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This is a follow-up to my previous question, based on one of the comments that was made. While the answers to the original make it quite reasonable that there will be no permanent effects manifested in the short term from a teleportation*, I am now wondering if there is a plausible (but possibly unexpected) set of long term consequences that could arise from frequent teleportation based on our current state of knowledge.

For example, it has been shown that people that experience frequent jet lag, such as flight attendants, show signs of stress and cognitive impairment. These long-term effects are not noticeably manifested in someone making periodic long-distance flights, beyond the initial fatigue and disorientation.

What could be additional long-term effects from frequent teleportation? I am assuming that the process itself has no noticeable flaws and does not introduce any noticeable glitches into the brain, because at that point I could hand-wave anything at all. I am referring specifically to effects that are created by otherwise normally functioning brains in response to frequent drastic changes in environment accumulated over extended periods of time.

EDIT

Given @Sydney's answer, I am willing to consider changes that are not immediately noticeable accumulating over time. I do not believe that this changes the fundamental nature of the question.

I am looking for both the internal and external mechanisms that would lead to the changes, as well as the manifestations in terms of abilities and behavior.


*Teleportation which completely disassembles at the source and reassembles at the destination. Instantaneous from the subject's point of view, but taking a finite (but short) time from observer's point of view.

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    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jaunt $\endgroup$ – Sarge Borsch Jun 28 '17 at 6:49
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    $\begingroup$ With Star trek style teleportation, you utterly destroy the subject and then create a copy somewhere else. The person who steps into the teleporter dies. The person who emerges is seconds old, with years of memories ready formed in their mind. There could be something interesting in that... $\endgroup$ – Grimm The Opiner Jun 28 '17 at 10:25
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    $\begingroup$ Base it on quantum uncertainty and the inability to capture everything perfectly. Minute errors are unavoidable and they add up. $\endgroup$ – Jim Garrison Jun 28 '17 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ If the process tears you down and rebuilds you then what's to stop unscrupulous people from copying themselves? It would be an, hmm, amusing take on the issue if the second attempt to reconstruct a person from a teleport pattern always failed and it was eventually shown that it was due to the lack of a spare "Soul" (Apparently the original "Freed" soul finds the new "Teleported" body. Degradation could come from the soul being repeatedly ripped from the mind and rejoined--perhaps insanity or some other mental disorder. $\endgroup$ – Bill K Jun 28 '17 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ My favorite side effect (which I think was in Scalzi's novel Redshirts but I can't remember for sure) was due to the fact the teleporter effectively kills you and then constructs an exact copy of you elsewhere. One character who teleported a lot was always followed around by a cloud of angry ghosts of his former selves, with a new one created every time he teleported. IIRC he wasn't consciously aware of that fact, but the intense self-haunting manifested itself in the form of chronic low-level bad luck for the character. $\endgroup$ – Jeremy Friesner Jun 29 '17 at 5:57

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I would suggest that over time, transporter technology could lead to increased risk of almost every disease or disorder, particularly those we associate with or tend to encounter later in life. Nothing's perfect, so there are going to be small imperfections every time you transport, and that can create a tiny one-time risk of whatever disease or disorder you want, and/or they could build up over time and lead to the diseases and disorders that everyone will get given enough time, unless something else kills them first.

You could say some of these errors are cumulative, in parts of the body that don't heal or don't heal well (brain, nervous system), and with enough transports causing enough of these tiny errors, people start developing degenerative neurological disorders and/or dementia and so on - it works great until 30 years later, when your substantia nigra can't produce dopamine, and bam, Parkison's (for example).

You could also observe that cancer is basically what happens when a particular part of a cell gets damaged so that the cell reproduces without end, instead of dying when it's supposed to. Minor errors in transporting, in the wrong place in a cell could, therefore cause cancer. Not a high risk on any one transport, but over time those tiny risks add up to an increased risk of cancer among heavy users of transporter technology.

Some diseases have physical causes. Strokes, for example, happen when blood clots or plaque inside blood vessels get dislodged, travel up to the brain and block off blood flow to part of the brain. It would be easy to see how minor errors in transport could cause a small piece of plaque or blood clot to get dislodged, and increase the risk of strokes among among users, as an example of this type of disease.

When you get right down to it, a lot of the vital systems in our bodies rely on very tiny parts that need to work just right, so you could plausibly use minor transport errors to cause most any problem you wanted.

"Oops, transporter scrambled your bone marrow and now you have leukemia."

