Time-Travel 1.0: A Post-Mortem

In order to ensure that my second round of experimentation is constructive, it is useful to examine the conclusion of the first run of time-travel experiments in greater detail.

There are several possibilities why my attempts to contact time-travelers failed. The first few have been discussed a great deal already, so I will discuss them briefly.

1.      Alternate timelines: It is possible that when a time-traveler goes into the past, their actions to alter the past create tangential timelines. The original timeline, in which they did not appear to alter events, remains. My main objection to this hypothesis was that my actions, by inviting a time-traveler to come to visit, have already created this chain of events.  In other words, the cause of the time-traveler’s actions- my invitation- remains in timeline A, so it follows that the effect of the invitation would also occur in timeline A instead of timeline B.

There is another, less-often discussed objection to the alternate timelines hypothesis, and that is because time-travelers (from their perspective) have unlimited time in which to meddle, the number if alternate timelines they have the capacity to create is without limit. Only the prime timeline will be free from encounters with time-travelers, and the possibility that we live in that timeline is infinitesimal. Practically speaking, there is no way for me to control for the alternate-timeline possibility experimentally (if I am wrong about this, please let me know.)

 

2.      The temporal prime-directive: In my initial assessment of the temporal prime-directive, I was dismissive due to the fact that rules are not airtight- people, given enough time, find reasons to bend or break rules. A time gate, or a Chronology Protection Agency, will also be broken eventually if created by people- even if these people are godlike. After all, the people trying to break the time gate will likely also be godlike, if this is the case.

 

I assign a higher probability to the idea that nature itself acts as a time gate. The laws of physics appear to have put a hard limit on speed at 186,000 miles per second, and they have surrounded stable singularities with lovely little event horizons, and I think that these types of limits would be far more difficult for people to crack, unless we transform ourselves into specific sub-atomic particles. (It would be really awesome to find a way to communicate with sentient sub-atomic particles. Perhaps we could do this with the clever use of time-crystals? Or maybe we just need to do the same thing we’ve been doing with SETI, and look for pulses of prime numbers amongst radio noise.)

 

3.      Informational noise: The informational noise hypothesis has been less-discussed. Anything that can be communicated, measured, and described in any quantitative or qualitative manner can be considered information, and as long as time and entropy exist, new information will be generated and subsequently lost. The information generated so far is finite, since the age of the universe is finite. But if time-travel happens, then time is no longer finite. From the time-traveler’s perspective, the amount of time that the time-traveler has to gather information is infinite, and the amount of new information that they can generate within their own timeline and by re-visiting and changing the past is infinite.

 

Therefore, the information that the time-traveler has access to and the time in which the time-traveler has to access said information is 1:1.

 

                    <——*———*———-*——>

                    <——*———*———-*——>

 

This remains true whether the timeline branches into a tangent when new information is generated or not.

 

4.      Unimportance: Even if a time-traveler could find the information I’ve generated amongst the noise, they have the whole of time and space to explore. I’m probably not cool enough to warrant a visit. Perhaps even a person we call a giant in our own time, such as Stephen Hawking, is not cool in a cosmic sense. Greater minds are sure to come in the future; even if humanity destroys itself, another more brilliant species will surely replace us, even if we don’t have infinite time to work with. We have a LOT of time to work with, and if a civilization gets access to time-travel, then they can generate people infinitely cooler than anyone I’ve ever known or heard of.

 

5.      Information degradation or sabotage: I dismissed this possibility in my initial conclusion, as well, because there was a window of time in which I could observe my information remain unchanged, and that should be enough time for a time-traveler to access it. However, if time-travel invitations are going to have a better chance of being noticed among all of the informational noise, then the invitation should be available at as many points on the timeline as possible.

 

SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, has been searching for aliens for a very short period of time- a blink of the eye, in the cosmic sense. Yet the question remains; if extraterrestrial intelligence can arise, why haven’t we found aliens, yet? It’s difficult to work out exactly how likely it is for intelligent life to arise, since we only have one example in one place from which to extrapolate, and so we continue to search. Likewise, it’s difficult to work out how likely we are to encounter a time-traveler, or to gain the ability to time-travel, so the only thing to do is keep looking. I’ve conducted my first practical experiment on time-travel, and the results have given me a lot to think about for the next experiment

 

I consider the lack of data on my first time-travel experiment to be invaluable. I’ll see you in the future, better prepared and a little bit wiser.

