What fictional object would you most like to own?

by on February 7, 2017 at 2:59 am in Books, History, Philosophy, Uncategorized | Permalink

That is an emailed question from Cory M.

Yes, I’ve read Lord of the Rings, but no I don’t want to be corrupted.  I’m assuming that either “life extension pill” or “piles of money” are too trivial to be interesting answers.  I’m afraid that taking a Star Trek transporter trip would be akin to killing myself, plus the receiving stations would not exist.  Nor do I want an invisibility cloak.

One Reddit answer is “a key that can open any door” — nope.

A memory eraser?

How much would the Ark auction for?  Hamlet’s tunic?  How would Sotheby’s certify either one?

Varun says: “…whatever you draw with this pencil that particular thing or person becomes real…”

Let’s stick with the physical laws of this universe.  Proust’s madeleine would spoil, so how about Ahab’s harpoon?

1 David February 7, 2017 at 3:06 am

I can understand dismissing the transporter from Star Trek, but what about the Holodeck? That would be great fun. Even more useful would be a replicator–maybe engineers could use it as a prototype.

2 Thiago Ribeiro February 7, 2017 at 8:03 am

The Holodeck that keeps creating villains or locking people inside or having its safety features disabled? This one?

3 GEG February 7, 2017 at 3:17 am

A Nozickian experience machine “that would give you any experience you desired. Super-duper neuropsychologists could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain”.

4 Alistair February 7, 2017 at 10:49 am

I’d program mine so I’d believe I was a respected economist and foodie with a popular blog!

5 Thor February 7, 2017 at 12:59 pm

In my fantasy world, your alias is already Tyler Cowen!

6 John February 7, 2017 at 3:19 am

A flying broomstick, the Nautilus, a palantir, Excalibur, the Triforce, the wings of Icarus, the armor of Achilles.

7 Edward Burke February 7, 2017 at 7:34 am

Are you sure you wouldn’t want the wings of Daedalus instead? They might have been a tad more sturdy, according to surviving accounts.

8 Thor February 7, 2017 at 1:01 pm

The wings of Icarus will hang over him like the sword of Damocles.

9 Thiago Ribeiro February 7, 2017 at 8:06 am
10 JC February 7, 2017 at 3:31 am

Invisibility.

11 Anon February 7, 2017 at 12:15 pm

+1

First stop, girl locker rooms after cheerleader practice.

12 Stuart February 7, 2017 at 3:47 am

cornucopia machine from Singularity Sky by Charles Stross

13 nick February 7, 2017 at 3:47 am

Light Saber, obviously.

14 nerd alert February 7, 2017 at 5:52 am

15 Jeff R February 7, 2017 at 8:16 am

Why not an X-wing fighter? Or heck, why not a whole star destroyer?

16 Turkey Vulture February 7, 2017 at 8:29 am

Death Star. Immediately fix vulnerability.

17 Nelson February 7, 2017 at 9:22 am

Only if you don’t have to staff it…

18 JWatts February 7, 2017 at 11:30 am

“Death Star. Immediately fix vulnerability.”

LOL, I was beaten to the punch.

“Only if you don’t have to staff it…”

How much staff would it take to put some chains across the vent hole? A chain current every kilometer would require hundreds of torpedoes to clear.

19 The Other Jim February 7, 2017 at 9:20 am

Lots of reasons – lack of parking, the hippies in your lawn protesting your “carbon emissions,” and once your run out of fuel you can’t get any more.

20 Ben Kenobe's Ghost February 7, 2017 at 9:52 am

You don’t know that.

21 Justin February 7, 2017 at 12:49 pm

+1. Light Saber. Took me 1/1000 of a second to think of.

22 So Much For Subtlety February 7, 2017 at 4:01 am

The Tardis? While I am a bit partial to time travel, how about the Holy Grail? I could enjoy waiting out the Big Crunch.

23 MichaelG February 7, 2017 at 4:07 am

The Tardis or Doc’s DeLorean. (why are all time machines so temperamental?) With time travel, you can have the fame, fortune, and if ever invented, the immortality pill.

24 Shane M February 7, 2017 at 4:09 am

Half-Life 3, because somebody has to say it. Partial to time machine myself. I admit to wanting to see how it all turns out.

25 Joan February 7, 2017 at 4:14 am

The Fountain of Youth

26 daguix February 7, 2017 at 4:18 am

Teletransportation

27 Jacob Aaron Geller February 7, 2017 at 4:31 am

The supercomputer “Deep Thought” from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

28 So Much For Subtlety February 7, 2017 at 5:03 am

Why? It can only work on one problem. It takes seven and a half million years to come up with an answer. The answer is useless.

To all intents and purposes, it is a giant paperweight. Unless you are one of those actual professional Working Philosophers? In that case, can we call you Majikthise or Vroomfondel? Well maybe just Vroomfondel.

29 Dzhaughn February 7, 2017 at 11:09 am

Not Marvin? Oh, I suppose that figures.

30 FE February 7, 2017 at 2:30 pm

I’ll go with the babel fish, although my phone will probably be able to do the same thing before long.

31 RC February 13, 2017 at 4:43 am

I came here to say babel fish.

