Time Travel, Part 4

The discovery of time travel would likely have huge implications for the society that allowed it to become public.  Naturally, if possible it would become quickly regulated and the actual science behind it kept secret to avoid abuse.  Of course this could be fairly difficult to do if the breakthrough were done in a private lab and quickly published to the world.  Scientists like to get credit for their work, and there are already quite a few published theories on possibly time travel methods.  Timeline contamination could pose a risk to the present, so it would have to be guarded against in some way if the technology could not be kept secret.

With time travel all the greatest questions about history could be answered.  Scientist could research and catalog extinct species of plants and animals.  In our world paleontologists have done their best to determine what Dinosaurs looked like and how they behaved.  These are still mostly theories though.  In a world with time travel we would know exactly how dinosaurs looked and be able to study their behavioral patterns.  Quite possibly the most important thing we would learn about Dinosaurs though is exactly how and why they died.

Any event in history that is disputed could be viewed, studied, and documented.  Documentaries could contain actual video of the events they are describing instead of recreations, though the recreations may be more detailed and entertaining than the actual events.  The great mysteries of the world like the original use of Stonehenge or the method used to build the pyramids would move from the category of mystery to a documented process.  The exact location of Atlantis would be added to historical maps.  Suddenly the skills needed to uncover history would drastically change and the need to keep the subjects from realizing that they are being studied would be far more important as they are now living breathing specimens.

Knowledge of most past events would not have a major impact on a society, but knowledge of certain key events could.  Certain events that touch on subjects that we do not discuss here could be viewed and would have dramatic impact on society as details were clarified or collaborated.  It is hard to believe that events of religious significance would not be some of the first to be witnessed.

There would be many temptations to use time travel in seemingly beneficial ways.  Trips to the future could cure diseases or bring back medical technology to save lives.  With the technology already available there would be no need for the research to actually develop it.  Both this and the survivors would change the future that the technology had come from.  If future technology were to be banned in an effort to avoid this, then patients with enough money would be tempted to travel to a time when they could receive better treatment.  Petitions would likely be drawn up to restore extinct species or to perhaps intervene in tragedies throughout history to save lives.  Every tragedy that happens would lead to an immediate call of fixing it just this once.  Even the best intentions, though, can have unexpected consequences.

For these and tactical reasons, if government scientists were the ones to discover time travel it would likely be classified and kept secret.  Only the highest ranking officials would be allowed to know that this technology was available.  These politicians then would be subject to the same temptations of time travel that the general public would be if they only knew of its possibility.  Political campaigns would be much easier if the person in power could see the events of the future and proactively deal with them.  In times of war, leaders would be tempted to view the future battle and change plans based on effectiveness.  In the case of a failed operation they would likely send back communications to themselves of its failure.  While this has the potential of saving lives, it also becomes far more complicated if the other society also has access to time travel technology.  The potential for a time war or an inevitable temporal cold war would grow with each society that discovers time travel.  That possibility and the implications will be the topic of my next blog.

Comments (10)

BreetaiJanuary 5th, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Ya know I’ve got my own Theory about Human Time Travel and Historians from the Future coming back to visit. I kinda ties into other conspiracy theories witch makes it even more fun. We will master time travel, but until several million years in the future. Imagine what a highly evolved human might look like millions of years in the future… Maybe a little Alien? IF an advanced alien race is visiting us the Uncanny Likeness of 1 head 2 arms 2 legs 2 eyes a mouth, nose, and walks upright leads one to believe odds are better we’re more related than alien. Perhaps because we are. It would be like us going back in time and looking at chimps.

Before you start thinking about how cool it’d be to met a man from vastly into the future I’d have to ask you, How well do we treat chimps? I’d rather not meet someone from the future.

Chris MJanuary 5th, 2010 at 8:37 pm

The temptation to go back and alter a part of your past you weren’t pleased about or talk to a lost love or buy a winning lottery ticket knowing the results would be too great. As a time traveler from the presumable future going into the past you would have unique knowledge of what is going to unfold..the good..the first African American president in history and the bad 9/11. You would have access to technology in your pocket that could contaminate and muck up future events imagine leaving a smart phone back in the 1960’s and someone dissecting it huge advances in computing and possibly the internet would have arrived before the 1990’s. Imagine if I went back in time and stopped the Kennedy assassination. Once of the most beloved presidents next to Lincoln himself would have survived to complete his first term in office. But as we know from history Kennedy interceded in the Bay Of Pigs operation that nearly upset the balance of power in the Cold War and almost fired off World War 3. So stopping his death would have a major impact in the time unfolding probably causing the time you came from to split off and diverge completely or be overwritten with no way to correct it.
But the most brilliant time travel theory I heard recently is that you can’t travel to just any specific point in the past or future with a time machine but only to a place and time where a time machine currently is operational and exists or has existed making your arrival there part of a circular loop that you have been circuited to arrive at.