"Sorry, the transporter choked off a tiny blood vessel in your brain and now you don't have any short term memory. But don't worry, you'll forget about the problem in 30 seconds anyway."

"Now you're diabetic because a minor transport error incorrectly reassembled the blood vessels feeding your pancreas, so it doesn't work any more."

"So, we're not sure exactly what happened, but it appears that your spleen didn't tolerate the transporter well, and now your immune system is attacking all your cells, so you have a severe auto-immune disorder."

"After 30 years of transporting, the small errors have accumulated to a point that you have early stage dementia."

And so on.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 3 '17 at 13:20
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Accumulated Transcription Errors

At an office, I worked at, where staff photocopied certain forms to give to customers. When the supply ran low, the workers made a copy of the copy. This worked fine for the first few generations, but eventually, the accumulated copying errors would make the copy nearly illegible.

Unless the reassembly process was perfect (and what technology is perfect), small transcription errors would creep in. If too many teleportations occurred in too short a time, the accumulations of errors would start to be detrimental to the transportee. Cognition impaired by synapse in the brain not being restored to their exact location. Capillaries throughout the body might rupture due to errors weakening the walls. Changes in eyesight as errors affect the shape of the cornea.

Environment Differences

Humans experience changes in pressure, temperature, light, and noise gradually over seconds to minutes. This gives our bodies time to react and adapt. This time does not exist in teleportation.

For example, our bodies don't like sudden changes of pressure, as deep sea divers can attest. The instantaneous teleportation between locations with a pressure differential would subject the transportee to sudden changes of barometric pressure, pressuring the inner ear, sinus, and possibly causing dissolved nitrogen to come out of solution.

Temperature change also is detrimental.

Psychological Strain

I would expect that the instantaneous change in location will cause some psychological strain on the transportee. Jet lag is child's play to teleportation. It's midnight and you're exhausted, but the next second it's noon, and you're still exhausted but your mind tells you it's day and you can't sleep. Frequent travelers now have health issues, so I imagine that this would compound the issue.

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    $\begingroup$ This is nice. I especially like the idea that many teleportations in a very short period of time would be much more detrimental than allowing for an (even short) breather in between because the body won't have time to correct the small defects that are introduced. I was originally looking for the second part of your answer, but I am beginning to focus more on the importance of otherwise unnoticeable imperfections in the technology itself. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 27 '17 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ IIRC, Michael Crichton's Timeline uses transcription error accumulation. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Jun 27 '17 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Kevin You recall correctly. It was an important plot element. $\endgroup$ – T.J.L. Jun 28 '17 at 3:43
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Teleportation psychosis.

As scientists during the 20th century found out, our brain tirelessly works on perfecting the illusion of continuous thought and perception. Our eye has a blind area, it is very grainy and colorless at the margins (rods) and only in a small area sharp and colorful (cones). Despite that and the nose in your field of view we believe to see a sharp, full resolution 3D-image because our brain computes it this way.

The brain also continuously messes with our perception and memories. Memories where we see ourselves in a bad light are modified to paint a victim whose actions were justified. Much more important, as Benjamin Libet found out, our brain seems to decide on many actions seconds before we actually do them without giving us a clue that the decision has already fallen. So our brain needs to build a continuous (!) image of the world.

Teleportation moves our consciousness immediately from one perception to possibly completely contrary perceptions--for example, from an empty ice desert to a lush, hot rain forest. As scientists found out, our brain is not able to cope with this sudden change of environment.

The symptoms are as follows:

  • Light symptoms could occur after a few teleportations, sometimes even after one. The patients are either deeply tired, need to sleep 10 or more hours and have vivid dreams or are extremely exhilarated. People with migraine or epilepsy have a very high incidence rate of either aura or grand mal, normal people are suffering from headaches.
  • If sleep and rest is neglected, the second phase triggers dissociative phenomena: The patient believes he is obsessed by someone, has the feeling that parts of his body cannot be felt or out of their control. Strong flashbacks occur, sometimes the patient continually reexperiences his environmental change in a loop like a catchy tune.
  • Some sources claim that if teleportation continues after the second phase an irreparable collapse of personality occurs which is very similar to catatonic or hebephrenic schizophrenia. In contrast to that the condition is neither healable nor stoppable. It must be said that these are only unsubstantiated rumors because now each government has signed and supported the universal declaration of human rights so such experiments could never ever happen.

For this reason the most safe method is sleeping during the teleportation. It seems to use the natural shutdown of consciousness and experience to hide the environment shift.