32 konshtok February 7, 2017 at 4:42 am

space/time machine is cheating
the object should be simple

flying carpet
or the sampo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sampo

33 MOFO February 7, 2017 at 9:37 am

A sampo! A sampo!

34 foobarista February 7, 2017 at 4:46 am

A Bag of Holding: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bag_of_holding

It would be cool to be able to carry something in your pocket that had the capacity of a large garage.

35 too hot for MR February 7, 2017 at 5:55 am

Sounds suspiciously like my wife’s vagina.

36 Nicholas Marsh February 7, 2017 at 4:47 am

A Babel Fish

37 Sam Taylor February 7, 2017 at 5:02 am

An affordable house in London.

38 Ted Craig February 7, 2017 at 7:09 am

Good answer. How about of the giant NYC apartments broke 20-something live in on TV.

39 Dan in Philly February 7, 2017 at 7:46 am

I thought we were sticking to the physical laws of this universe.

40 jim jones February 7, 2017 at 5:13 am

An upvote/downvote button on MR

41 too hot for MR February 7, 2017 at 6:00 am

I enjoy that people have to articulate their responses in good old words. It makes this site one of the less dumb corners of the internet.

42 anon February 7, 2017 at 9:27 am

Says the guy whose previous comment was about the size of his wife’s vagina.

43 Melmoth February 7, 2017 at 10:43 am

+1

44 too hot for MR February 7, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Well see, this is a perfectly good example of something that would get downvoted unfairly. It was a comment on the dynamic and ambivalence of older marriages, and you somehow fixated on the vulgarity of the word “vagina.”

In any case I’m a bachelor and this woman doesn’t exist.

45 Martin February 7, 2017 at 5:40 am

Lazy gun.

46 Sam Tobin-Hochstadt February 9, 2017 at 7:02 pm

The Presger gun.

47 Careless February 7, 2017 at 5:48 am

Got to be a Green Lantern ring

48 gamma February 7, 2017 at 5:52 am

Howl’s moving castle.

49 Todd K February 7, 2017 at 7:47 am

Don’t be greedy.

Great choice, though.

50 Axa February 7, 2017 at 5:57 am

A CPU so powerful that compensates for sloppy written code and it runs heavy calculations in 10 seconds. It’s easy to image a solution and code it, the challenge is in optimizing it to run fast. That job takes days, weeks, months………so, I want that CPU that runs great bad code.

51 JWatts February 7, 2017 at 11:33 am

Meh, I’d rather just have a computer that does what I want it to versus one that does what I tell it to.

You’ve still got to deal with GIGO.

52 Asher February 7, 2017 at 5:57 am

The Ark is not a fictional object, though like many actual historical objects it features in numerous fictional accounts. Certainly it would be equally interesting to ask the readers what historical object they would most like to own.

Most of the comments don’t stick with the physical laws of the universe.

53 dearieme February 7, 2017 at 6:05 am

“The Ark is not a fictional object”: oh come now. An object from a Mesopotamian fairy-tale added to a trove of Hebrew myths is fictional.

54 Gabriel February 7, 2017 at 6:37 am

Not sure what’s your point… The Ark appearing in other cultures is actually a validation of it (though not even close to a proof, unfortunately). Or you think that none of Noah’s grandsons would have told his grandsons (…) who ended up in Mesopotamia?
It would be weird if no culture had a recollection of it (even if in the form of stories)…

55 tjamesjones February 7, 2017 at 7:03 am

It’s an interesting question where the burden of proof lies here. It does seem to me that simply asserting that the Ark is a fictional object doesn’t quite cut it though. At face value the story is one of real ancestors of the Jews of the Old Testament.

56 prior_test2 February 7, 2017 at 7:21 am

‘At face value’

The great flood is covered in a Sumerian story – http://www.gutenberg.cc/articles/eng/Epic_of_Gilgamesh

Not to mention being a Mayan one – ‘The flood myth motif is found among many cultures as seen in the Mesopotamian flood stories, Deucalion in Greek mythology, the Genesis flood narrative, the Hindu texts from India, Bergelmir in Norse Mythology, in the lore of the K’iche’ and Maya peoples in Mesoamerica, the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa tribe of Native Americans in North America, the Muisca, and Cañari Confederation, in South America.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deluge_%28mythology%29

57 dearieme February 7, 2017 at 9:21 am

A story is an ancestor? Can you explain?

“It’s an interesting question where the burden of proof lies here.” Really? So you incline to believe in tales of Odin, Romulus and Remus, Robin Hood, and suchlike stuff? Just because someone or other wrote them down at some time?

58 Tom Warner February 7, 2017 at 11:49 am

I think Tyler meant Noah’s Ark, which is obviously fictional, not the Ark of the Covenant, which there’s no reason to doubt was real but has been abundantly fictionalized.

