Written Saturday, October 5, 2019

I've been wanting to publish stuff here for a while, and this just happened to be convenient, so... here it is. Lately I have done a ton of musing on the subject of time and how we experience it. Much of this post has crystallized from my idle pondering after having recently re-watched the cult classic movie Primer.


I think the main objection I have, personally, to the notion of "time travel" is that it is not accessible enough – which is really to say, the current mental frameworks (at least that I have access to) don't lead anywhere useful in that department. We get paradoxes, or multiple-universe questions, and generally it is impossible to do actual falsifiable research at all.

So I want to start simpler, just to see where our footing is, and we can go from there.

The first thing I want is not time travel but time visibility. Clearly this is actually a very well-understood field: we have history, which records information for later assessment. We have archaeology, which seeks to understand the past via careful inference and re-discovery of truth that may not have been explicitly recorded. And of course there are many ways to communicate through time; we leave messages for the future constantly.

A voicemail is a message to a future recipient. All "mail," really, is about communicating in some way, and the implication is always that the communication plays out towards the future. Someday someone will get this message, this reminder, this string tied on my little finger, this time capsule buried in the back yard.

Talking to the future (or the practical present) is effortless to us. We do it all the time.

And if we can shake loose from the objectivist prison briefly, humanity has a long and incredibly rich legacy of talking to the past.

These things are generally considered the domain of the spiritual – séances, voodoo, ritual magic. Many traditions regard it as taboo to commune with the dead; and many others do not. People describe dreams, visions, and conversations with others long gone. Sometimes these meetings occur unbidden (by the living, at least) and sometimes the participants are explicitly summoned.

Like any conversation or meeting, these fit into universal patterns of human experience. Some are chance. Accidental. Some are desperately sought after. Even creative minds trapped in the mire of "rationalist" western thinking cannot help but dream of the possibilities.

We still distinguish between what "science" can do and what would be mocked or scorned as "magical." But the wise of every era have warned against staying locked in our mental ways. Perhaps the only wall remaining in this prison is that our technology is not yet sufficiently advanced.

And perhaps, just maybe, it's plenty.

What if we're all just waiting for someone to sit around, bored and curious on a Saturday morning, to take a look at what they can find lying around... and make of it something more?