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Friday, February 23, 2024 — Houston, TX

Life's a Mitch: An era of subtle teleportation

By Mitch Mackowiak     10/15/14 6:03am

Teleportation is not science fiction. Far from it. It is an ancient, constantly refined sensation of detachment from the landscape traveled during a journey. You can experience this detachment in degrees, three of which I will mark.

Comatose: You are semi-consciously or unconsciously transported from A to B, e.g. when you sleep on a plane. It virtually equals sci-fi’s version of teleportation.

Dislocating: You are consciously transported from A to B and ignore the landscape through which you move, e.g. shunning the view from a plane or walking blind. You sense the travel time, but your traveling environment is static, not the moving landscape, so that the traveling is an intermediate destination (A-C-B instead of A to B).

Defocused: You preoccupy at least one sense with a task during travel from A to B, e.g. reading on a plane.

(I focus on vision because it is our default dominant sense, but any teleportation is augmented when you involve more senses. You can experience a delectable example of aural teleportation in Soundworm, that yellow tube-thing by Fondren. As a Lovetteer, I can let the speaker emitting the airwaves of Lovett commons teleport me if I close my eyes.)

Teleportation spooks me. From royal litters to Boeing airplanes, we have devised vehicles to get from A to B as quickly and conveniently as possible. As a consequence, I experience a phantom of the distance between Houston and St. Louis, my hometown. It is two hours by plane, two hours spent sleeping or reading, so in the end I consider Houston and St. Louis two buoys floating near each other in the United Sea of America.

The current ease and abundance of defocused teleportation spooks me most because it represents the symbiosis of two rare feats in teleportation. Defocused teleportation, ever a supplement to dislocating teleportation, was rarely experienced alone, and teleportation had difficulty infiltrating individually-powered transport because one needs to captain their vessel. Enter handheld phones with screens.

Walking, slow and controlled, allows distractions. With the right tool, it is a workplace. Google something on your mind, confirm a meeting spot, check the latest news and glance up every so often to reorient. When you finish, look around and you are not where you started. This shifting between the physical and the screen, does it help or hurt us.

Spooky isn’t bad. It is subtle, and qualifying the subtle as good or bad is hard. After all this I have only questions. Would you rather ride an elevator or an escalator? On which would you rather have your phone?

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