The oldest versions of the Great Flood and Ark myth are from Babylon around the turn of the 3rd to 2nd millennium. They are about an ancient (already then) destruction of almost the entire human race, not a plausible historical event. Later, Babylonian chronologists associated the Great Flood with a historical flood recorded in king lists of early third millennium Sumeria. That has led some amateur historians and Wikipedia editors to conclude that the myth is originally Sumerian and derived from the historical flood, but real scholars don’t believe that. There are old copies of the myth in both Akkadian, the language of Babylon and most of Mesopotamia at the time, and in Sumerian, which at the time was a written-only literary-scholarly language used somewhat similarly to Latin in the old classical education tradition. The Sumerian texts of the Great Flood myth appear to be the classwork of Babylonian students. There’s no evidence the myth was known before Sumerians were assimilated into Akkadian culture some centuries earlier. Of course the myth could be older and could originate outside Akkadian culture, but we have no evidence for that.

The Hebrew and Greek flood myths are undoubtedly derived from the Akkadian story, as they follow it very closely. The Hittites kept a copy of the story in one of their archives, and might have believed and told it among themselves. Only the Hebrew and Greek versions of the myth are followed by genealogies of patriarchal founders of nations or tribes. However the Greek Ark is more similar to the Babylonian Ark than to the Hebrew Ark. So apparently the Greeks borrowed the story from some other culture whose Ark was like the Babylonian but had a Table of Nations like the Hebrew. I think the best guess for that intermediator to the Greeks would be Phoenician or Syrian, but post-Hittite or Persian is also possible.

As for other old flood myths, similarities tend to be overplayed. For example the Indian story cited is about the origin of rivers and humanity’s water supply, not about a devastating flood.

59 Tom Warner February 7, 2017 at 12:02 pm

I’ve got no idea what a Noah’s Ark that turned out to be real could fetch at auction. Maybe nothing, because the rapture would be upon us? But I do know people have given their lives trying to find it. It’s a constant hassle for Mt Ararat climb guides trying to keep their Biblical literalists from wandering off and getting lost in a storm.

60 Gabriel February 7, 2017 at 12:24 pm

The burden of the proof is irrelevant, as I’m not trying to prove it one way or the other.

My point was that, if (Noah’s) Ark did happen, you should in fact expect to see it mentioned in other cultures. It would be really weird if all of humanity completely forgot about such an event.
So not seeing it mentioned on other cultures would be quite a big evidence for it never to have happened.

So appearing in Mesopotanian “fairy tales” is not an evidence against the flood. It’s a (weak) evidence for it.

61 Asher February 7, 2017 at 9:01 am

I thought he was talking about the “Lost Ark”. Maybe just a misunderstanding.

62 Ax February 7, 2017 at 6:35 am

The ark must have been HUGE, imagine all the biomass of insects and plants. Some people built an “ark” for plants and it’s already around 1000 sq meters of floor area (10,700 sq ft). But, this seed vault is far from containing the seed of all plants on Earth.

Also, the trip was really bad for human passengers. They were host of pathogens that can live outside a human host only for a short period of time (hours, days). So, they carried lots of sickness, infections, STDs…….not a pleasant view.

63 John Mansfield February 7, 2017 at 8:53 am

For some reason, I assumed the ark being considered was the Ark of the Covenant, maybe because I was thinking of objects that can be picked up and moved. The comments above were increasingly strange until it became obvious that everyone else was thinking of the other biblical ark. Somewhat like a cat I once saw crossing the road; as I got closer the cat seemed a bit unusual, then odd, then weird. Finally I broke free of the cat idea, long past it really being tenable, and saw that the animal was a woodchuck.

64 Thiago Ribeiro February 7, 2017 at 11:21 am

Most woodchucks make poor cats even if they make decent woodchucks.

65 whatever February 7, 2017 at 11:37 am

Most interesting comment of the whole thread.

66 Hazel Meade February 7, 2017 at 1:48 pm

I had that experience with a dog that turned into a bear once.

67 Matthew Moore February 7, 2017 at 9:16 am

I’m pretty sure the OP meant the Ark of the covenant.

Not Noah’s ark

68 Alistair February 7, 2017 at 10:52 am

Poorly phrased wish!

“I wish for the Ark!, the one in the Bible!”

CRUNCH!….splinter….CRASH!

69 dearieme February 7, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Mr Warner’s comment is full of interest, but I laughed at “the Ark of the Covenant, which there’s no reason to doubt was real but has been abundantly fictionalised”.

Since the Exodus tale is manifestly rubbish, why on earth should I believe in the the Ark of the Covenant? Or do you mean that at some time a box in Jerusalem had been passed off as the sort of fake religious relic that’s familiar from the Middle Ages?

70 harpersnotes February 7, 2017 at 6:30 am

The librarian in Snow Crash. (A virtual reality library assistance artificial intelligence program with a mild sense for odd humor.)

71 Slocum February 7, 2017 at 8:23 am

Wouldn’t you rather have an MC (matter compiler) from The Diamond Age?

72 ClickByCommenter February 7, 2017 at 10:02 am

I was going to say the MC as well.

73 Will Barrett February 7, 2017 at 10:20 am

Any of Dinah’s robots from seveneves .

74 Ignacio February 7, 2017 at 6:37 am

The Starship Enterprise from the next generation. If you are afraid of teletransportation, you can take a shuttle and you would still be the most powerful person on earth, capable of ending poverty or any war. You would have the virtual doctor to cure you of anything and holodecks to entertain yourself. And colonizing mars would be easy.