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    $\begingroup$ I like your idea but Brasilia is not located in a rainforest. It is actually located in a tropical savanna called Cerrado. $\endgroup$ – Rodrigo Vasconcelos Jun 28 '17 at 11:02
  • $\begingroup$ For longer distances several intermediate teleportations must be made. This does have a side-effect though: insanity and death if conscious. "It's longer than you think, Dad! Longer than you think!" $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Jun 29 '17 at 19:18
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Something that might be considered -- Slightly improper reassembly -- On the order of a few cells per transport would die because something wasn't put back where it was supposed to be. I might not notice it on my test subjects, say, an apple or a squirrel. I might not even notice it past human trials. This wouldn't really affect regular cells, most of them get replaced fairly quickly; however brain cells don't. If I transported to work every day for forty years though, my brain might be ever so slightly less robust than it would have been otherwise. You can scale the inaccuracy if you so desire.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like this idea because it allows for a slight possibility of positive outcomes. Not as likely as negative, but still. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 27 '17 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ I updated my question with your suggestion. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 27 '17 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ I could only imagine teleportation technology which feasibly works so working because it is crazy ridiculous accurate to an atomic (sub-atomic) level. Matter teleportation could be verified with something akin to a hash against digital (computer) data. I would imagine things breaking catastrophically otherwise. $\endgroup$ – r_alex_hall Jun 27 '17 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ As Kevin mentions on the OP, Michael Crichton's Timeline does this. People are disassembled and reassembled in order to travel back in time. Each time someone is reassembled, there are minor errors. Too many reassemblies in too short a time can really mess someone over. $\endgroup$ – SethWhite Jun 28 '17 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ I read a book* where this slight disalignment occurred down the middle of a person's body, giving them an angry vertical scar down their face (and body), and also making them more aggressive (maybe due to the pain of the scar, or because communication between the brain hemispheres is degraded). Obviously, repeated transportations aggravated this situation, and would eventually kill the person. (* I thought it was called "Time's Arrow", but apparently not. It's about archaeologists that happen to travel back in time to the site they're excavating.) $\endgroup$ – KlaymenDK Jun 29 '17 at 11:43
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It should be something physical and tangible, because that is easier to write into a story. Also something superficially lightweight and even funny because it could be introduced as such, but then more potentially troublesome ramifications become evident. Quantifiable because then the characters have to wrangle with it, as opposed to something like creeping dementia.

I propose that teleportation make hair grow faster. Men would have 5 o'clock shadow at lunch. Really frequent teleporters would be noticeable because of their unruly locks and facial hair, as well as frequent stops for the fingernail clippers.

You could even have people grow physically larger. Shoes would not fit. Pants would split. Voices would be deep. People would hit their heads on doorways. You could do it Andre the Giant style, with acromegaly (a form of uncontrolled growth which actually can happen to adults). Or you could have them grow symmetrically. Maybe a combination, or varying effects depending on the individual.

ADDENDUM Downvote?? Horrors! /However, I also want a little bit of elaboration on the mechanism/.
For one, the mechanism of teleportation is going to be a little sketchy. But an important 2: even minoxidil which definitely makes hair grow (when used as a blood pressure drug, hair grows everywhere) still has an unknown mechanism of action. From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14996087

We have known for over 30 years that minoxidil stimulates hair growth, yet our understanding of its mechanism of action on the hair follicle is very limited.

Hair is mysterious. The triggers that cause intermittently active cells to start and stop growing are mysterious. Clearly poisons and stresses can cause growing cells to stop, and sometimes these same stresses cause stopped cells to inexplicably restart. Other mysterious influences can also.

/waves hands, imitating teleporter/ I could imagine that on rematerializing, populations of cells (like hair follicles) which can be in either grow mode or non-grow mode are more likely to rematerialize in grow mode than nongrow mode. For some individuals, and vice versa for others. The hair and fingernails can be only the most obvious and common result. Other things can happen too.

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  • $\begingroup$ What would be the mechanism for this? $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 27 '17 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ I did not downvote because I think that this answer has potential at the very least. Unlike the others, it focuses on the manifestations, which is definitely something I want. However, I also want a little bit of elaboration on the mechanism. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 27 '17 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ I like the hand waving. I feel like Yul Brynner would be a more likely outcome than Andre the Giant here, but as you said, no one knows means I am free to make up whatever. Thanks for the link. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 27 '17 at 21:19
  • $\begingroup$ I thought cancer / chronic sickness / degeneration / debility was kind of boring. We already have all that. Strange and not entirely welcome vitality is something new, just like teleportation is something new. $\endgroup$ – Willk Jun 27 '17 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, it is nice to have at least some dubiously positive effects to offset all the negative stuff. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 28 '17 at 4:25
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Antichirality artifacts

Comparable to the other answers of accumulating errors in the body but still of another kind. You get reassembled perfectly, i.e. every molecule gets rebuild structurally correct but maybe mirrored (with a small chance).

