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What would you do if you could teleport?


Imagine that you could teleport.

What would you do with that ability?

There are a lot of different ways one could answer that question, but I'm most especially curious about one particular thing:

What could you ethically do with the ability to teleport that would earn you enough money to live on?

I have a feeling we've discussed the ethical issues with certain superpowers before, but I can't find that discussion offhand. For example, invisibility as a power has a lot of morally questionable uses, but not so many obvious uses that are morally sound.

And I think teleportation is much the same. There's a lot of bad or gray-area stuff you could do with it. What could you do with it that you'd be proud of?

When I brought this up in a face-to-face conversation after seeing the movie of Jumper, there was one particular career that several people immediately came up with; I'm not going to mention it yet 'cause I'm curious what y'all will come up with.

If you want to make things harder, you can narrow the parameters a little by going with stuff specified in the book of Jumper:

  • You can only teleport to a place that you've seen in person before and can visualize clearly.
  • You can take people and things with you, but only if you can lift them off the ground.
  • What if you're 17 years old and don't have ID? (And you have to financially support yourself.)
  • What if you don't want to become publicly known, at least not under your real name? What if you don't want to come to the attention of the government?
  • Given the above parameters, how would you deal with the IRS and paying taxes on your income?

See also my earlier entries on Super Rescue (also featuring a 2006 comment from Dave S suggesting that we read his book, which we can now do!) and Small superpowers.


probably the easiest way to make a living answering all the above parameters would to start a special delivery service. There is no reason you have reveal how you deliver stuff-- most people will assume it is some conventional way. In theory, you could easily only do deliveries with a specific city, that way the going only to places could visualize clearly would be pretty easy. You could have way points, and teleport yourself, the package, and a bicycle-- again, answering the parameters given- and pedal to the exact location giving credibility to your business, and since it is a legitimate business that will quite possibly attract a very happy client base (considering you can be faster than anyone else in crowded metropolis), the IRS should be easily satisfied.

Well, if you wanted to do government work, I bet NASA would be delighted to get that moonbase set up, even if it had to be broken down into 100-lb. chunks first. Certainly it would've made it easier to fix the toilet on the ISS.

Teleporting that results in a big, free change in potential energy or momentum is apt to have a big monetary payoff.

The obvious career would be astronaut. They would build a moonbase/Mars base just for you, because once they get it built and got you there the cost of adding more components becomes close to 0. Definitely building some ginormous complex around the ISS for starters would be a priority. Are you allowed to wear an exo-suit to enhance your lifting ability? If not, that does limit the loads you can carry in a day, but still, it'll be several tons a day if you can make infinite jumps.

If you had to remain low-key, you could just do import/export.

As for the IRS, that's a non-issue. It is my understanding that the IRS will not report your income to other government agencies. If you report that you made $2 million from "crime", and pay taxes on it, that will not result in your prosecution. *Failing* to pay taxes is the issue. That's how the government got Al Capone in the end: they couldn't prove any criminal activities, because no one would talk, but he was clearly very rich and had not paid income taxes.

Thinking about it a little more, aside from the space program, your best bet for moral public work is medical transport. Get hired by the Red Cross, spend a year learning secure, sturdy spots to land all over the globe, assemble a medical/disaster team composed of small people, and then transport a coordinating crew and initial supplies to a disaster site within minutes.

Alternately, get hired by an HMO, learn all the hospitals in the US, and transport organs for transplant, antivenins, other key drugs that are not kept in every hospital, and small surgeons and specialists. That would probably pay more than the Red Cross gig, but wouldn't save as many lives.

FBI or CIA operative. Possibly used for assassinations. It's ethical 'cause your government tells you it is, right? It's patriotic, anyway. :-)

Transporting people - take people to Paris/New York/wherever, bypassing all the annoyances of waiting in line, squishing into too-small seats next to people who need to bathe more often, praying that the plane doesn't sit for three hours on the runway before taking off, etc. If you wanted to be super-ethical, you could take them to and from Customs if crossing international boundaries.

Paparazzi - oh, right, you said ethical.

"Courier" as the actual work (limitedly) and listing "Factotum" or "Interoffice Assistant" on the tax return. You might not be the fastest courier as you started, but of course, the more you travel, the easier it might be to get where you're going (as in "hop close-ish this time, and fast next time).

Imagine what you might be able to to with Google Earth and a parachute...

The conservation of momentum might be a trick.

I like the medical courier-ing as able, but really, anything.

But how would your clients/potential clients find you? Can you get a world-ranging cell phone without ID (fake or otherwise) and credit card? Hm.

p.s. And if you're gonna be teach yourself places, you could just start with pizza delivery. ... you'd learn a lot of neighbor hoods pretty darn fast... (pardon my typos, last time)

Huh, I think I disagree with a basic premise of your question: I don't see anything about teleporting that brings to mind more ethically gray or evil uses than good ones. It's a tool, a skill, and not inherently moral or immoral. I mean, isn't being able to teleport darn close to having a Transporter? Do you also automatically think of that device as being one that would lend itself to more bad uses than good ones, and it's only the saintliness of Gene Roddenberry that led it to be used (almost) entirely for good in the Star Trek universe?

But to (slightly) answer your question, I would make *so* much on tips, and make *so* many people happy as a pizza deliverator. 30 minutes or it's free, anywhere on the planet.

Concierge. Events on-site coordinator. Any sales job that requires a lot of travel. Ditto with inspection services. Private detective. Production coordinator for a publisher (makes it much easier to attend the press runs).

