The very thought of time travel has captivated the human imagination for many centuries. Who among us has not thought of traveling back through time to prevent an epic disaster, or to enhance a memorable event in our lives or to somehow erase a regrettable action that seems to haunt us? Moreover, what about traveling to the future to enjoy life-enhancing technology, creative inventions and the miracles of futuristic medicine?
Interestingly enough, mythologies concerning travel from the present into the future have long existed in many ancient cultures, while the concept of traveling from the present to the past is a relatively young phenomenon.
M-theorists who work toward reconciling quantum mechanics and general relativity now believe they have captured 10-spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension, opposed to the 3:1 ratio to which we are accustomed. Some radical physicists believe they may be able to capture more than one temporal dimension, on a sub-atomic level, that may provide for the foundation of travel along the time-space continuum. (1)
Stephen Hawking argues, in a variant style of Fermi’s Paradox, that time travel will never be possible as evidenced by the absence of time travelers, though he does concede that time travel may exist in the future but will be limited to a loop or warped timeframe. (2)
Carl Sagan takes up the other side of the argument, suggesting that time travelers are present yet are either well disguised or cloaked by invisibility. Sagan’s position, interestingly enough, arguably supported by a recent viral video that depicts a woman talking on what appeared to some as a cell phone and recorded in 1928. (3), (4)
If one contemplates time travel, then faced with an ethical dilemma of forever altering the paradigm of continuity.
The concept of Primum Movens, or First Mover, introduced to the Western world by way of both Book XII of Aristotle’s The Metaphysics and Book X of Plato’s The Law. Aristotle posits that the structure of causality is linear and, at the beginning of that continuum, is the first mover or the one who is immovable. (5)
After that first move, the linear structure of causality becomes exponentially more complex. Then, multiply that number by the several hundred eons that have passed.
At this juncture in time, every person and every object, past and present, represents a paradigm of continuity. What does that mean?
On a micro-level, one’s present self is the product of one’s past experience. Regardless of the seeming minutiae of ordinary events and actions, all were necessary and sufficient our self and our awareness thereof, while on a macro-level, the world and occurrences therein were all necessary and sufficient in creating the world and environment with which we interact.
Our present reality has been evolving for millions of years and that evolution has been linear. It is a paradigm of continuity. Such is the case for the development of the human species.
The Genographic Project, a five-year research partnership with National Geographic Explorer, IBM, et al, tracks the migratory journey of the human species over the past 60,000 years by way of genetic-typing. (6)
Present data suggests that the human species originated, for lack of a better allusion, by way of Adam and an Eve somewhere in the depths of the African continent. Further evidence indicates that variations in our appearances accounted for by climate change and our adaptability to those climatic conditions.
From a small band of human beings some 60,000 years ago, our human family has blossomed to 6,882,019,484. That is another example of what I term the paradigm of continuity.
So what does this have to do with time travel?
Edward Lorenz introduced a concept known as Chaos Theory. This theory posits that immense systems are initially sensitive to and subject to the slightest of influences. This influence may result in an exponential change over time. Lorenz illustrated this theory in the example of the Butterfly Effect. Displaced air generated by the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings in the Eastern hemisphere results in tornadic winds in the Western hemisphere. (7)
Applying Lorenz’s Chaos theory to the paradigm of continuity among the human species, a time traveler could interfere or somehow alter a relationship within the band of first humans resulting in the non-existence of perhaps 100,000,000 people today.
What if a time traveler went back to April 14, 1915, and successfully altered the course of the ill-fated Titanic? Such an act would save approximately 1,503 lives. Essentially, this time traveler may eradicate him or herself and cause the non-existence of 10,000 others in what we call the time traveler’s paradox.
Let us look at time travel on a micro-level of your very own life. Any interference or alterations in one’s earlier life would result in a divergent reality wherein you would forever lose your identity.
An additional impact of a divergent reality is affecting those around you. All of us belong to this paradigm of continuity with its interwoven intricacy. The slightest influence will result in an exponential change over time for not only you but also others within your niche and, over time, extend outward.
What about traveling to the future?
A Hard Determinist would suggest such a feat would not be possible without causing significant damage, for they believe that not only is our past unchangeable but our future is pre-written and unchangeable as well.
A Soft Determinist would suggest likewise that our past is unchangeable our future is unwritten and alterable but actions will still occur within an environment and/or parameter shaped by this linear causation.
An Indeterminist would say that all actions and choices are of one’s own freewill and that one may act according to his or her wishes.
Recalling the words of T.S. Eliot in the opening passage of Burnt Norton contained in the Four Quartet, Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future and time future contained in time past. (8)