There are a bunch of so called chiral molecules even involved in the most essential biochemistry of your body. Some amino acids are chiral, you need them to live und you cannot live with their mirrored image. Also this mirroring is not something that can occure as easily on other ways, like with radiation or just aging. Your molecules not just flip randomly. Also a flipped molecule is really hard to distinguish from its coutnerpart because of mostly the same chemical properties and the difference only appears in the interaction with other chiral structures. So an accumulation of mirrored molecules in your body might be lethal or at least create symptoms that cannot be easily traced back to some broken structures in your body.

In the extreme (very rare) case your whole body gets mirrored. This is not initially lethal, but you will have problems with the usual food which is made in a world oriented the other way than you. Funny to mention: coming out flipped, you will not be abled to recognize whether you are flipped or the world around you. You would feel the same as always (at first). But all the people around you refer to right what you consider left and vice versa.

Thinking further, in a world where this chirality is detectable by some technology, this can give a way to measure whether a person was teleported commonly, maybe recently by just checking the amount of flipped structes in the body (maybe just in the blood stream). If they decay over time, a recent teleport can be recognized by a high antichiraliy level.

Actually, getting mirrored might not be so unlikely, depending on the world in which this take place and how the teleporters are build. Assuming only the blueprints get shared and the actual teleporters are build far away from each other (and not on the same place and then carried over to the other end), there must be a way to communicate the orientation in which the sent structures must be reassembled. Try to explain to some alien just via phone what left and right means to you. There are ways, but they involve measuring the handedness (one manifestation of chirality) of subatomic particles (neutrinos, very hard to detect) and built on the assumption that only one handedness of neutrinos exists because the other had never been observed (at least in this part of the universe, this might be different for the alien).

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the big (local) rip

A transporter is a device that converts matter to energy and back. Due to entropy, nothing is 100% efficient. Typical side effects of performing work are generating heat and similar products (noise). I propose the transporter introduce some additional by-products.

From our current understanding of the world (e ~ mc^2 ...) a transporter will require a tremendous amount of energy. Some waste is to be expected (that entropy), but what if there was a small amount that went unnoticed? Something within the known margin of error?

Quick real world science background: dark matter as an identifiable object is currently being researched. Several forms of massive particles have recently been ruled out, e.g. here or negative result for some SUSY particles. The search continues, and has recently been expanded to very low mass particles (axions) e.g. here.

sci-fi (ahem unrealistic) proposal: due to the (hand wavy) energy involved the transporter creates axions as a by product. The particles themselves are barely detectable, and the amount of energy lost is within the margin of error, so scientists aren't expecting it. However, after (hand wavy) enough transporter use the local section of the universe will expand faster than normal due to the increased amount of dark matter. The universe as a whole would probably barely notice, but you might end up with a Chernobyl like quarantine of an area ...

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  • $\begingroup$ Effects on the environment, not just the subject. I like this idea. It would only happen once (or at most a few times) since all other teleporters would immediately institute strict quotas as soon as the cause of the disaster became apparent. It could provide some valuable back-story to explain away some restrictions on the teleporters. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 28 '17 at 12:35
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Another approach is that the teleportation has some immediate effects that are in practice countered by something else that has indeed accumulative long-term effects.

For example, some building on other answers:

Bonus:

  • You can make your teleportation device involve magnetic fields. Mostly harmless in the short term, but in can sometimes provoke seizures (see Transcranial magnetic stimulation). What about long-term effects? Insufficient evidence, so pick your favourite.
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  • $\begingroup$ Good ideas all. An interesting corollary of the drugs option is that the drugs themselves get teleported as part of your body. That could have effects in and of itself, either always or if certain unintended changes occur in the drug molecules. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 28 '17 at 12:31
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For each case I consider that the subject is destroyed and « recreated » at the destination. I also think that all the following possibilities respect the constrain

...assuming that the process itself has no noticeable flaws and does not introduce any noticeable glitches into the brain...

Negative effects

Cancer

A possibility would be some long term effects distributed unevenly depending on the destination. With time, we might found a correlation with some destinations and an increase in the cancer rate.

