Seriously, man, this explains nothing.
Seriously, man, this explains nothing.
Seriously: send a drone. Why? Because:
Turns out even celebrated wizards have to poop in a ditch.
Seriously. Going back in time means, among other things, that you are going to be dealing with unacceptably primitive dentistry. Doesn’t matter if you’re traveling to 48 BC, 1925 AD, or last month: the dentists are going to be horrible, as compared to right this moment. And if you go to the future to enjoy the glorious dentistry of 2346 AD, you’re probably going to end up dying of whatever horrible space flu that’s been busily breeding itself in the interim*. Just send back a probe, or something. That’ll get you most of the stuff that you wanted from the trip anyway, and you won’t die of either an abscessed tooth, or Pluto’s Revenge.
*You’d think more people would do stories about protagonists who go to the future and then promptly get sick from all the hyper-evolved viruses that have spawned as a result of the antibiotic wars. Then again, spending valuable wordcount on mega-dysentery is probably ill-advised.
The Ouroboros Sanction
Organizations that routinely use time travel will inevitably encounter people or groups who just refuse to respect everybody else’s temporal space. There’s just something about being able to go backwards and forwards in time that encourages a certain kind of individual… to wit, the kind of individual who can be described as ‘sociopathic,’ ‘megalomaniacal,’ or even ‘apocalyptic.’ The problem with punishing people for acting according to those impulses is that time travellers can theoretically go back later and retroactively undo whatever it was that got them caught in the first place. Or, if the time traveller is personally isolated from time travel, then the traveller’s friends, allies, or minions might do it for them. It’s hard to jail a time traveller, is what the situation is here.
One answer to this conundrum is the Ouroboros Sanction: it is a fairly vicious sort of time trap. Using somewhat hyper-advanced temporal technology, a piece of a timeline (typically, no more than a hour or two) can be ‘looped,’ then pinched off from the rest. The target is then injected into the looped time and… forgotten, typically. Inside the looped time, everyone and everything only experiences the time caught in the loop; as the timeline resets, so does their memories and surroundings. And that includes any rescue parties: if you don’t get your target out on the first try, you probably won’t be able to do it at all on your own.
Ouroboros Sanctions are never going to be popular, except in distinctly unpleasant and dystopian game worlds. Indeed, in some game worlds it’s not so much a ‘punishment’ as it is a ‘war crime.’ But even in worlds where the Sanctions are illegal there’s still going to be people exercising them. Because sometimes horrible things need to happen to horrible people… for given values of ‘horrible,’ of course.
TimeWatch is Pelgrane Press’s time-travel RPG (uses GUMSHOE), and the books are very very pretty and very very nice. I got the books early via the Kickstarter, and I think that it may very well become the go-to game for time travel campaigns (not that there are all that many RPGs that concentrate on that, of course). Plus, I have a campaign concept rattling around in my head that I know that the game will support. So, check it out.
Fine. Just take my dang money, then.
These people are insidious, I’m telling you. Insidious.
But it’s a moral quandary that requires the assumption that evil is a supernatural force that exists independently of perceived reality. If there is no evil, then what’s the big deal about discovering that your beloved great-grandfather (at least) would have been a bloodthirsty mass murderer and tyrant in an alternate timeline? He never killed anybody in your world, right? I mean, I’m sure that if alternate timelines do exist then there’s a few out there where I’m a thoroughly rotten human being. Or you are. Or [INSERT NAME HERE] is. I’m not really losing sleep over it.
Still, I supposed that it’d be a bit jarring, in that specific case.
PS: Sorry about this post avoiding spoilers. My blogging is a little clumsy this week, I know.
The problem with this argument is that you cannot quite just not take it seriously:
A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.
“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”
Or, rather, that the reasons why you shouldn’t take this theory seriously involve physics that is beyond… well, I’m sure that my readers all understand them, but I remember being told that there was going to be no math involved, so I cheerfully take it on faith that there’s a reason why Niven’s Law (“If the universe of discourse permits the possibility of time travel and of changing the past, then no time machine will be invented in that universe”) doesn’t apply here. Although I was very pleased to see that I had independently come to the same conclusion as Hans Moravec on the inevitable impossibility of time travel. It seems… logical.