Wednesday, November 28, 2012

To Time Travel…or Not To Time Travel (THAT is the question…)

            Everyone wants to find a device that can send him or her back to the past or into the future. Everyone wants to go back in time and either fix something, relive something, or take a whole different approach altogether; or jet into some future period of time to see if everything they DIDN’T fix, relive or re-approach works out ok.
            It’s natural for humans to want to control time. We seek to control our space, why not the passage of time? Yet what few people contemplate when they fantasize about time travel are those pesky paradoxes and ethical questions, such as: if you went back and fixed the past, might you somehow be breaking the future? Or how about this one: If you make a tiny change to your own past, how are you affecting the pasts, presents and even futures of everyone you came in contact with, because, let’s face it, we are all tied into the same fabric of existence. We are all links in the chain of cause and effect. So change your cause, and you may be changing the causes, and thus, the effects, of so many other lives.
            What gives you the right?
            Imagine a whole new branch of law...time travel law. A whole new field of ethical studies...time travel ethics. People suing others in court for changing their present, altering their future, all without their consent. It could happen, should we somehow master the technological and scientific aspects of time travel, and find a way to breach the limitations of light speed and bypass the existing laws of physics that keep us grounded in the present. At least as of now.
            Time travel is within our grasp, albeit theoretically at this point. But with the exponential increase of knowledge and progress, it’s only a matter of, pun intended, time before we figure out how to get from here to there...or maybe from now to then. Experiments with particle physics at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, outside of Geneva, Switzerland, may lead to proof of particles that can outpace light speed, or proof of wormholes that can act as shortcuts through space/time and get us from Point A to Point B, even if Point B is in the past, or the future. Meanwhile, the world of quantum physics is constantly pushing the outside of the envelope of our understanding of the bizarre nature of the most fundamental energy and form, and how perhaps at this level, we have already achieved time travel, albeit minutely.
            Regardless of when we finally master moving through time physically, we still have to face the fact of those paradoxes that ask if we can, indeed, go back in time, kill our Grandfather, and still exist to write about it in the present. Or whether we can alter the future without it also “reaching back” in time to alter the present, and the past... Hell, it’s almost like pulling on tiny threads in a patchwork quilt, and wondering if the whole damn thing will unravel, despite your best intentions to only get rid of that pesky thread.
            The ethical question of whether or not any of us, individually or collectively, has the right to alter and mess with the chronological order of things, will no doubt be debated even once we have achieved physical escape velocity, whether by Tardis or by tube, via black hole or wormhole or rip in the fabric of space/time...Who will decide what can be changed in terms of history, and what is not to be messed with? Who will determine the extent of our alterations and warn those who may be affected by our desires to fix what we alone deem broken, or what we alone regret?
            It just doesn’t cross too many minds, this question of “do we or don’t we,” probably because we all know we will, if we can. That’s the human spirit, for good or for bad. If we have the opportunity, even knowing the risks, we’ll go for it.
            Perhaps the most successful Fortune 500 companies of the future will be led by lawyers devoted to time travel cases. Imagine the Law Office of Delorean and Tardis.
            It could happen.