Why? Because those regions would be more polluted by radioactive materials or by poisoned (by radioactive material) fellow travelers.
Each station must have a big reserve of elements, since for each arrival a full body must be created. Those stations would have reserve with a higher concentration of radioactive isotopes. (The elements of the people leaving the station are also recycled!) Therefore, people going quite often to these stations would fix way more radioactive isotopes than by the usual ways (drink, food). EDIT the last sentence is wrong, it's the people that do NOT travel frequently more at risk. The frequent travelers will lose those isotopes quite quickly.

SECOND EDIT this situation won't last very long since with the discribed system it'll be trivial to "leave" behind any cancerous cell. This might lead to a very positive outcome: a generic cure for cancer. There'll be a transfer of technology toward the medical world and some embarrassment: how the fuck didn't we think about that earlier.

IBS, food disorders, late diagnostic

In order to decrease cost, not all of you is transported. There is not point to teletransport the content of your bowels, bladder or stomach.
In that case you can use the scenario of @dmcontador. Some drugs would be needed for feeling such as hunger. Or to avoid bowel movement problem, you might be recreated with some generic and inert (or thought as inert) foam in your intestines. While for infrequent travelers this is only a small inconvenience, for frequent ones this might lead to food disorders and IBS.

With this set up, another subtle and almost undetectable problem that might arise is late diagnostic for some digestive system diseases. Why? Because frequent traveler would get use to shit mixes of foam and poo preventing them to notice something weird in their feces.

Positive effect (depends on your mindset)

Longevity

There would be 2 ways to transfer the subject: a copy is created at the molecule level (call from now on the “molecule transport”) or at the cell level (the “cell transport”).
The “cells transport” is more efficient (might not be correct, but it still make sense) in term of use of energy and data transfer. To clarify, when using the “cells transport”, when you arrive at destination you have exactly the same number of cells. The data sent listed every cell and their states (position, ions concentration, type of ions, division states, active/inactive genes, etc). When using the “molecule transport” it’s a list of molecules that is sent.

Now for microorganisms you would only need the “cell transport” while for human some part of the body should use the “molecule transport” e.g. part of the skin, bones, cornea, etc.

Both process work “perfectly”. But with time, frequent travelers notice that they age way slower that the stay-at-home people. The reason would be that the cells recreated are brand new and that some unknown states weren’t transfer.
This would lead to a series of interesting development such as a boost in the field of longevity research or another social fracture where the poor are not able to rejuvenate.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding CaptainObvious! If you haven't done so already please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Jun 28 '17 at 15:54
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The eternal journey

This is an answer inspired by a comment mentioning Stephen King's short story The Jaunt. In this story the teleported subject must be unconscious because otherwise he will experience an eternity "left alone with its thoughts in an endless field of white" until arrival, even though the actual act of teleportation is instantenious. Subjects teleported awake either die at arrival or are insane and die shortly after.

What if we take some similar approach, and teleportation makes one gradually unaffected by the ways to deactivate the consciousness during travel. This means that each act of teleportation takes longer and longer until one has to stay hours, then days in absolute nothingness. Maybe the actual experienced duration cannot be predicted reliably for people who travel often.

In this way the unpleasent affect on the body/mind is not mysterious at all as anyone can tell this after his journey. However, one still has to take this into account when "jaunting" often. Maybe the company which operates these teleporters gives an average experienced journey duration of five minutes, but unusually long durations cannot be excluded but are vanishingly rare. It is compared to getting struck by a lightning bolt. No one is safe in everyday life anyway.


Here is a mechanism that can explain how the latter idea (the somehow unpredictable journey times) can happen. In the end, the mechanisms of time perception of humans is not so well understood. Teleportation (after all) works by disassembling you on the entry, and reassembling you from (probably) other atoms at the exit. The scan of your body during the begin of the journes takes some time, so your brain is scanned in some slighly different states during this process. So, during reassembly your brain is built into a state that cannot naturally occur, but is slighly off on one side compared to the other. Your brain is rebuild in a way that you (even though you are actuall just a copy) believe that you are "you" because of your memories directly built into your head. But this "being in different temporal states simultaneously" effects your memory of the last minutes. They are not overwritten, but additionally inserted as blank. At least this is the plan. The workings of the brain are so complex that its hard to tell how exactly this shift will affect your perception. It is like estimating the experienced duration of a dream.

