains 20m at a time. Or cause opponents to drop into 20m deep pits, landing in a squishy mess of all the earthworms and bug larvae left behind. Their houses would be fun, since they could reposition walls at will. In fact, they could chop their houses or just about anything nonliving up into pieces and rematerialize them anywhere, so they might end up being nomads with comfortable houses. Which is great for everyone but the naked teenaged Hammerts who wake up when they're dumped unceremoniously on the bare ground after their parents get tired of waiting for them to wake up before moving the house for the day.

Anyway, I would probably press on the curious ownership thing that was suggested by the wills. I would probably make "ownership" an explicit property of things, one that could only be applied to a relatively narrow range of things (which does not include the 20m of dirt under someone's feet). Then theft is not a problem by definition: you can't banish something that isn't already yours.

The establishment of ownership could be as automatic as you want to make it. Perhaps it's just a thing that everyone shares an intuitive understanding of, or perhaps an explicit ritual is needed to establish or transfer ownership. Writing out a will could require doing a similar ritual to establish contingent ownership.

(Note that this also introduces a signaling mechanism that would be unpopular with Hammerts but possibly exploited by factions or other races: take a couple of Hammerts with you on a long trip, and then communicate back by killing off a subset of them. The place you came from can decipher your message from which of their willed descendants get their inheritances. Though a much higher bandwidth is possible with your public hyperspace loophole: write an entire book, have your Hammert slave banish it, then shoot him in the head.)

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    $\begingroup$ This does not answer what OP asked. Answers should try to answer questions as asked as well as possible. Criticisms about potential exploits are better suited as comments to the original question. A number of your 'exploits' may not be viable in OP world, for instances the 2 second delay curtails most combat uses. There are other potential hacks, but maybe OP want's them, or has come up with restrictions to prevent them. We are not to second guess the world OP wants, we are to help OP create that world as best we can at most mention interesting implications in a comment $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Dec 5, 2023 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ The question was "Without making a massive change to the rules of hyperspace storage, is there anyway to make sure that Hammerts can't or won't take everything that isn't nailed down as long as they aren't being watched?" My 2nd two paragraphs directly answer that question. My change happens to also address the problems raised in the 1st paragraph, which I felt it was useful to mention, but perhaps I should have done it in a different order. Unless you disagree that my suggested change is "a massive change"? I explained why it wasn't, given the will thing, but maybe you disagree. $\endgroup$
    – sfink
    Dec 6, 2023 at 18:32

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