75 Harry Lime February 7, 2017 at 6:48 am

A time-machine of the type that was featured in the movie Primer. The characters had a good idea:go back in time 24 hours with future knowledge and make a killing on financial markets. The problem was the human element, so I would not share it with anyone. Also, the fail safe turned out to be a bad idea. Just recognize and accept the fact that every time you go back you are creating a new time-line.

76 Bill February 7, 2017 at 6:57 am

The fictional object that I would like to own

Is

The Magic Wand

Of the Growth Fairy

Which is Used to Justify Tax Cuts for the Wealthy.

Trickle Down, Man, Trickle Down.

77 Elle February 7, 2017 at 7:00 am

Love to have Green Lantern’s ring!

78 Cliff February 7, 2017 at 7:10 am

A Penis longer than 1 inch!

79 too hot for MR February 7, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Haha. Upvote despite my comments above, and preemptive downvotes from Anon and Melmoth.

80 Ted Craig February 7, 2017 at 7:10 am

The Cosmic Cube.

81 David Ptr February 7, 2017 at 9:15 am

A simultaneous, four-day time cube.

82 Daniel Weber February 7, 2017 at 10:43 am

Infinity Gauntlet tops it all.

83 Dalben February 7, 2017 at 8:23 pm

Infinity Gauntlet does seem to be the most user friendly of the grants wishes/infinite power type objects. People did get have problems with wishing for the wrong thing, but there was no issue of phrasing things wrong, or not knowing how to work it right, or mind being blown by knowledge of the universe or something. I mean no one was able to hang onto it anyway, but that was due to the user’s own issues not problems with the gauntlet.

84 Simon February 7, 2017 at 7:17 am

HG Wells’s time machine, obvs.

85 Turkey Vulture February 7, 2017 at 7:36 am

Adam’s removed rib.

86 sailordave February 7, 2017 at 7:37 am

Star Trek’s planetary weather/climate control grid.

87 John Hannen February 7, 2017 at 7:46 am

I’d quite like whatever is in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction

88 Ted Craig February 7, 2017 at 8:02 am

It’s just the diamonds from the “Reservoir Dogs” heist.

89 too hot for MR February 7, 2017 at 12:16 pm

I thought it was settled science that it was Marsellus Wallace’s soul.

90 Dan in Philly February 7, 2017 at 7:50 am

The technology from “Forbidden Planet” would be a good answer. The Krell invented a device which would allow whatever you thought or imagined to become real. In these days of 3D printers and getting closer (it seems) to direct mind to computer interface, I wouldn’t be surprised if we achieved something very like that in a generation or two.

91 B.B. February 7, 2017 at 11:34 am

I think you forgot that after the technology was implemented, the Krell destroyed themselves in the space of one day.

92 John February 7, 2017 at 11:36 am

Yeah, that one worked out well for them 😉

93 Edward Burke February 7, 2017 at 7:52 am

I’d want a vorpal sword, because you can never tell when you might come upon a Jabberwock or when a Jabberwock might come upon you. (A nineteenth-century authority suggests that a vorpal blade might also come in handy in any encounters with Jubjub birds and frumious Bandersnatches, so I could sleep well with all the consolation that a vorpal sword’s versatility might bring.)

94 Atanu February 11, 2017 at 2:09 pm

What an uffish thought, my beamish boy!

95 Rimbaud February 7, 2017 at 7:59 am

quantum foam

96 Daniel Weber February 7, 2017 at 10:44 am

Don’t eat the temperfoam.

97 Thiago Ribeiro February 7, 2017 at 8:07 am

A stone so heavy God couldn’t lift it.

98 Justin February 7, 2017 at 12:52 pm

What about a lever long enough to lift any stone?

99 Thiago Ribeiro February 7, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Where would I store it?

100 Abersouth February 7, 2017 at 8:09 am

An orgazmorator gun.

101 Jeff R February 7, 2017 at 8:22 am

Don’t quote Dickens in my apartment!

102 AnthonyB February 7, 2017 at 8:11 am

The Tarnhelm.

103 AlanG February 7, 2017 at 8:38 am

That one ended up pretty badly in Gotterdamerung!!!

104 Bjorn February 7, 2017 at 8:12 am

A Super Star Destroyer from Star Wars or The Enterprise from Star Trek. The Star Destroyer can traverse the galaxy in weeks (one million times the speed of light), much faster than the Enterprise. (It takes Voyager 75 years to go from the Delta to the Alpha quadrant, and that ship was faster than The Enterprise).

The Enterprise would bring other tech that Star Wars ships seems to be missing, replicators for exampel.

105 Alistair February 7, 2017 at 10:55 am

If you want ludicrous starship bling, dump the naff pop-culture ships and go straight to one of Ian Bank’s GSV’s?

Of course, I don’t think a Culture ship would like the thought of being “owned”.

106 John February 7, 2017 at 11:39 am

How about the ship from Red Dwarf?

107 Yulventis February 7, 2017 at 8:32 am

A Goa’uld symbiote. Even without all it’s life extending abilities, having a second persona within you to have an internal dialogue with would be amazing.

108 MattJ February 7, 2017 at 9:52 am

Maybe a Tok’ra?

I don’t think a Goa’uld is going to be interested in having an internal dialogue with you.

