Shower thoughts about the problems of the concept of time.
I absolutely love science fiction. Trying to imagine what can happen in the far future or even the near future is so inspirational. “Star Trek” and “Aliens” are two of my favorite franchises. Of course, I cannot forget “Back to the Future”, a movie that is all about time travel.
Some time ago I was planning on writing a story based on time travel and I got to thinking about how it would work. There are so many things to think about that it can be daunting. The story had the premise that in the future, time travel became a common thing. So much so that the technology spread from the beginning of time to the end of it. You could travel to any point. Scientists went back in time and taught early humans science which pushed the rest of humans forward significantly in technology. But it got me thinking, and I began to ask a few questions.
The Grandfather Paradox
Assuming time is linear, the “Grandfather Paradox” says, if you go back in time and kill your grandfather, you will never be born. However, if you’re never born then you never go back in time to kill your grandfather, thus you are born, and your action still takes place.
In a lot of science fiction, I’ve seen this as being explained away by either time is just destroyed and existence ends, or that time sorts itself out. I guess in “Back to the Future”, they went with the second option. Time just continues; you no longer exist but the deed happens regardless. To time, you existed at one point, but to the universe, you no longer do.
Another way you could solve this problem is that you can prevent your own birth but since you are in the past, you are kind of protected from it. Science fiction has introduced similar themes before where you are protected from any changes in certain bubbles. Stargate SG-1 did it in their second movie when the team jumped through the stargate after Baal changed their past.
Traveling to the Future
So, the Grandfather Paradox is a bit troublesome. This isn’t the only problem I really ran into though. Traveling to the future comes with its own problems. If a future exists in a linear timeline, then free will doesn’t really exist. It’s kind of like Newton’s first law, “every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted on by an unbalanced force.” Or more commonly told “an object that is in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon.”
If there’s a future that you can visit, this means that it can be predicted, and if it can be predicted, then we have no free will. Or we do, but only once we know the path we take. Or we don’t and the path we take is exactly what happens.
Traveling to the Past
Maybe the future is changeable, and we have free will, but we just don’t have the knowledge needed to make different choices. What about the past again? If we found away to travel into the past, could we actually do it? With linear time, would we be able to visit the past, in person without changing anything? The thing is, the moment you go to the past, you’ve changed something. You, as you are at that point, didn’t exist in that time. So things are changed, the butterfly effect would change your present time.
And what if it doesn’t? We run into the issue of free will then, don’t we? This means that you were always going to travel to the past. If you were always going to travel to the past, then you didn’t make that determination to do so yourself.
At first glance, time travel doesn’t look like it has anything to do with free will, but it has everything to do with it. Linear time would suggest you don’t have free will. If someone went to the past now, we wouldn’t know, we’re already seeing the effects of the change if it can change.
Then maybe this is what that “Mandala Effect” is. The Mandala Effect the phenomenon when a large group of people remember something differently from reality. One of the more popular and common examples of this is the children’s book “The Berenstain Bears”. A not so insignificant amount of people remembers it being spelled “The Berenstein Bears”. Another is Curious George. He never had a tail, but people, including me, remembers him having a tail.
Of course, these can be chocked up to not remembering correctly as it happens with so much and when you get to popular stuff like “Curious George” or “The Berenstein Bears” you’ll have people misremembering or flat out not being that observant.
Throughout trying to solve the problems for my story, I just kept running into roadblocks. The idea was that someone who traveled throughout time and space basically would be all knowing because you would know every event that would happen, and because you traveled to every point in time and space, maybe even several times, you would pretty much be immortal. I mean, even if your “present” self died, you existed and every point in time, right? If someone killed you in the past, someone from the future could save you since time travel is so easy, which means you are both alive and dead. You exist and you don’t at pretty much any given point after the attempts to murder you.
But with the problems I addressed, I concluded that that couldn’t happen. Of course, being fiction, it doesn’t matter. I wanted a linear story and my own brain shut it down, making it a difficult story to write, which it already was.
Multi-verse theory is about as well known in science fiction as it is used in so many science fiction stories. Parallel worlds were used in “Sliders”, “Star Trek”, “Stargate SG-1”, and so on. In “Sliders”, it was their main premise. Traveling between worlds while trying to get back to their own time.
This theory easily solves all of the problems of linear time, at least when it comes to time travel. It still allows free will, the only problem is, when you travel through time, you can never see the exact progression of events from your own timeline.
Let’s say you travel back in time and witness a gladiator fight in Rome. You never existed there previously. Even if you blended in, your presence is different from your own timeline. The events would probably not change much if you didn’t interact, so it’s a very close timeline to your own, but it’s not your timeline.
You decide to go back to the point shortly after you left. Your timeline would be split. A timeline when you left and never returned, and a timeline when you came back. And there would even be a timeline for every nanosecond you were gone and came back at a different time.
If you travel to the future to get the lottery numbers, because you, as you are at that point, didn’t exist in that time, it would branch, thus the numbers you get may not be the same numbers that win when you return.
Time travel causes so many issues. The moment you travel, even in the multi-verse, you will never get back to the same timeline as the one you left. You will basically be going back to one of the alternatives, and you can never actually know what that timeline has in store for you because if you travel into the future to find out, you create branches, and when you get back, you create branches.
It’s insanity. It’s nuts. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of information and I could be completely mistaken about how it all works because I’ve never done it. It’s a shower thought, a thought exercise. A way to help inspire myself. These are fun and I want to explore more topics.