Time Travel Paradoxes Part 1
If it was 3 AM during my freshman year of college and I was NOT drunk at a party, chances are a few of us engineering nerds at Case
were debating about time travel, black holes, or some such pseudo-science / pseudo-mind-fsk topics. My favorite was when we would – scientifically mind you – argue the possibilities and paradoxes surrounding time travel.
We’ve all heard the problem with going back in time to kill either yourself or your parents. It has to be impossible because then the future you that just did it would not exist and it could never have happened in the first place. It’s to time travel what divide by zero is to math. It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s a freakin paradox.
What if the universe, by some great cosmic force, course corrected for the changes that you made in time. What if it is more intricate than you thought it could be? Sure, you stepping on the butterfly changed the wind such that the storm hit a different city across the world which caused a different guy to skid in the rain and run over a woman bearing the child that would have grown up to lead the fight against our robot overlords in 2042. So, instead that cosmic force rearranges a few inconsequential things to raise a DIFFERENT robot overlord fighting hero. Is that possible? What would the limits be on such a force? What if you knew what the force either had to do or what it planned on doing? Could you escape fate? Could you live forever? I guess it all depends on whether or not such a force even exists.
Consciousness displacement, also called being “dislodged in time” by Kurt Vonnegut who authored Slaughterhouse 5 (good book, also read Cat’s Cradle if you get a chance), is when your whole being isn’t what travels through time – it is simply your thoughts. This is apparently also what is happening on the television show “Lost” when a few characters suddenly jump between certain times in their own life. Basically think about it this way – you can only jump to a place that you have been at or will be at during another very specific time-space point on the map. However, whatever you knew then is replaced by what you know and are doing now.
Dislodging yourself in time can create brand new paradoxical situations. For example, if I stayed at home because the forecast called for rain but future me jumped back knowing that it never rained and I instead went to the amusement park and got on the roller coaster that fell apart and killed all of the passengers then future me could never have even done it. In fact let’s say I never died, but my experiences changed. Ok, so what happened to all of those memories? They never really happened. Or, is my brain aware of both situations (what really happened the first time and what really happened after I changed things)?
Here I go again…I can think about these things for hours…
Labels: imagination, paradoxes, time travel