109 scott cunningham February 7, 2017 at 8:35 am

A monkey’s paw!

110 Heorogar February 7, 2017 at 8:48 am

The portrait of Dorian Gray. How much would that draw at a Sotheby’s auction?

111 The Unloginable February 7, 2017 at 8:48 am

A Portal gun

112 Perovskite February 7, 2017 at 8:48 am

Hrunting

113 Scott Mauldin February 7, 2017 at 9:00 am

Gandalf’s ring Narya was originally one of the rings giften to the Elven lord Cirdan; it had the power to make the wearer immune to fatigue, hunger, and thirst, as well as to inspire and hearten those around him, and as far as I know was not susceptible to Sauron’s corruption.

Either that or a time-turner.

114 JWatts February 7, 2017 at 11:39 am

Gandalf wasn’t susceptible to corruption, but you likely would be. Personally, I think it would be better off to wish for Lorena Bobbitt as your girl friend. Yes, I know that Sauron was most likely dead or banished for all time, but I still wouldn’t take the chance.

115 Careless February 7, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Have to wonder how her dating life has gone in the past what, 25 years

116 Careless February 7, 2017 at 5:44 pm

Looking at the wikipedia page, the attack was in 1993, and their divorce was in 1996

117 Scott Mauldin February 9, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Why would Gandalf not be susceptible to corruption if Saruman was? – they are both Istari, and by all indications Saruman was the more powerful of the two.

118 DZ February 7, 2017 at 9:00 am

Limitless pill for sure.

119 Robb Monn February 7, 2017 at 9:04 am

Glen Gould’s Steinway.

Abbey Road’s Studer j37 tape deck would be nice, too.

120 Robb Monn February 7, 2017 at 9:06 am

Good grief! Fictional! I got lost in object lust. In fiction I guess I would have to say a copy of The Entertainment from Infinite Jest. Just to have, you know.

121 Dave Tufte February 7, 2017 at 9:08 am

My wife reads every one of J.D.Robb’s “In Death” novels as soon as they come out. They’re about a detective working about a century into the future.

I asked her Tyler’s question once, but specifically about science fiction gadgets in those novels.

She had zero hesitation (like she spent all her reading time actually daydreaming about this). She said an “Auto Chef”. Put raw food in it, and it produces meals.

It’s a big deal. Put in “auto chef” and “robb” into Google, and you get over 4,000 hits.

122 Dan in Philly February 7, 2017 at 5:44 pm

That ones coming soon. They’re working on it. Put in raw food, download a gourmet recipe, and bang. It will be featured in high end homes I predict within 10 years.

123 Daniel in VA February 7, 2017 at 6:34 pm

I’ve thought about that one, too. Unfortunately, given trends there seems to be a major catch: the “Internet of Things” has major security vulnerabilities. Even systems designed with security in mind can be vulnerable with the slightest slip in design. And a kitchen robot could burn down your house much more easily than a stupid IOT toaster, for example. I would still consider it though. The utility is undeniable.

124 Edward Pierce February 7, 2017 at 9:10 am

Logically, a replicator from Star Trek. It has the potential to break economics as we know it by eliminating scarcity. Alternatively, a warp drive from the aforementioned show, or else the perpetual motion engine from Snowpiercer (again, something that breaks the fundamental tenets of science). I think the correct line of thinking here is certainly an object with global utility.

Emotionally, Iron Man’s suit. Because fuck yeah, Iron Man!

Then again, if I were to acquire an object that has greater social utility beyond that of myself, I would expect to be separated from it rather swiftly by the world’s governments or ne’er do wells in an attempt at harnessing its powers “for the greater good”, or for evil. In fact, I mightn’t even be able to order “tea, earl gray, hot” before such a device was snatched from my clutches, certainly never to be seen again in our lifetimes. Such a loss would be catastrophic both to my own utility, and to the potential open and inclusive study of such a world-changing device. I would be devastated by the loss of something so valuable, invariably entering into a deep depressive state, followed by the loss of friends and family. The world no better off, hated by mankind for what might have been. What kind of life is this to live? What have I done?

On further reflection then, definitely the Iron Man suit. It’s got missiles and shit. Final answer.

125 MOFO February 7, 2017 at 9:46 am

The replicator is the correct answer of course, but it doesnt really eliminate scarcity, you still need the raw materials.

126 Scott Mauldin February 7, 2017 at 10:31 am

I was under the impression that it worked via super-controlled manipulation of fusion, fission, and biochemistry so that literally anything was a raw material.

127 Daniel Weber February 7, 2017 at 10:45 am

It rearranges a “protomatter.” The real question isn’t the input, it’s the power source required.

128 MOFO February 7, 2017 at 11:38 am

Protomatter is dangerously unstable and every ethical scientist has distanced them selves from using it.

129 paintedjaguar February 9, 2017 at 9:38 pm

Re Replicators (especially the sort that can even replicate themselves):
See Damon Knight’s “A For Anything”, a novel about a post-replicator society. When owning material goods is no longer an issue, the primary status marker becomes owning other humans.

130 Atanu February 11, 2017 at 2:15 pm

“Logically, a replicator from Star Trek. It has the potential to break economics as we know it by eliminating scarcity.”

