Tuesday 18 March 2008

The Terminator and altering the future/past

I remember having a discussion about the plausibility of one aspect of the movie, The Terminator. A man appears and saves Sarah Conner and ends up being the father of her child, John. That child, in the future, sends the man back in time to save Sarah Conner. However, I had the scenario wrong and I was arguing that the child went back in time and was his own father. (This is not really a post about the Oedipus complex. Bear with me.) Viewed in linear-time, you have something like the following (and track left to right with your eyes):


where \/ is a man who was not born yet appearing out of no where and /\ is a man disappearing into no where. So, the question is: How can a man who has not been born yet appear at some point in time. And if he can't appear then how can be ever be born?

But if we take the view of time as stations along a train track, as Anthony discusses in ITLAD, then you have something more like the following (and look at the whole picture at once):

| /|\

So, you can see that it makes more sense. The man goes back in time and is capable of being a father and meets a woman and they have a baby. That baby happens to grow up to go back in time and is capable of being a father ... Cause and effect are removed from the equation because all the pieces are there, always will be there, always have been there. This would be the view that time is an artifact of our perception. Nothing really changes in this view. Things happen and it's harder to assign cause and effect to the various pieces.

Now think about events where death was averted (such as in not taking our usual train because of a strong feeling that we should wait and the train crashes). To say that we avoided death or that our life was changed implies a linear time concept with cause and effect. What happens now changes what happens in the future. But if we think about the events in our life as static and we are merely tracking through them, then what we do now does not alter the future because the future has already been mapped out. So, we chose not to take the A train and thus avoided the fatal crash because that's what we do -- present tense.

I realize this all seems very boring and deterministic and does not leave room for free will, chance, randomness, whatever. But I've been thinking about our BIMAX and what if the recording was made at the Big Bang? What if the flow of time REALLY is an artifact and our DVD has always existed and we are simply watching a pre-recorded recording? I'm not quite finished ITLAD yet but Anthony spends quite some time on the nature of time and I'm wondering why since all the BIMAX, Many Worlds, etc. pieces seem to rely on time moving forwarded with the future unknown.

If any of this makes a lick of sense to you, comments are appreciated. Thank you and "I know you are going to say that" ;-)


SM Kovalinsky said...

KEN; I understand and appreciate all that you say here. It all makes sense to me. But there still must be room for mutations; hence, there may be multiple tracks prexisting, notwithstanding what you say about the nature of time.

ken said...

SUSAN MARIE-- Yes, I agree that there can be multiple tracks but would not they be all pre-defined as well? They would be like different sets of train tracks connected together but their own stations all existing.

Ah, maybe that's it. Perhaps the moment we don't take the A train is when we switch tracks. We've "avoided" the death that was coming up on this track by moving to another track but we haven't really changed anything except the location of our consciousness. The death on this track remains a finite and definite event but one not experienced by "me."

And now I have the strange feeling I've heard all of this before. Or read it somewhere. But where? Nothing like re-inventing the ITLADian wheel. But it is starting to gel together for me as I always end up "there".

Thanks for the nudge, Susan Marie, onto a different track of thought, so to speak.

SM Kovalinsky said...

I quite agree with all you've added; and I thank you as well! Quite clarifying, really.

ken said...
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Jesamyn said...

WOW!!! ... most interesting!!! and NOT boring at all... now if your diagram was drawn as a circle.... hhmmm why does it take me back to when I was 6 years old and had some gas at dentists and had a vision of myself following a pink line around and around a globe, I kept waiting for it to terminate and then realised it never would... and reading that time is circular, and that we are given so many clues to this FOR THE DUMMIES!!!!i.e from the very whorls of our fingerprints and the crown of our head which is a spiral, to the cosmos itself... The idea of going back in time has fascinated all of us as in the Time Machine but more likely we go forward in time.. or do we just go around and around???Thank you both... lately the movie reviews have been fascinating but I dont go to the movies much!!! I need this food for thought...oh Mr Peake can you not get the presses rolling for your second book?!!!

ken said...

Ah, yes, Jesamyn, the circle. It "expresses the relatively self-contained wholeness of the individual psyche; totality has been symbolized by the circle or sphere from time immemorial" [Jacobi, The Psychology of C.G. Jung]

I have, running around inside my head, ideas about circles, records (i.e. LPs), spirals, strange attractors, and fractals. Oh, and Slaughterhouse Five, too. I hope to write a post soon.

ra from ca said...


I have great trouble believing you are a virgin in any respect.

You are far to wise for this to be your first time around.

SM Kovalinsky said...

That is what I have always thought regarding Karl. He is clearly putting us on. . .