Earth's history remains unchanged, living beings evolve normally, nothing strange happens, until the emergence of Homo Sapiens, which for some mysterious reason, gains the ability to teleport.
With this skill in hands, how would humanity evolve? Would we survive at all? Would society exist?

Teleport Skill:

  • All, and only Homo Sapiens have this ability.
  • Learning how to teleport is almost as easy as learning to walk.
  • There is no way to lose this skill.
  • Teleporting spends a fixed amount of energy equivalent to walking 3 kilometers, distance doesn't matter.
  • We can only teleport to places we know.
  • We can only teleport to solid ground.
  • We can't teleport to walls or be directly killed by this ability in any way.

Affected objects

  • We can only carry up to 500 kilograms with us to anywhere.
  • We can combine our charges to carry more weight (2 people can carry 1 ton, etc...)
  • Eventually we get used to carry our clothes with us
  • We can carry other living beigns with us as well, the carried one will not lose any energy.
  • Clothes and objects of the carried one will be left behind if the one teleporting forget to bring it.
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    $\begingroup$ The effect on society would be... profound. It might be hard to identify just where humanity would go without distance barriers, simply because it would change our culture so much. You might be able to start with a simpler thought experiment: what if H. sapiens had the internet directly jacked into their head, from day one. That would be profound enough, and would still have a smaller effect than what you propose. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Sep 12 '15 at 0:10
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    $\begingroup$ I suggest reading Vernor Vinge The Witling. Things aren't quite as you describe (there are some nasty conservation-of-energy effects) but it should give you some ideas. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Sep 12 '15 at 2:52
  • $\begingroup$ how do you handle privacy/secutiry if one can teleport to the president bathroom (with friends) $\endgroup$ – jean Dec 11 '17 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel , I almost typed almost literally the identical comment :) Vinge's Witling is the final exploration of this. (As with so many things Vinge.) $\endgroup$ – Fattie Sep 19 '18 at 15:27

1. Finding food

Let's start in the beggining. We start at the stone age. There are hunters, fishers and gatherers struggling to get food. Hunting is much more easier, because chasing some creature becames much easier. Fleeing from dangerous creatures also becames easy. Transporting captured animals also becames much easier.

If you want to hunt something, first, someone must walk around until he/she finds something to hunt. After walking in a place once in a life, you can just teleport back as many times as you want in your lifetime. Then, he/she just teleports back to the hunters' camp and bring other people by teleportation. To attack the prey, just grab a stone somewhere (possibly a place very far from that), teleport to near the pray, and drop the stone. If the pray is dangerous, quickly teleport away. Repeat this until the prey is dead or sufficiently injured. If needed, use a lot of people for doing that.

However, since teleporting is not free, most people are unlikely to teleport two or three times in a row. And only athletes would teleport more than say, five or six times in the day. But, a group working together, where people carries other people when teleport, can effectively dillute that cost. A person is able to carry up to 500 kg with him/her, which mean that someone can easily bring other 5 to 7 persons with him/herself. This means that we might teleport 6 to 8 people with the cost of a single teleportation.

For hunting birds, the tactics is similar, but different. Grab a stone, teleport to somewhere near the bird, throw the stone and repeat as many times as needed. Doing that with many people is better.

Gathering vegetable food is also easy. Want to eat apples? Then teleport yourself to the apple tree, grab some apples and eat. Bring some apples for your friends too. It doesn't matter if the apple tree is in the other side of the planet.

2. Exploring the world

Exploration is much easier. If nobody ever reached the summit of the high mountain or the distant island, once the first brave adventurer reach that point, he/she can then bring any other people which in turn might bring any other people and so on. Also, the brave adventurer don't even need to do the entire journey by him/herself on a single shot. If he/she is able to just reach the half of the way, by teleporting back to home and teleport other people back, then other people might continue from the place where he/she stopped. If he/she wants to finish the journey just one year later, there is no need to start it all over again.

