From Science Fiction to Science Fact: The Ansible is the Fundamental Technology of an Intergalactic Internet.
Without much fanfare, last week Chinese physicists used a satellite to communicate via quantum entangled photons across 1,200 kilometers on the Earth. These photons communicated through what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”, where actions taken on a particle in one location immediately take effect on its sister particle in another location without any intervening light or matter being exchanged. In effect, these scientists created the world’s first Ansible.
Instead of creating a “Sputnik Moment”, scientific and popular media outlets framed this discovery as a merely “unhackable signal”. As a society, we’ve missed the historical import of this discovery. Using quantum entangled particles, we could create an intergalactic internet and someday connect human colonies throughout our solar system and beyond.
Born in Sci-Fi
The Ansible is a piece of sci-fi technology that allows spaceships and human colonies that are lightyears apart to communicate instantaneously, thus allowing intergalactic culture and government to exist.
The word was coined by Ursula K. Le Guin. Her excellent novel The Dispossessed is the fascinating story of its invention. The ansible was also used by many sci-fi writers. I first came across it in the Ender’s series by Orson Scott Card.
Let me paint a scientifically plausible scenario for the next 100 years.
In the next twenty years, Earth-like planets are discovered in our galaxy. There are already 31 that maybe habitable found within 50 lightyears from Earth.
Fusion reactors are invented and fusion reactor based spaceships are built as ark ships for human colonists to these new planets. Two or three generations on an ark ship and the human colonists arrive at the new habitable planet.
Imagine this planet is 15 lightyears away. If communication were restricted to light-based communication, it would take 15 years for any message to be received by either planet. That is quite some lag time.
However, with an Ansible, the communication would be instantaneous, allowing for communication of the technology, art, and politics of the two planets to form into a single culture.
So what happens next?
Does Elon Musk at SpaceX launch his own set of spooky satellites?
Do we begin to use spooky signals on Earth?
If you think this is a “Sputnik Moment” please recommend this article on Medium. Thanks!