There has been some interesting feedback on one of my facebook posts recently. The question I posed was ‘What would you do if you could go back in time and change one thing?’ and the comments that it received are quite diverse, sometimes personal and rather sad.
There were a number that fitted the classic ‘Grandfather’ paradox, a phrase that goes back to 1931, that encompasses any alteration of the past to affect the future. A popular version of this being the killing of Hitler’s parents, therefore leading to his never existing and therefore the avoidance of WW2. Many philosophical debates have contemplated this paradox. By removing the event from history, does one not negate the original reason for going in the first place? So how does that affect the millions of lives that were changed by the war and the terrible things that were done? Who knows what would have happened instead, would the Russians take the place of the Nazi’s? We will never know.
One get-out-of-jail card with the Grandfather Paradox is the multiple worlds theory. That by taking action you create a parallel version of reality – leaving the original one untouched, but now you exist in this new branch and all the consequences that your actions bring.
Others argue that the contradiction that changing the past would bring (the fact that it should already have happened), makes time travel impossible. However, some scientists and philosophers argue that time travel is possible provided there is no possibility of changing the past, Novikov self-consistency principle is often cited as one principle that tries to deal with the problems of paradoxes.
In the Anachronist, the Oblivion Order are tasked with manipulating the past to keep the time continuum in check. Their temporal scientists (Copernicans) have devised an entire branch of mathematics to the calculation of time and the best route into the future. Paradoxes are avoided by the fact that the members of the order are not restricted by linear time, they remain aware of the reasons for the changes they have made, documented as they are in their computational model – known as the Continuum which is kept within an Infinity Engine.