Once a place where nobody has ever been before is reached, whoever reached it can teleport back and bring more say, 4 people (could even be more, but for an easier calculation, I am being a bit conservative). Those 5 people repeat the process bringing more 4 people each, and then we would have 25 people. Those 25 people repeat the process making 125 visitors in the place. Then 625, 3125, 15625... I.E. the number of potential visitors could grow exponentially, which means that once somebody reaches a place for the first time, in few time (possibily just a few hours) all the humanity would be able to visit that same place. Of course, there is some limits to the exponential growth, since some people would not want to go to that place or invite other people to go, but this shows that as soon that somebody go there for the first time, everybody else can potentially also go. In fact there is no limits of where you can go, there is just limits on how many places you will be able to go, to where you will want to go or to where you can find someone to take you there. Also, this is very useful for reaching new places where you can get food, water, ores, or anything else valuable.

With this, quickly everyone might be able to visit many places in the world during his/her lifetime. If you live for say 70 years and is able to visit 20 places each day, either by teleporting yourself, by being teleported by someone else or just by walking or riding a car, this is more than half a million of places in your entire life. However this number might be lower because people frequently revisit places where they already had been. On the other hand, visiting more than 20 places in a day is quite feasible, specially if you do that in large groups of people. Also, the sole thing that you need in order to go to the other side of the globe is to know somebody else who already had been there and agrees to teleport you to that place.

Kidnapping people is very easy, but also very innefective, because the kidnapped person would easily flee. However, as WhatRoughBeast suggested in a comment, this is feasible if the victim is held unconcious by some drug as long as needed and only being able to wake up when the captor allows it (possibly, after a ransom is provided). There is simply few to no way to make someone a prisioner. Also, stealing something valuable (or someone) and demanding a ransom might be an effective to persuade people to work for you or to tell something.

Hiding is easy. If you want to move to somewhere where nobody will ever find you, just teleport away to somewhere very far where you had been years ago. If you have a friend that can take you to some place very far, where you never have been before, that is much better. By the way, you can easily hide any object by using this technic. Stealing something is also very easy. Teleport to the target, grab the thing and teleport away to somewhere else and it is unlikely that the thing will ever be found again. This way, the best method to protect something valuable is to hide it by teleporting to a remote place, hiding the thing in some place where nobody will see (possibly by burying it in the ground) and go away hoping that nobody will find it. Also, thiefs can be more effective by working in groups, to reduce the total teleportation cost.

3. The society

Raising children becomes hard. If a child insists in wanting to play in the forest during night, there is practically no way avoid that. The only way to avoid that someone eventually escapes is to force he/she to spend his/her entire life in a small cubicle and never be able to leave. Once he/she leaves (or get kidnapped by someone else), there is no way to avoid an escape.

Wars becames very different. The only effective tactic in a war is to quickly and surprisingly ambush someone else and instakill him/her before the victim have a chance to teleport away. However, if the attack fail, the attacker(s) will be able to easily flee to never be found again. This is much more easier to do when the victim is sleeping.

A marching army is useless, because the defender would just teleport to somewhere behind your army or perhaps in the middle of it.

You can't siege something, and it would not make sense anyway. This is because that under a siege, the defenders could just flee and carry away everything they can. They can go back and forth as many times that they want and bring any people who could help them. But once one of your men is able to enter the city (or someone already there decides to be a traitor), you can just teleport all of your men to the inside, so there is no need to even start the siege, just proceed directly to the invasion.

For people who are being persecuted by enemies, the best to do is just to teleport away to some place somewhere else. Fleeing is easy, catching someone is hard. Also, people who are afraid of being found by his/her enemies might chose to just teleport randomly a few times every day and never sleep in the same place.

Since exploring around the planet becames easy, people will also be able to easily and quickly contact a lot of people around the globe. If the contact leads to some trouble, fleeing is easy. The result is that probably the humans would all speak the same single language.