Nope. The replicator does not replicate time — the only true economic scarce good. All other scarcities are derivatives of the primary scarcity of time. All your replicators will not really “break” economics.

131 Turkey Vulture February 7, 2017 at 9:15 am

Self-aware butter-passing robot.

132 The Original Other Jim February 7, 2017 at 9:52 am

Wow, you too? I came here to say that.

133 Bert The Turtle February 7, 2017 at 10:33 am
134 Turkey Vulture February 7, 2017 at 10:42 am

I need it to be genuinely self-aware or it won’t bring me any satisfaction.

(It also seems like both the author and the robot’s creator don’t quite see how deep the joke cuts.)

135 JWatts February 7, 2017 at 11:42 am

“Self-aware butter-passing robot.”

That just seems needlessly cruel.

136 Turkey Vulture February 7, 2017 at 2:19 pm

“That just seems needlessly cruel.”

I can’t help it. Just perpetuating the cycle of abuse from my own creation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7HmltUWXgs

137 reed e hundt February 7, 2017 at 9:23 am

Aladdin’s Lamp. Of course.

138 Hazel Meade February 7, 2017 at 9:24 am

Not an object, but …
One of those rejuvenating treatments from Heinlein’s Lazarus Long novels.

139 louis February 7, 2017 at 9:25 am

el aleph

140 Hazel Meade February 7, 2017 at 9:28 am

Ok, I guess that’s basically a life extension pill….

The fusion drive that runs on compost from Back to the Future II.

141 Slocum February 7, 2017 at 9:34 am

If practical fusion was ever perfected, would we find ourselves in any danger of overheating the planet due to ‘limitless’ energy generation?

142 JWatts February 7, 2017 at 11:46 am

Assuming that it could be trivially used to make a flying car, then we could pretty easily deal with over heating. The most obvious answer is a very thin solar shade that dropped the solar isolation by a few percent. Or a more complicated heat exchanger could be built.

But my guess is that the technology would become so much more efficient, with so much less waste heat (most oft he world’s power plants output a tremendous amount of waste heat)

143 Hazel Meade February 7, 2017 at 1:40 pm

No, because we could use the limitless energy to power carbon-sequestration and other things to store that energy in the earth. Remember the problem with global warming isn’t that energy is coming in it’s that it’s getting trapped in the atmosphere. We could power basically a giant carbon-feedback-control mechanism to control the earth’s temperature like a thermostat, if we had unlimited energy.

144 Anonymous February 7, 2017 at 9:40 am

Interesting how many of the choices relate to science fiction. Seems like fiction of the past seems less object-oriented than that of the future.

145 too hot for MR February 7, 2017 at 12:26 pm

Whoa, you’ve seen fiction from the future?

146 MOFO February 7, 2017 at 9:47 am

Veritus serum. Sure you only get a few doses, but what fun you could have making certain people tell the truth.

147 MOFO February 7, 2017 at 9:50 am

A history eraser button.

Maybe it does something good, maybe it does something bad.

148 Thiago Ribeiro February 7, 2017 at 10:21 am

http://www.megacartoons.net/cartoons/4972/instant-replay

George Jetson’s Replayola: I could erase my enemies from History, as if they had never ever existed to begin with.

149 Nick_L February 7, 2017 at 10:05 am

Economic Forecasting? I’m sure there would be millions to be made at it..

150 Hazel Meade February 7, 2017 at 1:41 pm

An actually accurate Magic 8-Ball.

151 Nick_L February 7, 2017 at 7:47 pm

Hazel, may I interest you in three fortune cookies? One of which accurately foretells a future event, and two which do not?

152 HiAll February 7, 2017 at 10:10 am
153 Aretino February 7, 2017 at 10:15 am

The codices and scrolls of the great library of Alexandria

154 ByeAll February 7, 2017 at 11:15 am

Is that really fictional or more “real but we don’t have it anymore”?

155 A Definite Beta Guy February 7, 2017 at 10:24 am

Entire castle of Hogwarts. Imagine the tourism revenue!

156 Anon February 7, 2017 at 1:50 pm

The liability you’d take on would be insane

157 A Definite Beta Guy February 7, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Eh, I’ll move it to like Uzbekistan or something.

158 Capt. J Parker February 7, 2017 at 10:43 am

I’d like to fill the water coolers in the Capital, White House, The Fed and New York Times with Veritaserum.

159 aMichael February 7, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Does it make one speak the absolute truth or only what they honestly believe to be the truth? If it’s the latter, we might find that nothing much changes in Trump’s Twitter feed….

160 Capt. J Parker February 8, 2017 at 11:47 am

Touche

161 John February 7, 2017 at 10:49 am

I’m tempted to say the Translator device from the Chaos Chronicles (Jeffrey A. Carver) but then it does also seem to get you into some rather problematic situations. Get to see a lot of interesting places though.

162 Alistair February 7, 2017 at 10:57 am

No one seems to have wished for a BENEVOLENT super-AI yet?

Physically possible, right? And the doorway to everything else listed here.

163 JWatts February 7, 2017 at 11:48 am

It’s part of the Dahak package I mentioned. Basically a Benevolent super-AI that commands a Death Star.