Of course, this latter answer does not describe a gradual effect of teleportation, but you can see it in this way: the more you travel, the higher the (still small) chance of traveling unusually long. The first variant still describes a gradual effect.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for pointing out that the initial scan/disassembly takes a finite amount of time. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 28 '17 at 18:04
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A longer-lasting fatigue

Beyond the usual jet lag from obvious time changes, this could be a more pronounced effect seen over the long run. Although responses to visual changes in the environment are well expected and easily handled, it's other less well understood sensory mechanisms in the brain that, because they aren't easily understood or measured, are being overtaxed and not compensated for with enough rest/exercise/mental relaxation techniques.

These could include senses like spatial/orientation perception, ambient radiation blocking, and gravitational response sensing (or whatever other senses your people use). The repeated changes in the environmental levels of whatever the different senses are trying to calibrate to and measure takes a toll that adds up over time in a less obvious way than other senses.

As an example using vision, it's commonly known and recommended when doing a lot of close up focusing such as reading or computer work to periodically look away to a father distance so the eye muscles can release strain. For these other senses, there could be similar effects where the organs/brain structure in use are not getting enough different use, adjustment period, or downtime to compensate for its higher demand in teleportation frequency.

The good thing is that with better understanding of what the problem is, there could also then be created a way to fix it.

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  • $\begingroup$ The bad thing is that when people say "better understanding", it means lots of messed up "test subjects" :) $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 27 '17 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ Bad for your characters, perhaps, yet good for a plot line....hard things to show for a visual story, but easy to flesh out in a written one. As with any new idea or environmental stimulus, there will be brave pioneers from whom later generations will reap great benefits. That could work with any of the other great answers too. $\endgroup$ – N2ition Jun 28 '17 at 0:41
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking this could be extended even further to an accelerated rate of mutation / evolution for all of humanity since some of the changes could happen in such a way that they would affect progeny. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 28 '17 at 4:29
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm...accelerates mutation rates. Sounds tricky and very dangerous. And like a good story twist! I also like @Will 's idea that some of these changes can be wonderfully strange, but not necessarily bad $\endgroup$ – N2ition Jun 28 '17 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ At this point, I wish I could accept about a dozen answers. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 28 '17 at 14:17
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Scientific background:

Tiny errors in reassembly would be indistinguishable from the errors introduced by an X-rays or radioactive radiation: Almost the entire body is entirely unaffected, but at some points, an atom is missing from a place where it should be, and instead running loose somewhere else.

So, the cumulative long term effects would be the same as those of excessive exposition to X-rays or radioactive radiation: Increased risk of cancer.

Also, heavy teleporting in a very short time would cause radiation sickness. This would, of course, only kick in if you teleported like every five minutes for a whole day.

Another effect of this is, that teleportation of electronic devices would also be affected: Any stored data may be corrupted by some bits getting flipped due to the reconstruction errors. This includes permanently stored data as well as data in working memory.


Possible story related effects:

The consequence would be, that teleportation would need to be strictly rate limited to allow the body to regenerate from the damages, and to keep the cancer rate down to a tolerable level. "What, you want to go too? Sorry, you've already teleported ... times this year, I can't allow that!"

No matter how well such rate limiting is enforced, it would not suffice to keep bad teleportation machines from generating too many reconstruction errors. This would easily go unnoticed, if it is not regularly controlled for. The effect would be like excessive radiation exposure, of course. Such bad machines could lead to inexplicable increases of cancer incidences among groups of people regularly using the bad machines. This would lend itself to the-corrupt-powers-that-be-hush-it-all-up story lines.

It's also not unlikely that professional teleportation users would be required to wear dosimeters when teleporting as staff in nuclear plants needs to do.

As I said, the "radiation" from teleportation would also affect electronic devices, especially storage devices: "Sorry, the data on your USB stick seems to be corrupt... How often did you teleport with it?"

The fun part is, that active devices like laptops and cell phones could experience any kind of software error. Of course, the most likely results would either be a crash immediately after teleportation or silent data corruption on their hard drives. However, any software misbehavior could be explained that way. For example:

  • Some important message has a single character corrupted, that unfortunately completely alters the meaning of the message.

  • A device that is used to control some dangerous stuff suddenly has all the security safeguards deactivated. Obviously, this can work either for good or for bad.

  • Some important feature of the device is suddenly screwed. This may either require a reboot of the device (unforeseen time delay), or require reinstallation of the software to fix.

