The Public Liability Insurance Blog

How would you insure a teleporter?

USS Enterprise DThe next instalment of the new flashy Star Trek with not-Shatner and not-Nimoy in the lead roles of Kirk and Spock has hit the cinema and got a few of us in the office chattering about things that are amazing about this iconic sci-fi series.

A conversation about Star Trek can't pass without the obligatory "beam me up Scotty" comment followed by the assertion from geekier members of the team (me) that actually, that was never said and is one of those massively widespread misquotes.

The teleporter invariably comes up whenever you talk about Star Trek. The idea of being able to instantly transport from one spot to another also floats into your mind if you're ever stuck in traffic as well. Just think about how this ability would affect the business world. With this, you can also imagine that it would affect business insurance too.

Would the machine need to be insured specifically, would it increase or decrease your premiums and what happens when a disruptive piece of technology comes along in general?

Risk versus risk reduction

How a teleporter would affect business insurance would depend largely on how reliable it would be. If it were temperamental and prone to malfunctions, it could mean insurance for this would go through the roof in terms of a public liability or employers' liability policy. If bits of your staff and customers end up materialising in the wrong place due to your teleporter, one can only imagine the lengthy and expensive legal proceedings you'll end up trudging through as a result.

If however the teleporter is a flawless creation that never goes wrong, then maybe it will reduce the risk to your business. It might even mean that your business interruption premiums start reducing too as it can become very difficult to interrupt a business that can have stock, materials, equipment and staff appear instantaneously on its premises. All this is of course hypothetical - we wouldn't want to put our underwriters in a position whereby they had to honour this in the event of a teleporter actually being invented...

New technology means new rules

Why am I rambling on about a teleporter in relation to business insurance? Is it because they really do let me write whatever I want or do I actually have a point? Well, it may surprise you to know that it is in fact the latter.

Whenever new technology comes along, things change. Technology solves the problems of the present and creates problems for the future in a never ending one-upmanship of problem solving. As a result, new technology inevitably brings new risks. As an example, the desktop computer and internet are now commonplace office fixtures across the western world and have brought with them the issue of cyber security, an issue that we will be looking into in more depth in the coming weeks.

It's not far fetched to imagine technology from a beloved science fiction show making its way into business situations and disrupting the status quo either.

The communicator and the replicator

In Star Trek, Kirk and his away team would communicate back to the ship and with each other with little flip-open devices called communicators that make little chirping noises. Well, we have had these now for quite a long time. Most people will have one in their pocket right now and about 50% of them will be so absurdly sophisticated to have rendered this initially fanciful piece of technology positively quaint looking.

The communicator, or as we call it mobile phone, has gone a long way to change the way we do business. For a start it has enabled more people to work remotely and remain in contact with their offices at all times. It also means a lot of people continue to work long after they've gone home for the day or when they are on holiday. All of this goes towards affecting the way businesses are run, to changing what we expect from people and ultimately the way that insurance premiums for those businesses are calculated.

Next up on the list we have the replicator which is yet to be quite as widespread as the communicator, but is arguably still on its way. The replicator in Star Trek is a device that creates items out of nothing, including food and drink. In reality, we have 3D printers which are becoming more and more commercially viable and could once again cause a shift in the way people do business and give rise to new risks in the business environment.

3D printers can create something solid and three dimensional out of liquid plastic and the input of a file uploaded to the machine. Although the technology is still fresh and unrefined, it is advancing at a staggering speed thanks to an exuberant hobbyist-hacker scene. It might be unclear exactly how this could affect businesses in the future, but there is no doubt that it will and insurers will probably have to figure out what they are going to do about it before long.

Final frontiers

Technology marches on and constantly accelerates the progress of human endeavour. With every step taken, it also moulds our behaviour and our daily routines, sometimes subtly and sometimes overtly.

We have no idea exactly what a teleporter would do to your business insurance, whether you would need specific cover for it or whether liability would rest with the teleportee, but regardless, you can guarantee that it would have a significant impact, because judging by history, any significant technological advance always has done.

Written by David Hing for YOUR Insurance, a specialist broker that probably won't insure your teleporter at the moment.

Image credit: Picture of the USS Enterprise D model at Las Vegas by Marcin Wichary.