How It Began

March 9th, 2014

formula

They had a long discussion about it. Dana was adamant about the prohibitive level of physical costs — the energy required to convert matter for transmission. Carver fell silent and sat that way for a long time, looking out the window. Dana knew better than to interrupt.

Finally Carver spoke: “What if it’s not about conversion into energy?”

“What do you mean?”

“What if it’s just conversion into information?”

Dana paused and looked at the floor. “Encoding.”

“Right.”

Dana’s head shook from side to side in small movements. “The chance of encoding errors…And you’d only be making a copy, not transmitting the original…”

“Fair points. But let’s think it through before we say No. What if we could solve for those things? What would the big steps in the problem be?”

A thousand years before, engineers had thought the same way when they planned the first human missions to Luna (Earth orbit, Earth escape, transit to Luna, Luna orbit,…). Dana and Carver had had those lessons ground into them when they sat under Magister Ludovicus in school: suspending technical disbelief, what would be required to achieve an engineering outcome?

In that spirit, they laid out the main problems:
1. Molecular mapping, with many safeguards for error correction et cetera
2. Replication, ditto
3. Vivacity — how does the replicated version live?
4. Cognition — no good to have a living replication that cannot think
5. Memory — a thinking but amnesiac replication would be worse than worthless…

They both resisted saying what they were thinking — that this was mad, and that if it worked it would be one of the greatest advances in the history of the species.

They were right. Even a thousand years later, even after faster-than-light travel had been pioneered, their example would be studied minutely and heralded by generations of magisters and their students. While being taken for granted by billions of travelers.

But for today, Dana and Carver knew none of that. They simply set to work.

Image by Ivan T.

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