WayneJanuary 5th, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Hey Chris have you seen Primer? Basically it uses the method you mentioned at the end there, but also touches on how to avoid making too many changes when reliving events.

Chris MJanuary 5th, 2010 at 11:43 pm

I would love to study that. But Wayne even on a microorganism level the bacteria inhale and rides your skin that you bring back from the future with you have evolved albeit slowly, germs have mutated. You could inadvertently come back in time and cause a pandemic from a simple head cold. So you don’t have to have social interactions that effect the events. Your presence alone is an aberration in the time line causality itself..it defies natural laws let alone the implications of how that impact the universe itself and the energies at play that kept you in a time not your own and yet separate and apart from what has unfolded and yet added you back in the sequence as event + 1

WayneJanuary 6th, 2010 at 12:45 am

This is I think the second time you have predicted a future blog in the series. There is an entire one planned about germs\viruses\epidemics. It will also touch on the inability for people to eat the food from previous periods due to different cooking standards.

Known future topics are: Temperal war\cold war, Temporal Police, germs\food issues, Time travel through consciousness transfer, physics including movement and timespace.

CarpeDmJanuary 8th, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Nce idea for a game.
However, it presumes that you can change thingg, and it falls into what I feel is the ah too often trap assuming in chan ge is bad, or will only have bad results.

For example, you may take medicine back, the research still has to happen to make more and to develop the tools to produce it. You might save a few lives. Also anything you take back needs will be scrutinized. For example If someone appear to you with a pill and say “Take this or you will die in 5 years, trust me I’m from the future” you would not be likely to take it…unless your name is Neo and it’s in a warehouse being handed to you by a bald guy in a dress~

CarpeDmJanuary 8th, 2010 at 9:30 pm

“It will also touch on the inability for people to eat the food from previous periods due to different cooking standards”

That’s absurd.

Also, you must ignore germs and other facets like that or your game will be tied down in obsessive details.

The real game changer with time travel is creating an energy source to do it. If you could generate that much power you have effectively solved any energy problem.

” Trash can… remember a trash can! “

WayneJanuary 9th, 2010 at 12:18 pm

“That’s absurd.”

Have you ever heard the warning about not drinking the water in Mexico? Nuff said.

GACJanuary 14th, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Timeline “contamination” as depicted in most science fiction seems to presuppose that changing history would necessarily be bad. Certainly there would be unintended consequences (there almost definitely will), but it’s not necessarily good or bad. No one has any idea how these changes would actually resolve themselves, especially in deliberate alteration cases where we would run into causality issues.

Personally, I think alternate dimensions are the only way to resolve this. But then what use are the time-travel police? No one would notice the timeline had been changed (if it were something you could notice in the first place — since everyone’s memory changes there would have to be something conspicuous in the historical record), and with alternate timelines, people in the original timeline would see time travelers simply disappear forever, which means the whole endeavor would probably be scrapped pretty quickly (though the many split-offs might get into interesting developments.

““That’s absurd.”

Have you ever heard the warning about not drinking the water in Mexico? Nuff said.”

Or China (even Chinese will say it). Or many other developing countries, for various reasons. But I don’t think you really need to put that into a game unless you make it a plot point. Yes, you could have people randomly get diseases that they have never been exposed to (previously extinct ones like smallpox or as-yet-undiscovered flu strains), but I think it would be more fun for a game if that sort of thing were reserved for times when players visit a famous epidemic, or as an unexpected (but planned) plot. Characters randomly getting sick is boring, and having them randomly die of trivial diseases is kind of cruel to players, I would think.

KassilJanuary 25th, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Personally, I suspect there’s some truth to the idea that the invention of time travel would lead to it not being invented – that, if time can be altered, eventually the resulting instability will result in a stable, time-travel-free timeline.

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