Also, the society will be probably stateless. If we had an authoritharian king somewhere, he would not have any power, since his subordinates can easily flee and as a result his loyal soldiers can't enforce his laws. Also, that king would probably have a lot of enemies, who would be able to easily kill him while he sleeps. If the king keeps running away, he would be unable to efficiently give orders to his loyal soldiers. Also, it would be very easy to attack his loyal soldiers. Anybody who want to have some sort of power over other people should be a very smart, careful, charismatic and manipulative person.

Further, since everbody can go everywhere, there would be no frontiers in this world. If somehow two enemy states rises, people from one state would be able to easily invade the other state to try to kill, steal or destroy anything. There is almost no way to defend a country. This means that we would essentially have no countries at all.

Once people start to extract interesting minerals out of mountains, processing them becames much easier, just teleport the ores directly to where they would be processed. No gold or uranium mine will be able to kept secret for long time. Also, there is no need to build thousand ore-refining and smelting facilities scattered around the globe, one or two giant refining facilities is more than enough. This also holds for facility like mills, bakeries, hospitals, churches, etc.

However, let's say that there are three big hospitals in the world, a medic would be able to teleport from an hospital to the another fast, and would be able to bring the equipment and even the patient if he/she is unable to teleport him/herself. This would essentially mean that there would be one big freaking huge hospital in the entire world, although it would have no need to have all its building in the same place, or even in the same continent. This would also apply to other facilities like bakeries, blacksmiths, universities, etc.

It is very hard to prevent crime. Criminals could go in and out their criminal scenes easily and unperceived and would left no clues. Crimes would be common, and stealing and murdering is easy. The best to do is to hide anything valuable in order to avoid a potential stealing and have no enemies that would like to kill you. Also, being always near your friends might be useful. Criminals that are caught, would probably be quickly sentenced to death without chance of defense.

Most people would still value some form of privacy. This can be achieved by teleporting to a remote place and building a house there, many possibly without doors, but some would likely still feature doors afterall for periods of illness and weakness when teleporting would be too costly/tiresome and there is something useful (like food and water) nearby. Then, those houses would be a safe place to hide important personal things, treasures and also for sleeping. Keeping it secret by not teleporting other people to that place is also very important. If you want a place to share with your friends, just build another house somewhere else and do not put anything valuable there.

A thief, by randomly walking around in a forest is very likely to find some closed houses full of precious things inside just waiting to be robbed, and if something goes wrong, it is very easy to just flee by teleporting away. This also motivates people to build houses in remote places like mountain peaks, remote islands, deserts, glaciers, underground caves, floating in the middle of the oceans, or in the deep sea floor. Houses would be built to be strongly camoufled in their environment to not be perceived even if you are just standing them right in your face. Also, building houses in closed chambers deeply underground is very useful, but could be dangerous since there would be no air circulation, so a small opening to the outside would be important (this becames way harder for things under the sea). Uncamoufled houses with doors in places full of interesting resources nearby are probably just a point where people meet and is unlikely to feature anything valuable inside. When technology allows it (see below), building houses in other planets or asteroids is very attractive.

By the way, since going outside to look for someone who you want to talk is hard, people would probably rely a lot in something like post office centers where people can both post and take letters, in order to communicate. At least, this would happen before things like telephones, radios, cellphones and e-mails are invented.

Since there is no state, nor countries, nor cities, no way to efficiently punish crime and few handful huge facilities with a single purpose around the globe are more efficient than thousands small facilities scattered around, this means that the world would probably feature a single huge anarquist socialist-communist-like society. Private property would be defined as what you might be able to hide from everybody else. The society would work much closer than ant-like or bee-like societies (probably without a queen) than to our everyday societies, but still be very different from that.

4. Evolution

With the hability to teleport away, there is fewer need to move around by walking or running. As a result humans could probably evolve weaker legs. Ironically, people who are unable to move the legs will still be able to move around the world large distances efficiently, but uneficiently around the small distances.

