Rev. Ivan Stang 697 words

I suddenly and paranoically wondered what it would be like if we could email physical objects, including living organisms, over the Internet. They do it all the time on STAR TREK, and wirelessly to boot. Scottie makes it all look so easy. But think of the Transporter in the early days of its development, when it was more like the gizmo in David Cronenberg's THE FLY remake. Glitches in that process caused a big mess indeed, and Jeff Goldblum was just sending himself across a room through great big fat cables. Imagine if he had been doing that through a 14.4 AOL connection.

I know, I know, there are a few more technical breakthroughs to be made before we can render an entire human being, every synapse and eyebrow mite included, as a binary. No doubt we'll have to start out modestly, turning things like golf balls into 15-jillion-meg files and hoping they're still round when they decode on the other end, and not inside out, with the deadly poison from the center coating the outside, and the "skin" all wadded up down in the center. Jeff Goldblum initially had that problem with his lab rats.

But even when they get the process down, one wouldn't want to email one's self anywhere. Even Zipped, it would take too long and cost more than a plane flight, and the risk of corruption in transit would be too high. Instead you would send a "copy" of yourself in extremely low-res, compressed form -- some kind of fast-growing, "just add water" sort of clone -- a veritable "GIF version" of you.

You could email yourself saying "HI GRANDMA" to your grandma. First you would stand in your cloning stall, set it to record for 5 seconds, and say your piece. You'd hit "SAVE AS: HIGRANNY.CLO," compress that file, and send it as an email attachment. To make a comparison, if you are a 600 dpi Photoshop document, the clone you email Granny is a JPEG compressed at Lowest Quality, around 5%, all blurry around the edges and none too aromatic, either.

After a two hour download, the clone of you would materialize in Granny's Downloads Tank, stumble out, say its message and then collapse on her floor in a smelly pile of putrescence. I would imagine that Download Tanks will be equipped with drains and a water hose.

Let's be practical here, and consider that merely transmitting patterns of electrons isn't enough. The mass and matter of the physical object being reconstituted on the receiving end has to come from somewhere. Even a low res person would require the organic ingredients of at least one large sheep. Anyone who planned to get much bodily email would have to keep a freezer full of frozen animals (probably cheap clones). This whole approach is obviously too expensive, not to mention aesthetically disconcerting. If you thought about what that juicy emailed hamburger looked like before it was reconsituted, you wouldn't be able to take the first bite.

A more hygenic technique might be to email just a few cells scraped from you. Granny's Eudora Pro 666 would not only decompress the cell but insta-clone it into a brainless vegetable that looked exactly like you. The problem would be in getting it to say "Hi, Granny." Probably, the main users of this technique would be the cybersex and porno binaries crowd. Badly krakked versions of Anna Nichole Smith and other starlets would be traded illegally in binaries newsgroups, eating up bandwidth better used for emailing, say, medicines, sips of fine rare wines or boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

And think of the types of viruses that would start circulating! Viruses that wouldn't stop at eating just your <i>computer's</i> memory.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

"Perhaps... Perhaps there are some things that Man was not meant to know. When Man, in his great vanity, meddles with the Unknown, and seeks to pry into the secrets of God, Nature will surely exact a terrible price."

-- narrator at the end of GODZILLA, or GORGO, or JURASSIC PARK, or one of those.

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