I’m pretty sure there are whole organizations and groups devoted to developing and understanding the philosophy of Time-Travel. And me? I’m just some random person that started thinking about it the other day, and the whole thing started to seem very interesting. Before it got downright confusing, that is. And thus, I felt like exploring the concept of time and time-travel a little bit, without any real structure to the arguments or discussion as a whole. So that is what you will find here, especially if it relates to some piece of pop-culture that I am interested in.
A little bit of philosophical meandering, if you will. (Take this as your warning if you are not into that kind of thing). I mean really, at first I thought the whole question of “what is time?” was really stupid then, BAM! My brain just started filling all kinds of crazy ideas, which apparently you will now be subject to.
Alright, and I guess I will admit that a lot of this has to do with the fact that I have been reading and seeing a whole smattering of Time-Travel related literature and programming as of late. But if we do venture into the possibility that literal travel through time is possible, we can have a little fun with all the complications and implications, can’t we? I certainly think so.
The first and foremost question I would like to look at is: What happens if we are able to see and/or experience the future? Before returning back to the present or past, that is. As far as I can discern, there are three possibilities in this situation:
1) You see the future and that future happens regardless of your knowledge or actions.
What I mean is, if something is solidified as going to happen (or “destiny” as some might call it), then it will occur, whether you know about it beforehand or not. (And yes, I did make these diagrams myself.)
2) After seeing a future that you do no necessarily want, you might try to change this by acting a certain way, or trying to avoid certain situations. But in these actions of attempting to remedy the future you saw, it may actually be the cause leading to it.
That brings up the question of, would this future have ever occurred if you had no seen it and tried to stop it (that is, if your deliberate actions in trying to avoid it actually became the cause of it)? See this is where it gets confusing, because if you hadn’t seen this future then this might not have ever been in the cards to happen, and so maybe you shouldn’t have been able to see this future. Then again, maybe this jump back of seeing this later state of time became a part of your timeline and was therefore solidified to occur because it would eventually form a loop with itself… Oy vey, this is really quite convoluted now.
3) You can change your future.
I know we already discussed seeing your future and leading to it in trying to change it, but then again, what if you could change it, because of the fact that you saw it? That is, you see or experience a later time period, which is going to occur if you keep on the path that you are on. This jumping back of the timeframe into your present disrupts its own timeline, and thereby allows the present to veer off into another direction in the future. Maybe that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but if it does, it once again brings up the question, if you had not seen this future, would you have stayed on the path towards it, or changed it to become something else (whether that be a positive or negative thing)? If you would have stayed on that pathway had you not seen the future, then in order to change your path this future would have to exist in some form or another in order to jump back and trigger the change in direction. Yikes, I don’t know if I even comprehend myself anymore.
Basically all of this "understanding" that I have of these futuristic situations has come from popular media, movies, etc. Yet despite trying to explain some of this philosophy in books and the like, a lot of the time you end up with more questions than answers. This is especially evident when looking at “The Grandfather Paradox”:
This theory was first described by science fiction writer René Barjavel in the early 1940s, and I’ve come to understand the paradox as something like this: If a man were to go back in time and kill his biological grandfather, then it would not have been possible for him to have been conceived, and therefore he would not have been born. However, if he had not been conceived, then he would not have been able to go back in time and kill his grandfather in the first place. It becomes an unsolvable paradox, unless we accept that there can be multiple realities coexisting at any given moment. But we will get back to that later.
The grandfather paradox is somewhat present in the Back to the Future series, yet is never fully addressed (this is what I mean by all questions, no answers). In the first Back to the Future, Marty McFly goes back in time, and inadvertently stops his father from meeting his mother in a way that makes her fall in love with him. This means that if his father does not win her heart again, Marty will cease to exist in both the future, and in this past state. But if he ceases to exist, then how would he have gone back to stop his father from meeting his mother, thus causing his nonexistence? The whole thing is wonky! And what if you did change something in the past and then went back to your present time? Would those living in the present just abruptly disappear and switch, or would it be a slow fade out and alteration, like what Marty’s image does from his family photo? It’s uncertain for sure.
Apparently, these kinds of paradoxes can be explained through “wormholes” or parallel, sub-universes. It’s always called something different or explained in a different way, but I suppose what I understand it as is that there are/can be different worlds coexisting at the same moment in time: an “Alternate Universe” that can come alive or existent at the same moment that you travel through time, or are even existing right now.
It’s hard to really explain well, or even understand, because we as humans only exist and live through one stream of consciousness or “life” at one moment, so how can this be? Multiple realities seem impossible, but are they really? All I know is that nothing ever seems consistent from one medium into another when looking at the philosophy of Time-Travel. In fact I would say that even in trying to explain a theory, you end up with more confusion than clarity every time. And even without this time travel, could we consider our ability to project our minds into the future, or to dwell on and live in past events in our minds a personal way to existing during different times?
I only say this because “Time” is often defined as a subjective experience, not a concrete thing, in which case, it really doesn’t have to exist in a purely linear fashion, and our minds can actually be a vehicle to exist in different planes of relative time experience at any given moment! Or maybe that’s all just hogwash; I mean what do I know? All I know is that when I try and think about time in these strange ways, all I can think is that The Doctor said it right when he explained time as a “Big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey… Stuff”. Who is to say that this isn’t the most accurate description of time to date, despite being incredibly vague? (And who could disagree with a smiling face like that?)
I really don’t know why I decided to write all this, but at the end of it all, I just wanted to ask: what do you think? If you have these kinds of mind-adventures every now and again, that is… Maybe it's strange that I let my brain go off on an adventure like this, after all...