The Non-existent Time Travelers Paradox
A theory by Devopam Baidya
Time travel is a fascinating topic. According to Einstein time and space can be bent and if that were possible then opposite ends could very well meet, opposites being the past and the future.
Countless movies have been made based on time travel and has since paved the way for our imaginations to wander off into incredible endless possibilities. In movies the obvious actions are portrayed wherein the protagonist goes back in time and changes his past in the most favourable way and then returns to the present to a completely new world where his worst fears and regrets have been wiped clean. He goes on trips through time visiting landmarks in history making himself a part of something incredibly exciting and exclusive! When conscience kicks in, he changes devastating events in the past to save lives! After all of this is over, he comes back to his time and sleeps peacefully in his bed.
While all of this sounds great I believe there is a certain buzz kill to it. If I were to assume that time travel is possible then the above mentioned movie stereotypes would come to life but if I were to look at time travel realistically then these events would indeed happen but at the same time, never happen.
A hypothetical situation would explain my theory best. Let’s take Kevin. Kevin had a horrible accident ten years ago which resulted in him losing a leg. For obvious reasons he regrets drinking and driving that night and how he wishes he would’ve never left home. Ten years later he comes across a time machine and decides to go back in time to avert the accident. Let’s call the Kevin from ten years ago- ‘young Kevin.’
Kevin goes back in time to one day before the accident. It doesn’t matter which course of action he takes to avert the accident, the paradox will still apply. Let’s say for dramatic effect, Kevin talks to ‘young Kevin’ and convinces him to not go drinking the next day but to stay at home. The moment he decides to stay the accident has already been averted which in turn ripples through all events starting from the supposed accident till the moment ‘future Kevin’ meets ‘young Kevin’ non-existent. So ‘future Kevin’ will not have time travelled at all.
Now the question of whether ‘young Kevin’ would remember ‘future Kevin's’ visit pops up after all ‘future Kevin’ did just make a huge impact on his life. As inconsequential as this question might sound, the memory of the said change would spell existence of the same which would defeat the paradox. The answer is no, he won’t remember. The paradox kicked in with ‘young Kevin’s’ decision to stay and since he stayed home the REASON (being the accident) which created the thought-of-change skipped existence and resultantly the THOUGHT was never passed onto ‘future Kevin’ because it was never created. In a nutshell, while his decision to stay at home will exist, the reason behind this decision will simply disappear.
His stay at home would now just be a choice that ‘young Kevin’ made and not an influenced one. Since the accident did not happen, ‘future Kevin’ will be erased from ‘young Kevin’s’ past and the entire course of young Kevin’s future will change and would now be completely different since all of his choices and decisions will now NOT be influenced by any accident whatsoever.
After the deterrence of the accident his actions may not necessarily lead him to even acquiring the time machine in the future in the first place as his coming across the time machine had been a result of a cocktail of choices, decisions and actions heavily influenced by factors and experiences caused by the accident in one way or another. In fact, he may very well never time travel in his life.
If he does come across a time machine by pure chance he will be oblivious to the fact that he went back in time and changed an incident be it of personal nature or otherwise which is when he would use the time machine again for changing some other event in his life which he wants changed. This will create an infinite loop provided for some unknown reason he keeps finding the time machine again and again and the entire process will continue to happen infinitely till the day of his death, completely unknown to him.
He might very well have travelled through time an infinite number of times but at the same time he never did. That’s the paradox.
It is ONLY when a successful change has been made in the past by a time traveler that this paradox will kick in. If there is an incident in a person’s life that he wants changed then either the ‘future him’ has never come across a time machine till the time of his death or the ‘future him’ has decided to not change that aspect of his past. It’s the things that you don’t pay attention to or have taken for granted that might’ve been the result of a successful “fixing” by the ‘future you’ (in case of Kevin it is walking) and hence you wouldn’t know about it because the moment you have a thought-of-change, that thought itself will be made non-existent by future you because the successful change was so impossibly immediate that you would’ve never have thought of changing the incident in the first place.
If we were to put this paradox into practice-The history of our world or of the universe may look like they have been written down in stone and have been handed down through the ages but there is a good chance that what we have known our entire lives has just been changed this very second because of some random time travelers actions somewhere at this very moment in the past and hence history as we “know it” has been re-written for all humanity which incidentally now is something we’ve known our “whole lives.” These changes could be happening at every tenth of a second of our lives but we wouldn’t know about it since the changes have taken place at the root of it which was in the past possibly for an infinite number of times. The ‘future you’ might very well have just changed the course of your present at this very second. You could very well be directly responsible for changing history in case you ever do come across a time machine and decide to change the past.
But you yourself will never know.
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