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Time Travel, Part IV

 

               This morning, July 15, 2018, I officially declare my time-traveler experiment complete. Below are the results.

      I have not been contacted by any time-travelers or prognosticators with the results of the dice rolls I made this morning at 8:30 am, CDT.

      1d12- 9

      2d6- 6,4

      2d20- 16,9

      1d30- 8

      1d8- 2

      1d100- 50

      1d6- 6

      1d4- 3

      1d12- 12

      1d12- 7

      1d20- 5

 

      In summation- no paradox-enabled time-travelers met me at the designated meeting place on week one. One person guessed the result of one of my paradox-safe dice rolls on week two, after I had already made the roll, and did not guess any of the other rolls. No one guessed the results of my rolls on week three after I’d offered them a lost sonata written by a singularly unaccomplished musician.

      I had planned to offer ever-increasing incentives until I reached my highest possible bid, and then declare the time-travel experiment closed. Unfortunately, earlier this week I came across the following story.

      Stephen Hawking and the time-traveler party.

      Stephen Hawking had already conducted an experiment similar to mine- he threw a party for time-travelers and sent the invitations out afterward. There was also an open invitation for time-travelers to attend his memorial. According to reports, no time-travelers came.

      I had actively been trying to avoid seeing the results of experiments similar to mine because I didn’t wish to grow discouraged, and that may have been wise. I know that I will never, ever be able to offer a time-traveler anything better than the chance to party with Stephen Hawking, or the chance to pay their respects him. I cannot compete with a giant. Therefore, my experiment is closed.

      Conclusion: Either there is no time-travel, time-travel is guarded by a secure gate or temporal prime directive, there is too much informational noise in the infinity of time for time-travelers to find invitations from the past, or the time-travelers can only reply to Bridgetts in tangential timelines. (Edited to add- someone has let me know that another possible confounder is that someone may tamper with my experiment or dice-roll results in the future. They have, after all, infinite time and opportunity to do so. This is less of a problem because there is a window in which I have already observed the results remain the same.)

      Things I wish I had considered: the possibility of my local starbucks being overrun by an infinite number of time-travelers, the possibility of my blog or twitter being overrun by an infinite number of messages from time-travelers.

Time Travel Part III

Last week, I issued a challenge to time-travelers (as well as any prognosticators who may be reading) to foretell the results of a series of dice rolls I was to make today, 07/08/2018 at 9:30 AM CDT. I promised to post the results of the rolls no matter the outcome of the experiment, in order to avoid any potential paradox. The results of the dice rolls are as follows.

1 d10- 5

1 d20- 18

3 d6- 6,2,2

3 d6- 5,2,5

1 d100- 73

1 d20- 13

1 d4- 4

1 d4- 4

1 d12- 1

1 d6- 4

2 d20- 2,8

Result: 1 person guessed 1 dice roll- the 1d20 (18) during a d6 dice roll. I assign a probability so low that it is negligible that this person is a time traveler. I hereby conclude that this experiment is a successful failure.

The person who made the guess has expressed to me the doubt that 1) a time-traveler would ever see my posts, considering the infinite informational noise contained within time. Even if time-travelers have infinite time to find your posts, they say, more information is being added in the meantime. To a time-traveler with unlimited time, I am infinitely unimportant.

I have no way to combat this effect experimentally, except to say to myself that an infinite subset of infinity seems to approach one, instead of “undefined” as they say (I’m not able to do the math as of yet- this is intuitive.) However, I cannot deny I my cosmic unimportance does approach infinity.

I only have one incentive to offer any time-travelers, and it is a mere trifle. I am going under the assumption that some time-travelers will become collectors of sorts, and seek out lost treasures in the time stream. To that end I am willing to offer any time-travelers a quaint little sonata I wrote when I was in college. I never wrote down or recorded the sonata, and it only exists in my brain. If and when I go, the sonata goes, too. If any time-travelers would like a copy of the sonata, send me the result of next-week’s dice rolls. I will roll early next Sunday, 07/15/2018, at 8:30 AM.

Time Travel, Part II

Putting my latte where my mouth is

 

A few days ago, I issued an open invitation over twitter to time-travelers.

“… I’m willing to test my theory. If there are any time travelers out there in the future, please meet me. I’ll know it’s you because you will already know the time, place, and password.”

