TIME TRAVEL ESSAY
A TEMPORAL BRAIN DRAIN
IS TIME IMMUTABLE?
WE ARE ALL timetravelers in the linear sense, simply by the process of aging. But what about the possibilities of nonlinear travel in time, by manipulation and intent, as in all the science fiction books and movies? This is a subject that has fascinated me since childhood ...
IF THIS TYPE of timetravel is occuring, has occurred, will occur, why don't we know of it? That is to say, why hasn't someone from any point in the future (our future) visited their past (our present)? The first quick closeminded argument would be (is) that no one has, so no one will, so nonlinear timetravel is impossible. I have given this much thought. Let me share my views with you...
BEFORE I BEGIN, I feel it is necessary for me to share a core conviction of mine; I know our languages (communications, verbalizations) are derived and based on our observations and comprehensions of our world/reality. That is to say; we must know about something before we can create a word or reference to it. So I know already that I can't properly express what my total thoughts on this subject are, because we all don't perceive things in the same way. Therefore, I will use what is available and communicate this to the best of my ability.
WE ALREADY KNOW of the three dimensional references of space. We are also (at least) aware of a fourth dimension of time, simply because we experience it as well ( in conjunction with the other three). More specifically put as an example, an object of solidity occupies a certain point of reference to our perception in direct regards to the other three known dimensions (a certain timeslot, or event duration, if you will). In the latter part of the 20th century it has been theorized that it is probable that ten dimensions exist and possibly as many as twenty six. So if you're like 97% of the people out there, living in your nine to five, paycheck to paycheck world, thinking that microwave, frequency and amplitude modulations are the only invisible waves around us; no offense- but, you're not aware of the big picture.
WHAT WOULD THE RAMIFICATIONS OF
IT IS, without a doubt, the most intriguing and entrancing subject of science fiction. The writers of the genre have used devices ranging from a machine, to a gateway of sorts, even simple will to propel their characters across the millennia. Regardless of the methods used, one inescapable occurrence threatens each instance of travel to the past. PARADOX. The big, bad word of timetravel. Not only is it common, it appears to be inevitable, no matter how seemingly insignificant or superficial the action may seem. Whether by intentionally or accidentally affecting the life of a linear ancestor, a past version of yourself, or even a complete stranger, or intervening with a well known historical event, or something as subtle and simple as stepping on a rock in a pre-historic era, any action may lead to PARADOX, altering the future of that particular action (and moment), creating changes which may cause an unrecognizable present upon your return. Let me indulge myself and elaborate with a further explanation by example using YOU as the character.
YOU have a device (method) for timetravel (doesn't matter what it is). YOU are going to use it for the first time. YOU are aware of (and fear) the potential consequences of PARADOX. So, YOU are going to be careful! YOU are going to insure your safety (preserve your past). Let's make an assumption here for all intents and purposes, that YOU can travel both temporally and geographically by simultaneous methods (just to diffuse the argument about our planet being part of an expanding universe and that even in a short temporal excursion, it would be a great distance from the space it now occupies). The device (method) YOU use automatically coordinates the proper trajectories for your "trip".
SO, what are YOU going to do? YOU definitely don't want to do anything major and risk a PARADOX. Let's assume YOU are like the other 97% of us and have some financial concerns in your life. Or, maybe YOU would just like a little extra cash. That would be a good test. Something subtle. Increase your wealth by just a slight and unnoticeable amount. How can YOU do this with the least possible chance of contaminating the already played out events in the flow of linear time? What happened, let's say, three days ago that YOU can take advantage of?
YOU find your three day old local newspaper and begin looking for anything YOU might use. There they are! The winning daily lottery numbers! YOU write them down on a piece of paper, shaking just a little bit now as all the possibilities start coming to the surface of your mind. YOU wisely make a decision not to venture out into the public yourself. That would be too risky for an initial test. YOU must bring a past version of yourself into this. Without elaboration, YOU devise a plan. Now, what's the best time for a visit to yourself? What were YOU doing four days ago? When were YOU alone for an hour or so , with no interruptions? YOU remember. YOU set the coordinates and travel .... four days into the past.
AFTER CALMING DOWN a startled four day younger version of yourself (we'll call version-2 from now on), YOU explain the entire situation from the beginning. YOU give version-2 explicit details of your plan and instructions on it's completion. YOU give version-2 the winning lottery numbers for "tomorrow". YOU tell version-2 to play one set only for this test. "Then, cash the winning ticket the next day. Put the cash in the grey metal box. Put the grey metal box under the cabinet in the kitchen cabinet with the pots and pans. Leave it alone. If the test goes as we expect it to, the money will belong to both of us. YOU will simply become ME. We are the same person, after all." Version-2 understands and agrees.
YOU RETURN to the future (your present) at the exact same instant YOU left. YOU certainly don't need to complicate matters at this point by encountering another version of yourself. YOU are nervous, to say the least. Did version-2 pass the test? With much anticipation, YOU go to the kitchen cabinet. NO GREY METAL BOX! YOU start to panic, pulling everything out of the cabinet. IT'S NOT THERE! What could have happened? YOU go to the place where the grey metal box was before YOU left on your "trip". There it is. EMPTY! What could possibly have went wrong? YOU play the events over in your mind. YOU had explained everything. Version-2 had understood and agreed to everything. It didn't make sense.
WHAT DID HAPPEN?