Running would become something much less useful, so it is possible that humans lose the hability to run or have it much more underdeveloped. Running is useful for people who are lonely or working in very small groups (2 to 4 people), when teleporting would be costly. Running is also useful to quickly move a few meters away, when walking is too slow and teleporting too costly. Running could be useful when after teleporting, the teleporter misses the target by a few meters and want to reach it ASAP. Running would also still be useful when people need to hit something (like a prey) with velocity.

Humans would also likely feature a weaker musculature and a weaker skeleton, since there is few reasons to transport heavy things for long distances using your own hands and almost no reason to run. Also, even very heavy things can be easily teleported, which also means that there are few reasons to develop strong musculature.

Also, since it is easy for humans to escape from predators and to kill prey, this also removes some of the evolution pressure that eventually gave us stronger skeletons and muscles.

If you are fat and want to quickly lose weight, this is easy. Just burn your calories by quickly and repeating teleporting away. If you do this type of exercize in groups, by teleporting people with you, you would be able to visit and know a lot of cool places around the globe while losing weight. There is no need anymore to practize complicated, painfully and tiresome exercizes for so much long hours everyday.

Also, the human mind would probably evolve in a way where teleportation is essential. When thinking about how to solve problems, humans would always be thinking about teleportation being part of the solution.

Since people can teleport lonely up to 500 kg and teleporting other people is very useful, the result is that being fat is unfavourable. Also being very tall is not favourable. This could result in a human race where people are thin and have low stature. With that, teleport up to 11 to 13 people while paying the cost of only one teleportation might be feasible. However, the relative cost for teleportation is higher for thin and low people, and they are also much more fragile, so the point of equilibrium might be a medium body-mass where it is possible to teleport 8 to 10 people in a single teleportation which is around 50 to 60 kg for each person.

5. Technology

Since transporting things becomes easy, there is few to no need for roads. Things can be stored more efficiently since fewer stories are needed.

There is few to no need in building cities. The purpose that made cities appear is to bring people together in a single place where they would be able to trade efficiently. This now is uneeded, you could easily teleport things from one farm to another farm without needing a convenient city where everybody would go in order to be able to buy and sell things. By the way the farmer house don't even need to be in the same continent as his farm.

Technology would be able to be developed much more quicker and knowledge would be spread much more easier. However, on the other hand, humans would have far less motivations to develop technology it in the first place.

Many houses or buildings would not feature ladders or stairs. Many places would not even feature doors. Once the builder is in a floor or in a room, he can always come back even if the entrance is sealed. If someone is too tired to teleport, someone else might be able to teleport him/her. You can continue to keep mining underground even if the mine entrance collapsed, because once you are in, there is few reasons to keep the door open.

Building seaships, airplanes and rockets is much easier. Grabbing all that fuel is ineficient and unnecessary. It is much more efficient to grab just a small quantity of fuel and frequently refuel by teleporting people in and out who grabs more fuel and takes away the waste. However, the only purpose in building airplanes or seaplanes is to transport very heavy cargo when it is not feasible to just grab a thousand of people to work together to teleport the thing.

Do you want to visit the Moon, Venus, Mars or Pluto's Tombaugh Regio? Just place someone inside the rocket, lauch it, teleport people in and out for fueling purposes, and once the rocket lands, everybody who already visited the rocket are welcome to the new planet. If you never had been in the rocket, just ask someone who already had been to bring you. This way, once humanity starts with space-travel, we would be effectivelly being able to start colonizing the galaxy (although still slowly). Also, building structures or mining other planets becomes way more easier to do. People would likely teleport air and water to other planets.

Also, people would figure out that the Earth is round even in stone age and would be able to measure the distance and the size of the Sun, the Moon and the planets before being able to melt and cast metals. Still in ancient times, by using clever teleportations tricks and some math, philosophers would be able to figure out that teleportation works on a finite, but very fast velocity and will measure it to a value somewhat close to 299,792,458 m/s. They would probably also find that light travels at the same speed as teleportation. Measuring the light speed might be easier than inventing the wheel! Also, some philosopher would probably figure out relativity theory as early as middle ages.