164 John February 7, 2017 at 12:39 pm

Mine may fit that description.

165 A Definite Beta Guy February 7, 2017 at 2:06 pm

I was tempted to ask for a super-AI with the Three Laws removed and the only Law being “follow what I say,” but I figured it would invite assassination and/or nuclear attack from the current Great Powers. 🙁

166 JWatts February 7, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Not a problem.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutineers'_Moon

To be fair, the Super-AI had it’s own complicated rules, which made it select a suitable captain. It probably wouldn’t execute an obviously callous order nor select a captain that was likely to issue such an order.

But since it was ensconced in a ship the size of a moon, specifically the size of our moon, it offered a host of amenities and was protected against anything as trivial as nuclear warheads.

167 John February 8, 2017 at 10:44 am

You might find this of some interest — not quite benevolent super AI but seem to be in that vein of thinking:
https://www.quantamagazine.org/20161123-privacy-and-fairness-an-interview-with-cynthia-dwork/

168 peri February 7, 2017 at 11:18 am

The studio-set California ranch house from the 1961 “Parent Trap.”

I watched for reruns just to get another look at it. From age seven house envy has remained the bane of my life.

I don’t think y’all really want the flux capacitor or replicator or whatever the hell, the way I wanted that house, that bedroom, that kitchen.

169 JWatts February 7, 2017 at 11:24 am

The Death Star.

170 JWatts February 7, 2017 at 11:27 am

Well actually, I’d much rather control/own Dahak from the David Weber’s series “The Mutineer’s Moon”. Which is way cooler than the Death Star.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutineers'_Moon

But I’d certainly settle for the Death Star.

171 B.B. February 7, 2017 at 11:32 am

How about the Batmobile, latest version.

More of a stretch, the robot Gort from The Day The Earth Stood Still.

172 defpotec February 7, 2017 at 11:38 am

Alethiometer

173 Duncan Idaho February 7, 2017 at 11:49 am

The spice Melange.

174 Tom G February 7, 2017 at 11:56 am

My own young HAL computer — before any lying is programmed into him.

Deep Deep Learning is coming, but still a few years, or decades, away for General Intelligence.
But ChatBots that simulate vast knowledge will be here sooner (better search and selection for “what is truth”).

175 Euripides February 7, 2017 at 12:11 pm

The Thinga-ma-jigger!! It would be so much travelling in it. It can sprout wings, pontoons, booster rockets, change size, and do just about anything else necessary to have fun!!

176 Stefan February 7, 2017 at 12:20 pm

The Halo

177 Joshua February 7, 2017 at 12:33 pm

The flying suit/wings of the Falcon in the Avengers. Who doesn’t want to be able to fly?

178 ricardo February 7, 2017 at 1:10 pm

A sarcastic General Systems Vehicle from the Culture. Or at least one of the little drones.

The robot dog from Battlestar Galactica.

If animals count: Pegasus, White Fang, a direwolf from GoT.

179 ricaro February 7, 2017 at 6:45 pm

And of course Gelert, if only to tell him that his master was heartbroken.

180 mulp February 7, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Everything I wanted from the sci-fi of my youth is manufactured by Elon Musk:

Rockets that take off and land upright.
Vehicles that silently speed down the road with no fossil fuels.
Houses that need no fossil fuels to operate and that offer modern living in the remotest or areas.
Clean factories employing thousands of workers.

Or that Elon talks about:
Tunnel boring machines boring tunnels for transportation.
High speed transport in pods going through tubes that are either bored underground or that are built above everything so they do not become barriers to everything moving across the land.

In sci-fi, the economics was free lunch if mentioned at all. No one worked for pay, nor paid for anything. Otherwise is was the “invisible hand” that go zero mention because it was invisible. But in the 50s when my favorite sci-fi was written, the invisible hand was a market economy where wages paid for consumption which paid wages and the way things got better was everyone paid more so more workers are paid more so they can pay more for more and better stuff, just like you breathed air which was purified by plants or drank water that was purified by nature, because everything is a zero sum closed system.

The free lunch economies of old fiction is something that conservatives keep promising will give us the plenty of past sci-fi except TANSTAAFL as a 50s conservative sci-fi writer put it.

But I think Tyler and many who post here want most the impossible free lunch economies of some sci-fi of the past.

What I learned about nature from sci-fi is TANSTAAFL.

What I want is for economist today to teach TANSTAAFL.

181 Roy LC February 7, 2017 at 4:40 pm

But a Rocket that can take off and land upright can already do better, nobody has even come close to even the one in Tintin yet. Yes TANSTAAFL is true, but some lunches are very very cheap. Technology helps here.

And almost all these fictional devices come with costs, some of them incredibly high since human cultures basically all know about TANSTAAFL.

182 Irving Washington February 7, 2017 at 1:57 pm

From the Lord of the Rings: one of the three Silmaril would be my top fictional item to possess (1) As long as you’re not one of the son’s of Feanor it is not corrupting and (2) unlike many of the other fictional items the gems don’t egregiously bend/break the laws of physics. (3) It should do well at a Sotheby’s auction, Peter Thiel would almost certainly trade you a significant economic interest in the very real Palantir for a Silmaril.