I am writing this at the appointed meeting place, at the appointed time, and so far, no one has approached me with the password. There is a thirty-minute window, and after the window closes, I can officially call this experiment a successful failure, and enjoy my latte in peace.

It occurs to me, however, that my first time-travel experiment has invoked a paradox. By demanding that the time-traveler know the time and place of the meeting as evidence of their ability to time-travel, I’m creating a situation where the time-traveler will have already have had to met me in order to tell their past selves where to meet me, creating a closed loop. If the universe is hostile to such paradoxes, I will need to construct a paradox-free time travel test… if such a thing is even possible.

Time, it seems, creates enough paradoxes on its own.

However, I am willing to try to minimize potential paradoxes. Next Sunday, at 9:30 am, I will make a series of dice rolls and post the results to my blog, whether anyone replies to this post or not. If anyone from the future is reading this, please post a reply to this post with the dice-roll results before 9:30am on Sunday, July 08, 2018 either in the comments, or on twitter @bkkawaii.

I realize that one needn’t be a time-traveler per se to pass this test. One could be a prognosticator with either a type of “time telescope” that allows one to see into the future, or they may own a computer that can model the state of the physical world to such detail that it can predict how events will play out. Even seemingly random events, like dice rolls, follow predictable physical laws, after all. Such an ability is impressive enough in itself for me to entertain.

It is also possible that anyone who passes this test will have just gotten lucky. Even if it is really improbable that anyone will guess the dice rolls by random chance, this may still be more probable than time travel. I’ve already declared time-travel to be impossible, so it’s difficult for me to work out a number of dice-rolls to satisfy my standards of evidence. I figure I’ll just subject anyone who passes this test to further dice-roll challenges until I get bored with rolling dice, and then interrogate the subject further about their means.

In either case, the experiment continues. If it fails, I’ll be able to congratulate myself on a successful prediction, and if it is a success, I am bound for an awesome adventure. Either way, I probably look like a lunatic, which I am becoming more and more comfortable with.

Update: It is now 10:01 and no one has approached me with the password. The first experiment was not only a successful failure, but the experiment’s paradox did not destroy the universe. To my knowledge.

Time Travel (Sorry, but we never get it.)

Let’s not worry about physics, right now. Instead, let’s discuss how humans work and fail to work.

Humans fight, and when the stakes are high we use our intelligence to weaponize the tools that are available. This strategy worked very well for our ancestors on an individual or tribal level, because it is extremely difficult to destroy the world with a sharpened stick.

With time travel, however, the destruction of existence is guaranteed.

At first, everyone involved with time travel research may have nothing but the best of intentions. However, it’s just a matter of time before a serious conflict breaks out, and side A- desperate in a struggle to survive- decides to go back in time to fix the outcome of a battle.

Perhaps side A goes back in time to assassinate side B’s brilliant young general while he is in the bath, or perhaps they travel to the future to steal weapons from a more advanced age. If side A really wants to win, they will do both. Afterward, side B either sends their spies into side A’s camp and steals the secret of time travel, or side B gets the secret of time-travel from their descendants, who gained the secret of time travel during a period of peace with side A and then decided that peace was boring.

Either way, side B manages to retaliate against side A by going further back in time, fixing battles in their own favor, and bringing their past-selves technology- including time-travel technology. Side B’s past selves go backward to do the same thing, whose past selves also go backward, and on, and on, etc.

The best-kept secrets will be spilled, and the most important rules will be broken- including the temporal prime-directive. Given enough time, there will inevitably come a point when this seems necessary. Due to the way time war is waged, destruction and death will spread throughout the timeline, until there is nothing left.

In the beginning, Man destroyed the universe.

A universe with time-travel is fundamentally unstable. We exist, and therefore we do not ever get the ability to travel through time.

The first objection to this reasoning that I’ve thought of is that we may transform into some post-human species that is more enlightened than we, and can better resist the temptation to misuse time-travel. In such a case, I can only assert that given enough time (and with time-travel availability, time is no longer a limited resource) it is most probable that the technology will either fall into the hands of a less-enlightened species due to sheer accident, or that post-human enlightenment will evolve into post-post-human barbarity. Thus, no matter what species holds time-travel technology, instability is guaranteed.

