Professor Michio Kaku believes that Star Trek-style teleportation is scientifically possible, and that it could become a reality as soon as the end of the century.
The theoretical physicist said that the breakthroughs needed to transport humans instantly have already been made, and it’s only a matter of time before we will be “beaming” across the universe.
“You know the expression “Beam me up Scotty”? We used to laugh at it,” Dr. Kaku said. “We used to laugh when someone talked about teleportation, but we don’t laugh anymore. Quantum teleportation already exists [and] I think within a decade we will teleport the first molecule.”
He also believes that, as humans, we already do this at an atomic level. The phenomenon is known as quantum entanglement and it allows connections to be made between atoms, with their information being sent to others further away. In particular, the entangled particles are connected in such a way that the action of one directly affects the others, even if they’re separated over large distances. Albert Einstein called this “spooky action at a distance.”
Previous studies have shown atoms teleporting across a room, and light being teleported across the Danube River in Austria. In 2014, physicists at the University of Geneva teleported the quantum state of a photon to a crystal over 15 miles of optical fibre. The experiment beat the previous record of 4 miles achieved 10 years ago by the same team. Once scientists have successfully teleported molecules, Dr. Kaku believes the next step will be to send photons to a lunar base before experimenting with larger objects, animals and eventually humans.
During a recent Big Think Interview, Dr. Kaku said, “In the coming years we do expect to be able to teleport molecules, maybe water and carbon dioxide. After that, who knows? Maybe even DNA.”
Naysayers have been quick to point out there are too many atoms in the human body to translate into physical data, then teleport and then rearrange in order. Critics also argue that in order to transport a living object, it would have to effectively die and come back to life when the atoms are broken down and reassembled.
Dr. Kaku added that while teleportation is physically possible, it does come with a set of ethical dilemmas that would need to be addressed. “It raises the question, are we nothing but information?” he said. “Is the soul, the essence of who we are, nothing but information? We don’t know the answer. All we’re saying is that it is physically possible to teleport an entire human being across the room or maybe on to Mars.”
Earlier this year, Dr. Kaku raised eyebrows when he said our vacations could soon be uploaded into our minds. Instead of travelling around the world, people will download memories to their brains to make them feel as if they have been away.
Dr. Kaku believes that there are many other realities that we could face as we learn to manipulate the human mind. He pointed out that we have learned more about the brain in the past 15 years than we have in the rest of human history. Also, our knowledge of the map of neural connections in the brain, known as the connectome, is rapidly improving. This has been made possible by machines such as MRI scanners that can see which parts of the brain light up as a person performs different activities.
“In the short term, we’re going to be able to connect our minds to computers, so that we’ll be able to control exoskeletons,” he said. “We’ll be able to perform primitive forms of telepathy, we’ll eventually record memories, and then Alzheimer’s patients will be able to push a button and memories will flood in. Beyond that, the Internet will be replaced by the “Brain-net”, where you can convey emotions and memories rather than just text.”
Dr. Kaku even suggests that in the future we will be able to control surrogate robots on alien worlds with our minds, allowing us to explore space without physically having to go anywhere. “Maybe aliens have already done this, and we’re walking into the middle of an interstellar system where people commute regularly to planets and stars, and we’re too stupid to know it,” he said.