by Robert Waltz
Not for the faint of art.
PROMPT January 18th
If you could use a time machine, would you travel to the future or to the past? When, and where would you go?
Let's get a couple of things out of the way first:
One, time is not an illusion. While our perception of time depends on several factors, time is as real as anything is -- we can't touch it, but we can sure as hell measure it.
And two, I consider it highly unlikely that time travel to the past (that is, the "past" relative to any given moment of "now) can ever be possible. Time travel to the future will probably be trivial one day, what with general relativity and/or cryogenic technology. But then you're in a new "now" and there's no going back.
Those things said, I'm as much a fan of time-travel stories as anyone, so I'll play the game.
I'm going to assume here that by "time machine" the prompt means, like, the TARDIS or a certain DeLorean. So I'd be able to return. But that really doesn't matter because, either way, it's the future that I want to see, no doubt about it.
This is for one simple reason: the past kinda blows. I mean, maybe the future blows, too, but we know that the past blows. Medical care alone is enough to put me off on the idea for all time (pun intended). Sure, our "system" here in the US sucks ass, but it's fucking sorcery compared with leeches and lack of anesthesia.
And we know a bit about the past. Not everything, obviously, but enough. And if I really did have a time machine, I'd definitely visit, just to answer questions like "What did Helen of Troy actually look like?" "Was Pythagoras as big a dick as I think?" and "Who really invented vodka: Poland or Russia?" But like I said, given the choice of one or the other, I'd pick the future. I want to see how it all turns out, you know.
Well. I know how it all turns out. At some point, everything will just... stop. There will cease to be any thermodynamic processes whatsoever, but long before that happens, life will be unable to exist. Nevertheless, there's a lot of time involved (exactly how much time is a matter for debate, but it's orders of magnitude more than the lifetime of our sun), and so there's plenty of time for further innovation and discovery.
It's that discovery that intrigues me.
So, how far into the future? Where and when? Well, the essence of the future is that while big things like the eventual death of the Sun can be predicted within a billion years or so, there's no way of knowing how far what we call "civilization" can advance or how fast. We can try to extrapolate, but there are externalities that will throw wrenches into the works: war, pandemic, aliens, us choking on our own waste products, whatever. I'd want to go far enough into the future to see cool shit, but not so far that it would be entirely alien to me. So for that, we're not talking trillions or billions or even millions of years.
One thousand years should suffice. Just enough to see if we will really colonize other worlds, and hopefully view them. Alternatively, maybe Earth will be a vast, barren wasteland then. Even that would be good to know.
One final thought for today:
I could, of course, be very wrong about time travel into the past being impossible. We've been known to do things once thought to be impossible before, so it's not completely outside the realm of possibility.
If so, then at some point, we'll be able to visit what will be to us the past. I imagine that there will be people whose job it is to protect the timeline, to make sure that events happen for the best possible outcome.
And if that's true, then maybe we're living in the result.
If that doesn't frighten the living hell out of you, you haven't been paying attention.
Of course, there's absolutely no evidence that this has happened, and plenty of evidence that it hasn't. For example, someone from now going to the past risks contaminating it with Covfefe-19 or AIDS or some such virus that's of relatively recent origin. Right now you're going "well, maybe that's how Trump Mumps actually started, an infection from the future." The problem with that hypothesis is that the virus has been extensively studied, and there's nothing of the future about it. If it had come from the future, it would have shown signs of having evolved longer than anything else on the planet, and there's no indication of that whatsoever.
We're not living in the best of all possible timelines.
We're living in the only possible timeline.