The second objection I’ve anticipated is that perhaps, instead of looping into the same timeline when we time-travel, we create alternate branches of reality that fall apart when touched by time travel without tainting the main timeline. In other words, if side A travels back in time to fix the outcome of a battle, the future they return to is an alternate timeline where they win, and the original timeline continues untarnished. My response is that, in going back to fix the outcome of the battle, side A creates a paradox. Side A would only go back in time to fix the outcome of a battle if they originally lost or felt they had a poor chance of winning, and when they tamper with the timeline they destroy the conditions of them going back to fix the outcome of the battle to begin with. Thus, time travelers who originally lose the battle are transported to the timeline where they win, and the versions of themselves who win are duplicates of the versions of themselves who saw no reason to travel, and therefore stayed where they are. One of the timelines must be erased by the time-traveler’s actions; otherwise, multiple timelines are filled with time-duplicates, which creates its own sort of instability.

In either case, I suppose I don’t need my time-clone password anymore, which I created to recognize messages from my future self. My password wasn’t secure, anyway, because it exists somewhere in time and space.timewarp

Book 3 of The Coven is Out

Book Three of  The Coven novelization series is available on Amazon now. As usual, this novelization does include content not available in the serial. 

 

Solar Spectrum

Click here or above to purchase.

 

There is a sanctuary from the chaos that reigns in Aeterna.

After her husband’s arrest, Lady Grace Frey is sent into exile at del Sol, which is an abbey, pilgrimage, and hospital for the ill and broken. At del Sol, Lady Frey finds solace and support in the motherly attentions of Abbess Joy.
Grace also finds allies among the oppressed and the broken at del Sol, especially in the friendship of the mysterious Sister Jubilee. Grace soon learns, however, that Sister Jubilee hides a terrible secret under her veil that may tear their friendship apart.

The Solar Spectrum is the third novel in The Coven series, based on the web serial by Bridgett Kay.

Humility is not a Virtue, But Caution Can Be

I don’t have a breakthrough ethical system to present. I cut my teeth on Kant and Mills, and I haven’t come much further since. I prefer utilitarianism when working out difficult moral quandaries, and I try to make sound ethical choices in my everyday life. In one respect, however, I have been neglectful, and that has been in my behavior toward myself.

I am a sentient being who feels pleasure and pain; my happiness should carry as much moral weight as anyone else’s. Unfortunately, my moral intuition tells me something very different- that it is virtuous to treat myself badly.

It is altruistic to deprive yourself of pleasure to ease the pain of others, or to suffer pain in someone else’s stead. However, my moral intuitions do not seem capable of honestly judging when my pain or lack of pleasure will really help others. It feels as though, by always putting myself last, everyone around me should benefit, but that is far from the case.

Imagine living your whole life like this.

To show where my intuition is failing, consider the following scenario- Bridgett decides to go on a drive through her happy town one sunny day. She stops at a four-way stop, and there is a truck that rolls to a stop there as well. Bridgett knows she has the right-of-way, but she is feeling humble and deferential, and decides the nice thing to do would be to wave the truck on. She doesn’t lose much time that way, and the driver of the truck may be in a hurry.

Unfortunately, Bridgett failed to check her rear-view mirror, and misses the car that has stopped behind her. This car will also be inconvenienced by her act. In addition, the rules of the road have been muddied a little, and the more Bridgett adopts this behavior- the more everyone adopts this behavior- the more awkward pause-and-wave exchanges will happen at four-way stops.

Bridgett and the car behind her were mildly inconvenienced in this scenario, but let us move her off of the sleepy exurban street and onto a freeway. Bridgett usually avoids freeways, especially in cities, because she does terribly on them. In the dark corners of her mind, she has acted in a deferential manner so often that the state of Texas handbook might as well state “Bridgett never gets the right-of-way.” Bridgett knows that she has to get onto the ramp, speed up, and merge with freeway traffic, but her ingrained instincts are screaming at her to slow down and let everyone else go ahead.

Today there is a lot of traffic, and a zipper merge is required. Bridgett wants to let everyone ahead, but it seems there is a wall of cars without end. Bridgett hesitates on the gas- the merge lane will soon end, and she isn’t up to speed. Cars are whizzing past. The situation has become dangerous, and traffic is piling up behind her. This can result in a traffic jam in the best case, and an accident in the worst case.

There are unending situations in everyday life in which deferential habits can cause more harm than good. It’s a popular fact that depriving oneself may make one unable to help others at all- “put on your own oxygen mask first.” But in addition to this, when you lower yourself on the social hierarchy, you create a greater disparity that the unscrupulous are tempted to exploit. In a sense, you unbalance a social order that requires a good deal of fairness to operate. Zipper merges prevent accidents and traffic jams only if you are willing to go ahead when it is your turn.

