So you find a genie, you get one of two wishes. Transporter or Holodeck? Which should be real? This is a question that has circulated around the internet in one form or another for quite a while now and I have been giving it some thought.
On the one hand you have the transporter which would be amazing because you could go any where on earth instantly. The basic idea is that you are getting your molecular structure scanned and dismantled simultaneously and the data is then transferred to the receiving end where you are materialized, whole and intact, at you destination. Goodbye commute, hello sleeping in. Also with this technology scaled up to an industrial size you would solve a lot of the worlds pollution problems by elimination our shipping infrastructure. This would be a fantastic form of transportation, not as cool as suction tubes but still pretty awesome.
The Holodeck on the other hand is a totally different proposition. The holodeck uses a series of force fields and electromagnetic fields to shape photons into something resembling matter. The effect is basically a virtual reality so detailed and rich that you can eat non existent food. And for all intends and purposes you feel like you are not is some small room covered with a dayglow graphing grid, but instead you are convinced that you are on a beach in Maui or in the surface of an alien planet or maybe just at school, for you online sculpture class.
These two technologies are similar their effect on the senses, both transport you to another place. The difference between them is clear, one transports you literally and the other transports you figuratively. so the choice you make is a telling one in most cases. You either would like the opportunity to go where you like in the world, or you would like the opportunity to go anywhere in the safety of your own home. So presumably you are either eager to travel and see the world or you would rather just learn about and experience the world through a filter of safety, but i think there is another difference that is just as important to the decision.
The transporter can only take you to places that exist. now in the Star Trek Universe, where they have discovered hundreds of worlds and are exploring more everyday, this is plenty. But on earth in 2013 the options are varied but limited. If you had access to a holodeck with all the features and functionality as the ones depicted in Star Trek then you could not only visit every city on earth in any time period but you could experience holo plays based on any of your favorite books or movies. you would also be able to run simulations of prototype designs, imagine being able to wear or use any invention you could dream up, that is something the transporter just can’t compete with. Given the choice I’m going with Holodeck.
And that’s my take on Transporters versus Holodecks.
As an after note I have thought of a third option that in my opinion is at least as tempting as either of these two, though I think that it is clearly not in the same spirit of the original choice. The Replicator, this epic piece of technology enables the user to transform raw matter into any material they wish. It’s most common use one an individual level is to create any meal you want nearly instantly and at any temperature you decide. But another use once you scale the system up is in generating objects, even complex mechanisms. This I think is a real competitor is this hypothetical choice. this means that anything you can design , you can make. And the coolest part, in my opinion, is that this particular bit of technology is just around the corner.
The folks over at MakerBot have been developing an open source prototyping machine that they plan on bring the price for down to around one hundred dollars. They Ideas is that once the tech is cheap enough to get out in the homes of everybody, that some truly innovative strides will be made in the area of rapid fabricating. So in the end a genie may not even necessary for this one.