September 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
If a time machine were to be invented, the risks and uncertainties involved in manipulating the past or future would mean that such a device should never be used. The smallest action in an alternate time could irrevocably change the present in any number of ways, and even using the device just once to see what happens would much too risky.
Traveling to the past is the most problematic; everyone is of course aware of the grandfather paradox and the “butterfly effect” theory. Even going back in time with the intent to do something for the good of humanity—to assassinate Hitler, for example—would not necessarily have the intended effect. Who is to say that in the absence of Hitler, someone equally or more evil would not rise to power? And if WWII had not proceeded exactly as it did, what would the world’s economic situation be like now? Perhaps we would not have the wealth or knowledge to invent something like a time machine.
Traveling to the future and then returning to the present is also problematic, but less so because the future is not deterministic. For example, traveling to the future, learning where and when a natural disaster happens, and returning to the present to warn people would help people in the present. The future, of course, would then be different, but that wouldn’t matter to people living in the present. The biggest problem with traveling to the future would be unintentionally returning with a disease or some deadly invention from the future that we don’t have the knowledge or capacity to deal with in the present. Something like that would have the capacity to destroy the world as we know it.
A third option is traveling to the future and never returning to the present. This wouldn’t have an effect on the present, but I would not want to do this anyway; I don’t believe that life would necessarily be better in the future. The rate at which we are polluting the planet and using its resources, as well as the growing conservatism, anti-intellectualism, and economic disparities, makes me un-envious of future generations. Time-travelling to the future wouldn’t be worth the risk of being stuck in a world worse than the present.
For these reasons, if I had access to a time machine, I would never use it. In fact, I would do everything within my power to destroy it or to prevent anyone else from using it. The risks and uncertainties greatly outweigh any potentially positive outcomes.