 

#

 

Truth is something that exists outside of our notions of social hierarchy. Fire burns, and it will burn the hand of king and peasant alike, even if the king decrees that he alone is allowed to touch the flame.

Unfortunately, my intuition is unwilling to consider this in its reckonings. I have an unfortunate habit of apologizing for being right when I am shown to be correct in a factual disagreement, and sometimes I will even stay silent when I have knowledge that I should share.

My spouse is an uncommonly intelligent person who has the ability to notice and remember far more details than I can. I space out, and my memory is inconsistent. However, after a lot of introspection I’ve finally concluded that, though my brain may be quirky, I’m not actually stupid. I can keep up with my spouse on an intellectual level at least enough to carry on very interesting conversations, to banter point and counterpoint with him on complex topics, and to be an interesting and entertaining companion to him.

Even so, I still have a hard time stepping out of my self-appointed deferential role. To give a fairly mundane example- not too long ago my spouse was returning a product to the manufacturer, and we went to the UPS store to get a box and label for shipping. The manufacturer requested that the product code be written on the box, so my spouse wrote it on the side in sharpie. He was filling out the label when I noticed a missing digit on the product code he had written.

It took me a few moments to work up the courage to point it out, and even then, I did so in a little faltering voice- “um, I think the five is missing?” I had no reason to add the question mark- I knew the five was missing- but I added the question mark to the end of my sentence anyway.

My spouse, being the reasonable human he is, checked the number and corrected it. I apologized for correcting him as we left the UPS store, but he insisted that he was of glad I had pointed out the error, and thanked me for my help.

Had he not been so understanding- if instead of being a nice person he’d been an arrogant jerk- he might have sneered at my correction. He might have insisted he was right, and pointed out both my astigmatism and my short attention span as evidence that I must be wrong. In fact- he might have just insisted he was smarter than me, and therefore I should shut my mouth. After all, why would a smart person deign to check the number on the box per the mere word of a bespectacled goofball?

If he had acted so, would his arrogance have been the opposite of the mistake I almost made when I hesitated to point out the product code error? In other words, if the jerk version of my spouse had felt less sure of himself, would be have been more willing to check the number? Or would he have fought to maintain the status differential between us, and been less willing to check? From what I’ve seen in arguments between people who view themselves that differently, I believe the latter- a person of very high status, and who finds their high status to be important, is less willing to check an error pointed out by someone of a very low social status.

Conversely, if I had been the one to write the number on the box, and someone else had pointed out an error to me, I would have instantly re-written the number without checking what I’d written. I assume I am wrong, and do not seek to justify myself before altering my behavior to suit others.

I propose that the evil version of my spouse and the current version of me are two sides of the same coin- that we are actually making two versions of the same mistake instead of different mistakes altogether. We are using our sense of relative status as the standard to determine the reliability of information instead of making an analysis of the information itself.

You might argue that relative status can be used as a heuristic to analyze the source of information, but such a heuristic can actually blind one to making an honest examination of the information source- and an excuse to ignore it altogether. If the evil version of my spouse cared more about knowledge than status, he might have considered the fact that, while I do have an astigmatism, my glasses were clean and my prescription up-to-date. He might have considered that, while I usually walk around in a fog, the very fact that I pointed out the error was an indication that I was paying more attention than usual. If the evil version of my spouse had thought about the matter further, he might have realized that product codes are generally long and confusing strings of characters, and that it would be helpful to have a general policy of double-checking them, just in case.

In other words, status hierarchies can be somewhat useful, but are inadequate and outdated technology for analyzing anything truly complicated. It is more useful to ulitise caution instead of humility- to check for mistakes in one’s self regularly not because you think that you are stupid, but because you know that you are a buggy system who deals with complex information.

If I am a buggy system, does that necessarily make me a bad system? If I am, does thinking I am ‘bad’ tell me where I am going wrong? Will calling myself a fool fix my errors? No, it won’t. In fact, this kind of self-flagellation tends to increase my errors. Feeling humble and deferential has held me back, kept me quiet, and made me hesitate to contribute to a society I could otherwise help. At the very least, it has caused me to neglect my own moral worth. Reminding myself that automatic deference will not help anyone is an effective way of countering it. I imagine that thinking overconfidence will not help one’s self may be similarly helpful in overcoming that error.