On the strange paradox of time travel

Just like the next guy, I love a great time travel paradox, frustrated by the fact that hypothetically a return to the past is possible, doubly frustrated that the real world doesn’t seem to understand the hypothesis. Time travel equations seem to indicate that time runs both forward and backward, but our reality only seems to run one way, which is why the equations are deceptive. A cup that has been knocked onto the floor and breaks stays broken, and unless you have a good supply of superglue, the cup will stay broken. Yet I am skeptical that even if we could go back in time and avoid breaking the cup altogether, we should. Since our past is filled with so many errors, follies, and foolishness, I don’t think there is enough time in the world to fix them. You would have to answer the question, which errors would be worth correcting, but the bigger question remains: if you fix a mistake, what might the “butterfly effects” be? Precisely because you have corrected a perceived error, have you inadvertently created others? Is it possible that you might disappear if a mistake in 1789 were corrected? The answer, of course, is yes. Since the only timeline that we know is the result of millions of individual mistakes, we must leave history as it is because we have no conception of the possible dangers of changing the most minimal detail in the past. Well, you say, what about big mistakes such as Hitler? It is hard to imagine a world in which Hitler never lived, but then again, the current world we have now is a direct result, for better or worse, of many of Hitler’s policies and decisions. How would his death as an infant effect us now? The answer, of course, is unknowable, unfathomable, but at the same time, intriguing. So the cup falls, breaks, and gets swept into the trash, and we are unable to avoid it’s destruction. We are the result of a single direction causality stream of which we are completely unaware at any given moment, but that, with hindsight, we describe after the fact as history. Of course, a causality stream is also a bit of a mystery because human interaction, although predictable within certain chaotic parameters, is essentially unpredictable at the macro-level, is essentially unpredictable at any given moment, and if we were to run the same causality scenario at any given moment, the outcomes may be radically different. If we were to time travel, we would always be in danger of introducing new factors into the time equation. “Back to the Future” reminds us only too well that even one’s best intentions can screw up a carefully built series of causes and effects. I fear that the impossibility of time travel may be for our own good, and that if we could time travel, that this might be the end of the world as we know it. The biggest problem I see is going back and meeting your own younger self and contaminating the future or possibly even causing yourself to disappear at some point. The cup falls, breaks, and gets swept into the trash. You go to the store to replace the cup, meet a new person, fall in love, get married, have children, one of whom becomes the president of the United States who averts a world-ending atomic holocaust, and you die of old age in your bed at age 102 after 76 years of marriage to a wonderful person who you met after breaking a tea cup. You avoid breaking the cup, you never go to the store, you never get married, you live alone, never having had children, dying in an atomic holocaust that ends life on this planet as we know it. It’s complicated, isn’t it?