6. Epidemics

However, there is a showstopper about the society that I describe above. Since everyone can meet everyone else and go wherever they want, this means that there is no barrier for epidemics and once things like ebola starts to spread out, we essentially have a human mass-extiction event. Epidemics might wipe out the human race sooner than later and this could mean the extinction of the human society early on the stone age. It is also possible that even if humanity don't get extinct, this could cause enough havoc in the society to prevent it from ever leaving the stone age, with waves after waves of epidemics.

If humans survive enough, enduring many waves of epidemics, they could end being evolved in territorial solitary beings that avoids contact with other humans except perhaps for reproduction and childraising. This could lead to a scenario where humanity is never able to form a society or that any prior formed society collapses. Also, since people would avoid other people and there is no way for the parents to keep the child for long time, most childs would probably never know their fathers at all and would probably get separated from their mothers before reaching 5 years old, which would also mean that language would be lost or not even develop to start with.

Thus, the result would be a society that resembles much more an animal society than a human one, which would also restrict the hability to get help for going everywhere and then mostly human would be able to teleport only in small restricted areas. But this also restrict the epidemics, which would allow more human contact back then and also reduces the benefit of teleporting in groups which also gives back the need for a more social life instead of a lonesome one. So, the result is that there is some sort of delicate equilibrium between being able to be teleported with someone else to novel locations and avoiding contact due to epidemics. The result would likely be small territorialist clans who are hostile to other clans. Also, people who are perceived as ill, would be likely to be left alone to either die or recover lonely. Only if humans somehow manage to get free or significantly aleviated from the problems that results from epidemics that all the rest of this answer (all the other 5 blocks except this very one) would apply.

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  • $\begingroup$ Kidnapping is fairly easy - just knock the victim unconscious, then drug him or her to keep him or her unconscious. After ransom is delivered, stop administering the drug and let the victim wake up. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Sep 12 '15 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast Thank you. I edited the text to add your suggestion. $\endgroup$ – Victor Stafusa Sep 12 '15 at 5:26
  • $\begingroup$ Remember that teleporting costs the equivalent of (walking?) 3 kilometers. Walking would still be definitely useful, and running too, especially in tactical situations. $\endgroup$ – o0'. Sep 12 '15 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Lohoris Yes, but you can dillute this cost by teleporting in groups, since you can teleport other people with you. $\endgroup$ – Victor Stafusa Sep 12 '15 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Lohoris I reviewed and rethought about running and edited the text. Surely, although it is still much less useful than what happens to us, it is still far from useless. $\endgroup$ – Victor Stafusa Sep 12 '15 at 18:40

It will most probably bring a quick and sad end to the human civilization within the first 1000 years of obtaining and understanding this ability.

The first and most disastrous effect would be the immediate breakdown of social structures. Everybody tries to find an earthly haven for himself. No mutual trust. No share of knowledge and experience. People would come together only for biological needs (reproduction that is). Lonesome people teleporting to food hotspots getting killed by predators.

In the current state of affairs, such an ability would be no less disastrous. The collapse of society would take longer (probably 200 years or so). People are selfish by nature and without any strict binding and limiting force, crime rate would be explosive.

If and only if social ties are not broken as a result of this ability and people don't go rampaging around like beasts, this ability can bring outrageous development and prosperity to our race, and eventually to all the species on this planet. We could colonize all lands. We could solve people's problem anywhere in the world immediately. We wouldn't have countries then, but one unified government for all humanity.

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    $\begingroup$ "No mutual trust. No share of knowledge and experience" Why would that be brought about simply by having teleportation? $\endgroup$ – KillingTime Sep 12 '15 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ Most humans (though not all) are self centered by nature. It is only need and necessity that packs us together as a society. Back in the early days, if all proto-humans had found this marvellous ability of teleportation, there would be no need to form groups for food gathering, predator defense and other such environmental pressures that necessitated the formation of the first simple societies and groups. $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Sep 12 '15 at 10:02

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