Ask a Dork: Time Travel
“What do you think of time travel as a concept? What’s an example of good time travel? Bad example?”
Allow me to start by saying that I find it super refreshing to not be talking about video games or movies for a change. I love me some media, but the odd sci fi topic now and then is just dandy.
There are three mainstream schools of thought when it comes to time: (1) time flows in a linear fashion, (2) time is relative; present moments constantly intersect with past moments, and (3) being a man-made construct, time is completely superfluous. Usually when we view time under the scope of “travelling through time,” it is through the first school of thought (as anything else either makes the process of time travel absolutely confusing or irrelevant).
With that in mind, I think the concept of time travel is totally badass (when applied for cool purposes). To provide a little more context, it is totally cool to want to go back in time to see a dinosaur, punch Hitler in the face, and high-five Nikola Tesla. However, it is not cool to go back in time to try and fix your mistakes or change things that relate to your life. Why is that? Well, we all make mistakes and if you’re the type of person that wants to go back in time in order to “undo something” you probably need to grow up and let go of regrets. Does that sound judgemental? Good. That’s what ‘Past Trent’ is like. That said, in spite of his predisposition to be incisive and my current lack of a time machine, I would totally go back in time to fist-pound him for breaking the fourth wall of this article and getting all meta on your ass.
I kid though – bad time travel isn’t really about changing your past and nearly having sex with your mother *cough* Marty McFly *cough, cough* so much as it is accidentally screwing things up for the rest of the human race. Need an example? Think about that episode of the Simpsons where Homer tried to fix the toaster and it kept transporting him back to previous time periods. By accidentally squashing a bug, he changed the way things appeared in the future. The things that changed dramatically hardly seemed related to the life of the insect, but this one minute change in the flow of time had an irreversible effect on the future. Sure, this plot was totally lifted from A Sound of Thunder, but it does demonstrate an interesting theory surrounding the flow of time and the consequences of time travel: if we do exist along a linear timeline, how many alternate timelines does any one incident create? Is our future really better than any other?
If we someday manage to actually be able to visit previous times in what we perceive to be history, I would hope that we have the good sense to limit what we do and use as many restrictions as possible. Also, I hope we never have an asshole like Captain Janeway (she plays things way too fast and dirty with the Temporal Prime Directive).