  • The device becomes vulnerable to some kind of hack that it should not be vulnerable to. Likely some hack that worked with a previous version: The security hole was recognized, and the programmer fixed it by simply adding an additional check, that the teleportation happened to render dysfunctional.

  • ...

You can add pretty much anything you like, as long as you don't assume that additional, meaningful data magically appears on the device.

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Maybe it's some sort of drain on their soul. A gradual diminishing of their quintessence. Maybe the new person at the other end of the transporter has a fresh soul and the legions of transporter dead are gnashing and frothing in the penumbra. Oh! Or maybe it's a gateway for other entities to manifest in the soul and psyche of the transported.

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  • $\begingroup$ While not the sort of thing I was looking for initially, this does open up a valuable avenue of thought: transporter injection. Hacking if you will. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 28 '17 at 15:19
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Preamble

Teleportation is as accurate as any computer file transfer, and all data is copied reliably 1 for 1. There are no known direct physical effects over time resulting from the de/materialization process itself. But the obvious societal problems arise from the inability to know that dematerialization has completed before reconstruction begins, as alter-existents are born by non-deletion, their knowledge, expectations and rights as members of society are problematic at best. However, the minor physical and major physiological issues arising from uploaded snapshots of present consciousness and memory, into future reconstructions of previous dematerializations (popular among celebrity) are real and messy issues that are not going away, regardless of their illegality.

Non-Deletion (Clones)

Due to a malfunction in the connection between origin and destination portals, the origin-entity (the person being teleported) does not dematerialize, but the destination portal completes re-materialization. Who now has the claims on the rights of life? Is it the origin-entity, because they are the original? Or is it the destination-entity, because they are the result of the intent of the origin? The destination-entity is the dying-wish of the origin-entity. You could imagine the long-term social effects of this kind of breakdown of technology to be incredibly turbulent. I am sure both the origin and the destination entities would agree to disagree on who lays claim to their wife, their bank-account and the keys to their spaceship.

Acts of War

Teleportation is perhaps the greatest conceivable attack vector. One large-scale effect of teleportation might be acts of war. It is probable that one race will try to compromise the portals of another race, and send them killer-robot-clones, many-tentacled-beasts, cyborg-soldiers, or God forbid... nano-ants. Forget the TSA, security infrastructure surrounding teleportation devices would need to be incredible. Perhaps placing a portal in the White House is too risky, you may end up with a fake president.

The Fountain of Youth

This one might be a little closer to the root of your question: it might be possible for people could teleport themselves into younger versions of themselves. If I teleport myself today, I could save my snapshot for tomorrow. Then in 10 years, I could upload my current state of consciousness, and all my memories into my younger body. Am I copying an old brain into a young head (hardware)? Or am I merely copying the some present electrical state into my new brain (software). Perhaps a little of both. Either way, it is this idea that interests me most. What happens when teleportation is used to upgrade ourselves? What are the limits and problems of this kind of use? Can an old brain be transported into a new head? Does it get rejected by the body? Can the old brain operate a new body, or will it bump into things? Is there an adjustment period? Will copying an electrical software state of consciousness into a new brain do strange things to perception? Perhaps we would hallucinate. Perhaps these people would go crazy. Perhaps our brain would bleed out of our ears. Perhaps people would find a way to live for millennia using teleportation.

Religious Issues

Though shalt not kill.
Though shalt create no image of anything on earth or in heaven.

Would some religions prohibit the use of teleportation? Essentially teleportation (in the image copying sense) is the creating of a new entity and the killing of an old one. What if teleportation was the only way to get to a doctor in time to save your life, would some religions then accept its' use and under which circumstances? How would these differences of opinion effect the social fabric of communities in a new world?

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    $\begingroup$ I think this raises the question of data copy versus actual movement. Is that teleported a copy, or is it that? $\endgroup$ – r_alex_hall Jun 28 '17 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ That's interesting. I would think that if the forces used to move "them/it" from one place to another were anything other than normal forces of motion, ie: some tele-transference of energy, whether electrical or otherwise, then we're in a copy situation. Unless we're talking about jumping space, which in my understanding would be wormholes and not teleportation. $\endgroup$ – f1lt3r Jun 29 '17 at 1:24
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Kinesthetic and other sense-related disorders akin to dissociative psychological disorders, as well as dissociative psychological disorders themselves. Post-traumatic stress resulting from such disorders.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was waiting for this, but I am wondering if you have any particular evidence from the current state of knowledge? I feel that intuitively you are correct, but I don't really know why. Specifically, see the answers to the original question I asked about the short term effects. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 27 '17 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ My answer is also only intuited; sorry I don't have any reference to real-life situations or data which might support it. On the other hand there may not be any comparable real-world data. And yes, perusing the answers to the original question inspired my answer. I just think that if corporeally I instantaneously experienced so many complete different realities (as far as my consciousness is concerned) over and over, at a deep level I might not have any grounding of personal identity anymore; or that sense could be messed with dramatically. $\endgroup$ – r_alex_hall Jun 28 '17 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, I don't remember where I read it, but traveling without a home base can have strange effects. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 28 '17 at 23:48
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If each teleportation produces about the same amount of molecular disruption of a single CT scan session (which is undetectable by itself, but we can estimate in the CT scan case by measuring the radiation with a Geiger counter), travelers can expect to develop cancer very soon.