Really, you'd have a massive advantage doing any job in a long-commute area.

Other than the various kinds of courier, the only think I could think of would be to go into the offsite storage business. You contract with Manhattan business to keep their docs in a warehouse in Kentucky or somewhere cheap, guaranteeing delivery within, say, two hours of request (to hide the superpower a little). You wouldn't tell them the warehouse was in Kentucky, of course, so it wouldn't be entirely ethical, but that's part of the deal, if you are keeping a secret identity. Also, you'd have to blur some stuff with the IRS, but I don't think that would be too hard. Also, you could save money by commuting to work from your cheap apartment in Kentucky. You would have to have a rule that you don't take home a date you can't carry over the threshold, though, which would be too bad...

Oddly enough, I don't see how the transportation would be all that much help in unethical stuff, other than the obvious stealing and as a magic getaway car. I mean, you could eavesdrop from the locked closet, but that would require more advance work than bugging the room.

By the way, does the thing you take with you have to actually not be touching the ground at all when you go, or do you just have to be able to take the weight when it's transferred to you on arrival? I'm wondering if you could dig people out after earthquakes and then get them to safety by zapping.


V., to respond to your question of how it might be useful for *unethical* deeds, the two main things I see teleportation as being good for is to allow you to instantly get material to any place you want (the problem of instantly getting information anyplace having already been solved), and to reach places that require a dangerous or expensive journey.
So the first facet enables you to kidnap anyone you can get close to, while the second gives you the ability to plant a bomb in anyone's bathroom, to get into any vault, or to transport any banned substance across any border, just for starters.
This is of course using Jed's unlimited initial premise; when you switch to "must have seen the place before" at least some of those examples become less feasible...

The easiest unethical use is drug smuggling. Charlie Stross uses that in his *Family* series. You could also smuggle arms, uranium, etc.

The army and the CIA could also find some very unpleasant things for you to do. Transport a commando team into the middle of a foreign country, say.

The thing that immediately occurred to me, before reading any of the comments, was something to do with transportation, whether passengers or cargo.

I assume the main unethical things you could do with teleportation are killing people and stealing stuff, since you can get away after committing your crime with no risk of getting caught.

The big problem I see here is supporting yourself without ID. I guess you could get/make fake ID, supposing this counts as ethical.

Given ID, the obvious ethical uss I see are pick-up and delivery of time-sensitive material, rescue (transport children out of a burning building) and astronaut--but for the latter, how clearly do you need to be able to see the destination? And does it matter if the destination (the space shuttle, say) has moved since the last time you saw it?

If you want to keep your talent secret, things get a lot more complicated, and you're basically limited to delivery service, I think.

(I haven't seen Jumper.)

Why can't a 17 year old get ID? Most of my friends had driver's licenses at 16. I didn't (no car) but I had a passport.

Messenger/courier is what immediately leaps to mind for an ethical job, and terrorist (courier of evil!) for unethical. You could also be a really amazing rescue worker as mentioned above, though it would be hard to conceal your abilities from your co-workers.

heck..i dont care what i can do with it..i will be just like griffin from the movie jumper..lol palitns kill jumpers..i kill palitins..class dissmissed.. =P i would be at first like david rice..when hes 15 and steal money..but thats just me..

if i had the power to teleport i wouldn't do anything stupid i can already picture the things i'm going to do nothing bad like rob a bank just spend sometime with my girlfriend something that i really don't get a lot at all take her to rome i think thats where she said she wanted to go or was it paris and if i see a homeless person in the street i'll go into burger king and get him/her food it's only fair nobody in the universe understands hoe badly i wan this power like omg IF THERE IS A GOD OUT THERE WATCHIN OVER ME PLEASE ALL I ASK DEN IS JUST TO HAVE THE POWER TO TELEPORT FOR ONE DAY AT LEAST ONE DAY JUST PLEASE HELP ME ONE DAY IS ALL I ASK FOR IF I CAN'T HAVE THE POWER FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE THEN ONE DAY PLEASE GOD JEAUS ONE DAY!.....and thats all i have to say

How about saving people? I'm sure the dozens of people that burn to death each day would welcome the opportunity of being teleported out danger. You could also replace air ambulances and other such services that operate in locations that are physically remote from hospitals and such.

Of course the problem would be priorities. The demand would far outstrip the abilities of one person with such a skill, and I doubt you could be effective alone, even if you could get to any place you wanted in the blink of an eye. I would imagine that you'd have to have a massive team of people working behind you to prioritise and coordinate your actions. But even then, imagine the constant dilemma you'd face in deciding who your going to save and who your going to leave to die, burn, drown... or whatever! You'd be doing great work there is no doubt of that, and you could feel proud of it. But you'd still get a lot of stick and criticism from others who think you should have saved x, y, z instead of a, b and c!

Plus when would you rest or take a holiday, or even sleep? If you were unique in having this power the expectations placed on you would be enormous. If you took a break or slept, people that only you could save would die... Resting for even a moment is going to result in deaths. How do you live with that? Do you sit down, put your feet up and have a snack, or do you get that baby which has stopped breathing and needs to be in hospital RIGHT NOW?

Tough... very tough.

If I had the power to teleport, I would simply just rob banks like the dude from Jumper. With all the money I would teleport to needy countries and help out. I'd buy so many cars.. then I would speed everywhere, and if a cop is tailing me I can just teleport out of there.

But if I wanted to make a legitimate business, I would open a business and for some large amount of money I'll teleport you around the world to various popular locations.

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