I CERTAINLY DONT KNOW, but I can speculate. The instant YOU traveled back in time, YOU created a different past than your own. Remember, four days ago YOU did not have an unexpected visit from a future version of yourself. When version-2 becomes YOU, there will be different memories of four days ago. That version DID have an unexpected visit. What will version-2 find when looking under the kitchen cabinet three days after placing the grey metal box there? Version-2 will find a grey metal box with money in it. YOU see, version-2 followed out the instructions explicitly. What you have done is created an alternate timeline, one in which there is now a YOU, on this very same day, with a little extra money, but not the YOU who made the initial trip pastward.
THIS EVENT can carry out infinitely deeper and wider. Will version-2 make a pastward trip and interact with version-3? Will version-3 change the amount bet (or something else)? YES and NO! Of course there was always the option of returning to the third day in the past, personally retrieving the money and then traveling futureward to your present. What would happen then? Obviously, YOU would have the money, but where or when will you be? Will YOU be in your original timeline, or an altered one? I won't continue this fantasy any longer, but I will tell YOU ...
WHAT I PERSONALLY THINK
I DON'T BELIEVE time or events are predestined. I think there is always free will. This is why I think timetravel to the past may be possible, but timetravel to the future might not be, other than the natural way.
LET ME CLARIFY THAT LAST STATEMENT:
Travel to the future... WITHIN YOUR OWN TIMELINE! I am well aware of the proven fact (thanks to the ATOMIC CLOCK/RELATIVE POSITIONING experiments) of the perception of time distortion, in either direction, one would experience during near lightspeed or superluminal flight "deadheading".
Simply put, a moment in the future does not exist because it hasn't happened yet (in any ONE timeline). As Stephen Hawking ponders, "Why do we remember the past and not the future?" (Hoyle's Pigeonholes, anyone?)
With the exception of our perception of the natural, linear, futureward flow of time, or from a point in the past, forward to the present, there just isn't a point to travel to in a future that hasn't been created yet. My own analogy at this point would be that you can sit in a chair the instant it has been made or three years later (provided it was of adequate construction), but you can't sit in it before it was made.
The FRUSTRATION with this line of reasoning, however is this: If John (A) , who exists in 1997, finds a way to travel back in time to 1996 and visit himself- John (B), would John (B) be able to travel with John (A) futureward to 1997? As far as John (B) is concerned, his future is not predetermined and doesn't exist yet. He considers that he is creating what he will become by his thoughts and actions. But, from John(A)'s perspective, he knows he exists and knows of events in 1997. So it seems to come down to one question...
DO ALL TIMES AND EVENTS EXIST SIMULTANEOUSLY?
I think the answer lies in a theory of quantum physics. This theory appears to me to be the most sound speculation that I've heard so far, stating that ...
ANYTHING THAT CAN HAPPEN, WILL HAPPEN
EVERY MOMENT IN TIME, you are making decisions, mostly unconscious or unaware. However, I wish to make a conscious example: You happen upon a small rock in your walk path. You can decide to step on the rock/not step on the rock/kick the rock/not kick the rock/pick up the rock and throw it/ not pick up the rock and throw it etc., etc., etc.,. The point is there are an infinite number of actions and events that can occur in a single moment of your existence. The quantum theory speculates that there is an infinite number of you who chooses to and does every possible combination and variation of every single action and event in your existence. You are essentially creating your own universe as you go, creating an infinite number of timelines and eventual outcomes (realities). Now here's what I perceive to be the important conclusion: EACH VERSION OF YOU SHARES THE EXACT SAME PAST AND MEMORIES UP TO A SPECIFIC DECISION. This is the shared timeline, or the past, making you the culmination of your actions and subsequent events of your existence. CHOOSE THIS INSTANT TO PUT THIS DOWN AND NOT READ ANOTHER LINE. You also choose to continue. You will also be interrupted. You will also cough. You will also drop this. You won't do any of these things. You are the opposite sex. You died two years ago. You weren't even born. The Third Reich was successful. Dolphins are the dominate species on this planet.
WHAT WAS THAT???
WITH THIS KIND of thinking, the job you decided not to take in 1987 allowed you to find another job that paid you 25% more in salary. This allowed you to buy the Lincoln Town car you had always wanted, but could not afford before. You even have some extra spending money, so you, your spouse and three children go out to dinner every Friday night. What if you'd taken that first job offer instead? You did. Or rather, another version of you (let's say a timeline #2 created from a decision) did. That "you" now drives a Ford Taurus and can only afford dinner out with the spouse and four children once per month on Saturday (the fourth child was conceived on a Friday night). Fifty two years later, in timeline #2, child #4, just after being elected to the Presidency of the United States of America, for a second term, announces multi-billion dollar funding for the JPL, citing recent discoveries making it possible to harness tachyon fields for propulsion. The media is "buzzing" with talks of timetravel.
FROM ONE CONSCIOUS DECISION...
PERHAPS THIS IS the answer to my John (A) and John (B) perplexity. John (A) in 1997 was never visited by a future version of himself in 1996. Therefore, from that point in 1996, when John (A) first visited John (B), a different timeline was (had to be) created. By the time John (B) arrives in 1997, by natural means, he will have a memory of having been visited by a future version of himself. Something John (A) never had. The two Johns had literally become two different versions of one person at that point back in 1996, before the action (John (A) traveling back in time to meet himself) occurred. EFFECT PRECEDED CAUSE.
It is all so very confusing, but at least as equally intriguing. Maybe someday, positive progress will be made in this area, but not until someone uses a larger percentage of their brain's reasoning potential and attacks this thing from a NONLINEAR approach!
By my own hand/no references
excepting what I've read on the subject over the years*
slight revisions - 10/97, 09/03, 01/04
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