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  • $\begingroup$ That actually makes a lot of sense. Now I can hand wave some pretty efficient solutions to cancer for a society that has teleportation, but that is another matter. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 27 '17 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding Ivella! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Jun 27 '17 at 20:58
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Bulding upon the above ideas of accumulative errors, you could also have some selectivity for transcription errors, for example:

  • metal atoms are lost more likely than others, leading to a paler look. Frequent travelers are also called "daywalkers").
  • parts of the body with lots of electric impulses going through them have a higher chance of transcription errors; so the brain is affected the most. Clever people use yoga to relax their brain during teleportation, to reduce the accumulated error.
  • there might be some weird selectivity for "old" cells, causing you to actually get slightly more healthy during a transport! Kudos to Niven for this idea.

Another completely different angle would be the psychological stress caused by the idea of "my real self died, and I am just a clone". If people keep thinking about it, they might even think "what happens if the teleporter was broken and my real self is still alive??" which causes them to call the teleportation operator at the sender side: "Hey, are you sure I'm really not there any more? Can you confirm that I'm the only one?". Teleportation operators will hopefully have psychological training to deal with such questions.

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Deafness

The Human body reacts fairly well to slow changes in atmospheric pressure. It reacts less well to faster or larger changes, as any diver or airplane passenger can tell you.

Teleportation is in instantaneous change in pressure. Even if the change is small, that is going to have sharp impact on the eardrum. Maybe not enough to rupture it, but a strain nevertheless. Over time, the strain builds up until the person loses their hearing entirely.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is an excellent point. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 28 '17 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ Your destination port is preset to match environment from which you came, and if greatly differing locations, it's just a matter of how long the person is willing to wait for gradual equilibrium to occur. You just know that some will be too impatient to listen to good sense...they don't bother with seat belts either. $\endgroup$ – N2ition Jun 30 '17 at 5:01
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    $\begingroup$ @N2ition - There could also be people who use older or cheaper tech. Not to mention emergency transports. $\endgroup$ – Xavon_Wrentaile Jun 30 '17 at 23:40
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You can have levels of teleportation based on accuracy. Its known that due to laws of thermodynamics and non-zero time of scanning some errors will happen at reconstruction. The level 1 will just let the effects of those errors happen because its the cheapest. The level 2 do the process 3 times and when data is not matched in all 3 take common data from any 2. It would be very rare for any error to come even at level 1 but at level 2 it would be even more rare, mathematically chances would decrease by square value if best of 2 would be taken out of 3, by cube root if best of 3 would be taken out of 4 and so on. Its very rare for an error to occur in same molecule out of zillions of molecules.

The unexpected effect would be far more social fragmentation than today. Poors being forced to daily commute to other star systems for work getting significantly higher rate of cancer and so on. You can compare that with bad health effects of coal miners of early modern era at dawn of industrialization.

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  • $\begingroup$ I hadn't even considered socioeconomic effects. This is really great. The rich will eventually find a way to use this to reverse cell damage and become immortal, while the poor will be as they always were. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Dec 29 '18 at 14:49
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Aging differently

You are reassembled perfectly on the other end, but somehow your telomeres, which are believed to control aging, are affected. Teleportation causes your telomeres to unravel ever so slightly and you age faster. ... Or perhaps it causes them to wrap down more tightly so you age more slowly, depending on where you want to go in the story.

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  • $\begingroup$ Near as I can tell, aging is not caused directly by the wrapping tightness but the fact that the last three base pairs can't be copied during reproduction, so the telomeres get shorter every time the cell reproduces. $\endgroup$ – Mad Physicist Jun 29 '17 at 15:08

protected by Serban Tanasa Jun 28 '17 at 21:19

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