T is for Time Travel

| March 7, 2014
1. Traveling backwards through time is the most interesting aspect of time travel, at least philosophically. Traveling forwards through time is rather boring in that we do it every day, we are always traveling into the future. It obviously gets more interesting if you are able to travel into the future at a faster rate, but it doesn’t bring to the forefront any particular philosophical conundrums the way that backwards time travel does. It also doesn’t create to many problems in physics, as it doesn’t require one to pass through the light speed barrier in order to travel into the future faster. You just have to get closer to the speed of light, the closer you are, the faster you will travel through time.
2. Backwards time travel works differently. It requires you to break through the light speed barrier, which seems impossible. But let’s suspend physics for a minute and look at the logic of time travel as depicted through films.
3. Back to the Future is completely incoherent with regards to its time travel scenario. There is no way that Marty McFly could stop his parents from getting together and therefore abolish his own existence. How could he break up his parents if he were never born in the first place? The main aspect of coherent time travel is that the past does not change, whatever happened already happened. It is in the past and there is nothing you can do to change it.
4. La Jetee, a film by Chris Marker, presents a coherent version of time travel. In this short film, the main character is haunted by a childhood memory of seeing a man shot on a pier. Later in life, he is put through time travel tests. We discover that the man who was shot on the pier was himself. He saw, as a child, his own death as an adult traveling through time. His time traveling self became a part of the past, he didn’t change the past.
5. The Terminator presents a philosophical paradox of the causal information loop. In the movie, a cyborg travels back in time and gets destroyed. But his arm remains intact. Cyberdyne Systems finds the arm and uses its technology to build the machines, which in turn take over the world and send one of their machines back in time, which gets destroyed, save for an arm, which is found by Cyberdyne, etc. The question then becomes, ‘Who invented the machines?’
6. These three films (all of which are incredible) present the science and philosophy of time travel through an artistic lens. Does the incoherence of Back to the Future make it worse than the others? I am unsure about this, but it brings up another question regarding coherence to logic. Is art an area where one can break the rules of logic and still work (in the sense of working on non-logical levels)? Maybe art is the realm that logic can be both investigated and destroyed.