I just deleted 53826 spam emails. 53826. I have an old Freeserve account which transferred to Orange and somehow I forgot to check it for just over two weeks. That’s how so many stupid messages offering me penis enhancements, online degrees, millions of pounds to be transferred to my bank account due to lottery wins/someone dying/a newly found relative came to be in my inbox.
In conjunction with this, I read my brother’s facebook status (conveniently amongst the emails) which said ‘Time travel can’t be true due to the lack of evidence of any time travellers.’ I completely take his point; I have never met a time traveller. Or seen a time traveller on the news. It occurred to me, though, that we may be perceiving time travel as something magical, a sort of ‘Back to the Future’ scenario, or, more lately and less convincingly, ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’. I would contest this and suggest that time travel simply means that we are travelling back to the past or into the future.
As we are only ever present now, and that now is instantly the past, we have memory to rely on to take us back. We cannot know what will happen in the future, but probability theory helps to take us there and can even give us different future scenarios.
However, advances in technology and particularly devices with large artificial memories make retrieval of ‘the past’ and prediction of ‘the future‘ much more possible. Concentrating on the past, I was talking to someone the other day who had a bad experience on the internet. Someone who they knew had written something bad about them on a forum. They had named them and written some libelous words. The forum moderator had left the post up but removed my friend’s name. However, when he used a search engine to search for his name, the forum still came up on the listings.
His main worry was about the rest of his life, or the future. He predicted that at some point, perhaps when he applied for a job, someone would google his name. They would inevitably travel back in time to the past and see what the libelous person had written about him, even though it had been changed afterwards. This indelible stain on his character would now be a place where others, at the touch of a button, can travel to and which may predict, even change, his future.
Another example is the picture at the top of this page. The boy on the right is my son, who I have not seen for two years. This picture was taken on my birthday in 2005, in a happier time, at a party. When I look at this picture I feel all the emotions connected with my son, and a happiness I felt on that day. It seems impossible in the moment I write this blog that I could have once been pointing a camera at my son, someone I miss so much, in the same room as him, because in this moment he it is impossible for me to be with him. This photograph with certainly influence my future because it enables me to retain a clear memory of my son’s face, and help the memory of him not to fade. Maybe this is what time travel really is, a relocation of the self to another point in time through the memory, be it human or artificial networks.
It struck me that when we are looking for evidence, there is a strong practice of dualism, that is, the mind and the body somehow separated. We rely heavily on our sensory perception, which is severely limited by our psychological experience to perceive only what we ‘believe’. If our psychological belief system is narrow, then so will be our sensory experience of life. The power of our mind is limitless and, once open to enquiry, opens up our sensory system to all kinds of new possibilities.
We’re always looking for magical evidence, that audacious event that ‘proves’ something for once and for all. Perhaps it would be better to consider the simple, often taken for granted, explanations in front of us in this very moment and believe in them?