[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

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2020 Vision


(Rehearsal Transcript)

First aired 16 January 1998

What is 2020 Vision?

Gillian Deacon introduces Robert J. Sawyer as a physicist in the year 2020, part of a research team that has developed a prototype teleportation system. Although successful attempts with inanimate objects and animals have already been completed, Rob will be the first human test subject for teleportation.

Gillian: Dr. Sawyer, I understand this is a momentous day — you and your colleagues have actually gotten the bugs out of a teleportation system.

Rob: Oh, yes — we take bugs quite seriously in this game; remember what happened to that guy in "The Fly." Seriously, though, yes, we've got a working teleportation system. I'm here in Montreal where we've got the sending equipment, and my colleagues in Australia are ready with the receiving equipment.

Gillian: So let me get this straight: you're going to be teleported instantaneously from Canada to Australia?

Rob: Well, it won't be quite instantaneous — but it will happen at the speed of light.

Gillian: How does the process work? On "Star Trek," they used to convert your body to energy, then transmit the energy somewhere else.

Rob: No, that's impossible. Albert Einstein said it: E=mc2. All that equation means is that a little bit of mass can be converted into a huge amount of energy. If you converted the hundred kilograms of an adult human being into energy, the explosion would level the city.

Gillian: Then how does your teleporter work?

Rob: Every subatomic particle in my body is scanned, so that we know exactly where it is. Of course, when we measure a particle's position, we can't simultaneously measure its momentum — that's Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. But we've shown that not knowing the momentum doesn't have any effect on the gross physical structure. So we simply transmit to Australia the information about the relative positions of all the particles that make up my body, and a machine there replicates me from local source material.

Gillian: Replicates you? But then what happens to the original you that's in Montreal?

Rob: It'll be destroyed, of course. Otherwise, there would be two of me walking around, and we can't have that. Indeed, the United Nations clamped down on teleportation experiments as soon as any real progress was made. See, it's impossible to beam matter from one place to another; teleportation requires the ability to replicate. But, obviously, the world's economy would crumble if anyone with a teleporter could duplicate dollar bills or gold bars or TV sets or cars at will. No, all teleportation equipment is required by law to destroy the original.

Gillian: But you're the original! You're talking about having yourself killed.

Rob: The destruction is instantaneous and painless; this me will never feel a thing — and the replicated me, in Australia, will have all of my memories. As far as he's concerned, he'll always have been the real me. Trust me: this works just fine. We've sent lots of animals through without any difficulty.

Gillian: But won't the replicated you be different? I mean, what about your soul? How does something you can't scan get replicated in Australia?

Rob: Well, as a scientist, I don't believe in souls. As far as the only surviving version of me will ever know, I'll have just stepped into a chamber in Montreal and stepped out of one in Australia, and — oh, look, they're ready for me. I've got to go, Gill. I'll put a shrimp on the barbie, for you . . .

(Rob exits from the frame)

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Other "2020 Vision" scenarios
Rob's CBC Radio Science FACTion columns
"2020 Vision" press release
Rob on TV — with lots of stills!
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