From Dune: A sandtrout? Maybe a swarm (flock, school? not sure on the plural form) of sandtrout?

From history – The eye of the graea (fates)

183 coketown February 7, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Someone mentioned Dorian Gray’s picture, which was my first thought. But I’m so boring it would take centuries to corrupt.

Maybe the White Queen’s bottle/dropper from Narnia? Being able to instantly conjure whatever material object will make someone betray their friends and families and dazzle them into a gluttonous, covetous stupor might be useful, such as when asking for a raise.

Maybe Dorian Gray’s picture AND the White Queen’s bottle. I could use the bottle on myself and remain uncorrupted. But what would I want as much as Turkish Delight? Frozen Milk Duds, of course. Or cashmere scarves. Mmmm.

I think the luxury item from Desert Island Discs is a related and similarly interesting thought exercise, and more grounded in reality. I resent people who choose books–quit posturing. Mine would be Christmas decorations.

184 IVV February 7, 2017 at 2:35 pm
185 TvK February 7, 2017 at 2:46 pm

The mechanoid kryten from Red Dwarf. Good example of friendly AI (should AI have a feeling of guilt?)

If that’s not allowed : Talkie Toaster, but only as a gift for someone else

186 Li Zhi February 7, 2017 at 3:41 pm

There are so many facets to this question; it’s a real rabbit hole. The term “fictional object” should probably exclude things like Sherlock Holmes’ Deerstalker since its existence would require an alternate Universe and hence a violation of physics (in its broad sense, causality). So, after a bit of consideration, I limit “fictional object” to be something which could be consistent with all historical fact (even if inconsistent with what we believe to be factual, and even if its FICTIONAL account is false.) So, for example, the Heart of the Ocean diamond (56 carats) would have to have been discovered and processed in secret, and would have to have been kept out of public knowledge, contrary to the fictional account of it. With an estimated value of the Hope diamond (smaller) of $250 million usd, my greedy side would settle for that. My more altruistic side would prefer something like a fusion reactor or a cure/preventative for Alzheimer’s or some common form of cancer, but imho such things, if they’re ever made, won’t be single objects. (and intellectual rights certainly aren’t objects.) Things like A.I. aren’t objects (they’re abstract code) and an advanced robot (if consistent with known laws) would require maintenance (probably within days or weeks, which would be unavailable). Having a single pill to cure a particular disease wouldn’t get me anywhere. What would I do with it? No one would believe me, and I lack the resources to analyze it to determine its chemical composition and then bring it to commercialization. A fusion reactor will certainly never be the size of a bread box, that is, they’ll be enormous industrial plants (if they ever even get that far). If some 25th Century material could exist to turn sunlight (say) into electricity with an efficiency of 70% say, having a working object wouldn’t mean we could then proceed to make more of them. So, altruism seems to be a dead-end. Gimme the money (unless what is “owned” is the knowledge behind something which now exists only in fiction…)

187 bob mcmanus February 7, 2017 at 3:42 pm

A ringworld

188 anonymous February 7, 2017 at 9:36 pm

I was trying to think why I would be wrong to say “the Paris sewer system from the Phantom of the Opera” (besides the fact that I was not sure if it was from Les Miserables): Larry Niven’s ring world is so much better

189 anonymous February 7, 2017 at 9:40 pm

and it was Larry Niven so you know it was in the physical laws of this universe

190 Roy LC February 7, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Well anything that heals all ailments and grants a comfortable immortality would br the obvious answer, but since that is boring…

Persky’s cabinet from “The Kugelmass Episode” in Woody Allen’s “Side Effects”
http://jerrywbrown.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/The-Kugelmass-Episode.pdf

I wouldn’t go with Emma Bovary though…

191 A B February 7, 2017 at 4:28 pm

The Shield of Achilles.
The Spear of Destiny.
The Holy Grail.

192 Anonymous February 7, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Borges’ Aleph? The skin and claws of the Nemean lion?

193 Ponyboy Patel February 7, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Hanuman’s Lungi

194 Matt Stiles February 7, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Blissful ignorance.

195 anonymous February 7, 2017 at 9:34 pm

seriously no. ever wake up at 7 pm after a 3 hour nap on the best afternoon of early summer? regrets….

196 peri February 7, 2017 at 7:10 pm

Huh. I think I misunderstood the question. I took it as: object from a fictional work, not – imagined “new thing under the sun.”

I’ll just sit here eating my Turkish Delight – which is not the kind you can get in the store – and ponder how surprisingly many of you have a will to power.

197 HL February 7, 2017 at 9:25 pm

The code cracking box from “Sneakers”

No more secrets 🙂

198 DJ February 7, 2017 at 11:19 pm

Excalibur!

199 Islander February 8, 2017 at 12:11 am

The 9 planets promised to faithful mormons would be neat to own. Or was it one planet with 9 virgins? In either case, you’d have a whole new world to keep you happily occupied. As long as one doesn’t think about where all those children of yours find their partners (Dark Eden by Chris Beckett is a great sci-fi book on the subject).

200 Nigel February 8, 2017 at 11:50 am

The Diamond as Big as the Ritz…

201 Chris February 9, 2017 at 3:59 pm

The Skylark of Valeron (or one of the later models) has always been my fantasy.

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