Monday, August 08, 2005

This Post Comes To You From Next Friday

I read an interesting post on Cindy’s blog yesterday, and it really sparked my imagination.

The subject was (in a round about way) time travel.

Now I’ll admit that I’m a Sci-fi nerd. I’d even go so far as a Sci-fi geek. If the story is set in the future, chances are, I’ll like it.

Time travel has always been one of those things that has fascinated me. Like, the closer you get to the speed of light, the more time will slow down for you. From your perspective, the universe would be ticking along as usual, but for everyone else, you’d be moving in slow motion.

On the other side of the coin, this means that if you traveled at the speed of light for a few years, it would appear to you that you were normal, and everyone else was on fast forward. This means you could travel near the speed of light for about a year, and everyone else would have experienced a much longer time.

Anyone else want to see what the world is going to be like in 200 years?

Of course, then you get all the paradoxes that make sci-fi interesting. (A paradox is basically something that is completely logical, but can’t actually make sense). Let me explain.

The one favored by shows like ‘The Twighlight Zone’ is the Grandfather Paradox. If you could travel back in time, and kill your own Grandfather, you’d never be born.

However, if you’ve never been born, you couldn’t have traveled back and killed your grandfather. Which means you would have been born. So you could travel back…yada, yada, yada.

That’s where you get your paradox. A vicious circle of logic that can’t be broken.

I once watched a documentary (God Bless the Discovery Channel), back in the mid-90’s. A very clever man said that if you could travel back, you couldn’t change the past. It’s basic physics.

Another very clever man said “But what about free will? Physics can’t stop free will! If I went back in time, and had Hitler in my sights, physics wouldn’t stop me pulling the trigger.”

“Yes it would.” Said the first clever man.

“No it wouldn’t, physics can’t stop free will!” Said the second clever man.

“Ok, do a tap dance on the ceiling.” Said the first clever man.

He made his point. You can’t sit on the ceiling because gravity (IE Physics) won’t let you.

That made me think. If he was right, what would happen if you tried to shoot Hitler? Would Stephen Hawking come crashing through the roof?

However, even if time travel was possible, it wouldn’t be something I’d want to try…and not just because I’d have to find a way to generate one point twenty-one gigawatts to get back.

To me, traveling to the future would be a big no-no, no matter how much I wanted a Hoverboard, or a $2 ‘antique’ 80 inch plasma screen.

The reason for this is simple. What if you went forward 10 years, and found nothing but rubble? What if you found Hitler II in charge of the world? That would be a great Sci-Fi story. In which you’d be the hero and change the world and prevent the disaster from ever happening. However, I’m under no delusions. If something happened on a global scale, there’s not very much I could do…except do stretching exercises so I could kiss my ass goodbye.

The past wouldn’t be much good either. I’ve no interest in History. I also wouldn’t want to be burned for witchcraft when someone spots my mobile phone.

Now everyone over the age of 20 says they would like to go back in time, and talk to themselves. You hear it all the time… “If I only knew then what I know now.” But the experiences you had as a child and growing up are what made you what you are today. The one universal truth is we learn a lot more from our mistakes that our successes.

Then we come to the morality part.

It’s a standard question for every philosophy major (Which really should be ‘why the hell are you studying philosophy?’), which is ‘If you could travel back in time, and meet Hitler as a 10 year old boy…would you kill him’.

The philosophical ramifications of this question are simple. At that age, he’d done nothing wrong. He was innocent. You’d just be a child killer. On the other hand, by killing him, you’re saving millions of lives.

My answer? No way in hell.

This isn’t because of morals. It’s for two reasons.

The first is Hitler wasn’t the sole cause of WW2. He played a huge role, but if Hitler hadn’t stepped up, eventually someone else would have.

The second is simple. Hitler was insane. The only reason he lost the War was because of that insanity. He thought he was invincible, got over confident, and tried to fight a war on too many fronts.

Basically, we won the Second World War. If you took Hitler out of the picture, it may never happen, however, imagine if someone else took over the Nazi Party. Someone who was in complete possession of their marbles. Someone who could have won the war.

I’ll leave history as it is, thanks.

The other thing is, if you change on tiny thing, it can have massive repercussions.

For example, I met my wife, simply because I bought some bad shoes.

Ok, that’ll take some explaining.

I bought the shoes, and went to work. My best friend and I were going to be going out for a night on the town afterward. However, shortly before the end of my shift, the sole came off my shoes. I’d had them for three days.

Now most of the bars and clubs where I lived where Shirt, dress pants and shoes only. No trainers. I didn’t have another pair, so I didn’t go out.

That night, rather than being out, I stayed in. I went online, and while browsing some forums, came upon a post that said simply “This is my first computer, and I don’t have a clue. Anyone wanna help?”

You guessed it, that cry for help was from Sunny, the woman I eventually married.

Now if a poor choice in shoes can result in me meeting someone, moving to the USA and getting married…that means every little decision we make could have massive consequences down the road.

Time is a funny thing. The Trolls from Discworld believe that time’s running backwards…you can see the past, but not the future, so we must be facing the wrong way.

In my opinion, Time Travel is a bad idea…even if it’s only because trying to get your head around it makes you go cross-eyed.


serendipity said...

That was deep!

I think i'd be tempted to go forward in time and see if I ever manage to get my life together, but how crappy would it be if i found out it only got worse??

I think i'll stay in his time thanks.

Miz S said...

That is not only deep- but scary as well. I have enough trouble making decisions NOW-
NOW what am i going to do when I am thinking that every tiny decision I make may have some colosal reprecussions?

I have thought about that tho. Like- if my kids don't come to my house to visit for a couple weeks- i call and talk to them. I don't specificly ask them or whine about them not visiting more often because i think well, what if they have a very full schedule and just to appease me they rush in between their appointments trying to make time to come by and see me and they blow a red light or stop sign and they get in an accident and get killed or hurt? Then I would be responsible an i would rather see them once a year than not ever get to see them again.

I worry about the smallest of all decisions like that.
I know it's stupid to worry so much about such things- but I do- it's the way I'm made.

I do worry too much, don't I?

Time travel....I don't know- I mean- if there was a chance we COULD change it if we didn't like it- fine...but if we just got to SEE it and not be able to change it...I'm with Serendipity...I'll take THIS time and see what happens, WHEN it happens.

Vicarious Living said...

Nicely said
I'm with Sunny - that's pretty much exactly how I think. And it is exhausting!

Anonymous said...

Biff Tannen had the right idea, get an Almanac and go back to take over the world........but one thing,"If some punk kid or a crazy wild eyed old scientist ever come round asking questions.........."

I'd go back without a doubt, me getting rich probably would change a few things, but what the hell, life's a gamble anyway, why not tip the scales in your favour....?