No Thanks

September 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m not sold on the idea of time travel—and not from an exclusively practical standpoint either. While thinking about time travel can be entertaining, the truth is that if I found/were presented with a time travel device I’d probably destroy it. At the least I’d walk away. No, I’d probably destroy it.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from both fairy tales and science fiction, it’s to never trust anybody or anything that promises remarkable power. Bad stuff happens. People die. You promise to trade your firstborn to a dwarf so that he’ll spin enough golden thread to keep your head attached to your shoulders. Skynet becomes self-aware. Someone invents a virus that promises to cure cancer and, one thing leading to another, Will Smith is suddenly running around Manhattan with a sniper rifle on his back, talking to department store dummies.

Bad stuff.

Any time travel scenario in which the traveler leaves his destination unchanged seems utterly unrealistic. That’s because when we talk about time travel we imply more than just moving from one space-time coordinate to another. We imply altering causal chains—we mean power. And while that aspect of time travel is most often stressed when traveling into the past, it’s equally true for the future. Never mind that you didn’t want to use that power—if you only wanted to look around, sealed inside a contraption meant to keep the environment safe from you. Your mere existence in a place can change it. You pressed the start button, didn’t you? You took the fruit from the tree; there’s no putting it back. But if you take out the power, then you take out the appeal. And I’ve never seen an apple without a peel hanging from any tree.

Like I said—bad stuff. And I haven’t even started talking about all those Star Trek “alternate universe” characters with goatees.



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§ One Response to No Thanks

  • hjsl says:

    I also agree with you that the logistics of keeping a destination pristine upon departure is so messy and nearly impossible, but I don’t think I can be so bold as to destroy the machine without using it at least once. It is too tempting not to transport yourself back an hour so that I can have extra time to finish that last page of an essay.


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