There are many theories of time travel, from split timelines to multiple dimensions. Over the years I have put a lot of thought into time travel and the inherent paradoxes it seems to create, and devised my own theory to solve the time travel equation. I believe I have a theory that adheres to logic and eliminates paradoxes, and it doesn’t include a nuclear explosion if two time travel objects get near each other as occurs in recent time travel shows and movies such as Continuum and 12 Monkeys.
Setting aside the plausibility of how to time travel, I will share my theory on how time travel would work if it ever could be possible. This includes why time travel will probably never exist and why even if it did, it would not matter or have any effect on subjective reality.
Essentially, the base of my theory is that if there ever was time travel, there would not be any separate timeline branches or multiple universes. I believe there to be a single timeline. I believe that time is linear, and even if it were possible to traverse forward or back, then it would not change anything.
Time travel theory: what is now, always was
The idea is that if one could step back in time, for example, then the reality is that they always have. Let us plot two points in time to make it less confusing in time. Let us use the first point as right now, and the second point as some historical event, such as Y2K, New Year’s on the year 2000.
If someone stepped back in time, I believe that there would be no separate time “before” in which the time traveler was ever not there. For example, suppose the time traveler from today travels back into the year 2000. My theory is that if at any point in history the traveler from the present or any traveler from the future, in all of time, ever travels back to the year 2000, then when the year 2000 occurred the first time, then that time traveler was there.
There is no “before”, where at first at 12am in the year 2000 the time traveler was not there, and then after a couple days events changed and now the time traveler was there. This change is the traditional understanding of time travel, where for example right now there is no time traveler in your room, but then a few decades later a time traveler travels back and now that time traveler is in your room right now. I do not believe this to be true.
Can time travel ever cause an event to be changed?
Essentially what I am saying is that I do not believe that events could ever be changed. The event that occurs is the event that always occurred. If there is no time traveler there, then there never will be, ever, because if there were then they would have been there in the first place.
What I am saying can be hard to wrap your head around. Let me give an example. People like to use tragic events such as the JFK assassination as a justification for time travel in which to change that event.
However, here is what I believe about the nature of time. If time travel were possible, then it does not matter, because you cannot stop JFK from getting assassinated. Why? Because if you could, and anyone ever would, then being saved by a time traveler is how it would have happened the first time.
Time travel to prevent an assassination attempt
What this means is that every event that ever happened is the way it happened with or without the presence of time travelers. For example, let’s talk about someone who was saved by an assassination.
On May 12, 1982 Pope John Paul II had an assassination attempt but survived. Let’s say that hypothetically he was saved by a time traveler. By traditional time travel rules, there would first have been a time in which the Pope was killed, and then a time traveler went back and saved him.
However, by my time travel logic, there was never a time where he was killed in the first place. Perhaps he was saved by a time traveler, but because time is linear, he was saved the first time. The event only occurred once, and it would mean that if at any time in the future time travel was ever invented, then they already saved the Pope.
They were there when it happened, the first time it happened. It never happened a different way, and never will. It happened as it happened, and if a time traveler will ever be there, they already were there originally because there is only one timeline.
The paradox of foreknowledge of events that never occurred
There appears to be a paradox regarding this, and I will explain why it is not a paradox. The paradox is that how could the time traveler know in advance the pope would be assassinated, if he never was assassinated because he could only be saved if it happened when it did not? The answer to this is that indeed, he could not have been saved by a time traveler, because a time traveler would never see a need to save him since he did not die, so they would have never gone back to save him, which means if he did not die then it was not a time traveler who saved him. Not intentionally anyway.
What this means, effectively, is that if time travel ever was invented in the future (or the past), then we are already living in the final timeline. There was no “previous” timeline where events did not happen the same but they were changed.
What this means in practice is that if you or I time-traveled back in time, then it would not be possible to “change” anything. All we will be doing is making things happen as they already happened. You could say, “ok then I will try to do something that did not happen”. Except that every action you take will be something that did happen, in the exact way you do it. Because if you did time travel back, you would only make happen the things that already did happen.
There appears to be another dilemma, however. This is the dilemma that things happen one way, but knowledge of those events will change it. For example, you could say, “I will go back and win the lottery”. However, if you ever succeed, then you will have already done that. In which case you will have no desire to go back and win the lottery because you already have done so, except that you have if you have done so, so that means you will have that motivation to do so if you have already, since that is what happened.
Time travel and the grandfather paradox
How about going back and killing your grandmother before she had your mother? This is commonly referred to as the “grandfather paradox”. The truth is it would not be possible. Why? Because if you did that then you would have never existed in the first place, preventing you from doing it. So if you were born, then you will not succeed, for whatever reason. But if you do succeed, then you were never born the first time so you will never do it. Attempting is futile.
It is not that the universe or “time” will stop you as if it were sentient. You can try, but if you succeed then you never did it. The paradox cancels itself out. If you don’t succeed, then you can try but in vain, because if you are here then it means you never succeeded.
There is but one timeline; and one explanation, although improbable, is that the presence of the future exists the same as the past, all at the same time. This means that there was never a time in which the future had not yet occurred. This means that all of time has happened simultaneously from an objective standpoint outside of the timeline; it only appears to have not yet occurred from a subjective point of view.
Time as a linear construct
Personally, I believe time to be a linear construct, and that a “fabric of space-time” as is referenced so often in science fiction movies, tv shows, and novels, does not actually exist. I believe that there exists an ether, and that on a quantum level matter and space does not behave as expected. However, I do not believe that space is a fabric of the universe; I believe there to be only void space which contains matter and ether.
Moreover, I do not believe that space and time are connected in any sort of “space-time continuum”, although I really enjoy shows which reference this fictional idea. As a result, I do not believe that time can be “folded” in on itself; time is not a fabric which can be manipulated. There is only here, and there, and then, and now.
Time is not a thing, it is not an element, it is not something which can be manipulated or traversed. Time is merely a philosophical idea which explains the difference between then and now. Time is not a material, it is not a composite structure, it is not a wave, it is not a particle, it is not a fabric or a medium. Time is merely an explanation regarding things that have happened, and things that have not yet happened.
Scientists supposedly sent a photon “back in time”
One cannot traverse beyond a very short period forward or reverse in time. Scientists have devised a theoretical portal in which it has appeared that individual photons have traveled a very short period into the past – an extreme fraction of a second. However, I do not believe this to have been “time travel” by the common sense of the phrase, but rather a quantum anomaly which is only yet to be explained.
Within a very small fraction of a second, I consider there may be a possibility to give the perception of time travel for an individual particle, or photon; but not in the traditional sense of “time travel”, but rather a traversing of the presently widely not-understood laws of quantum mechanics. As such, even this apparent “anomaly” could only work on a quantum scale for individual particles – not complex beings or even individual molecules.
Moving an immovable object
Considering that due to the fact that time is not a thing to be manipulated but rather a philosophical idea, an explanation, then the only thing we are really doing is attempting to apply logic to something that does not exist. This is like trying to logically explain why you cannot move an immovable object. The phrase is an idea, it is not something that could happen.
Even the greatest logical explanation for moving an immovable object makes no real difference, because inherently, an immovable object cannot be moved because it is immovable; and also because a truly immovable object does not exist.
Likewise, trying to explain how time travel could work and its inherent consequences if it was possible, is ultimately in vain. If time really is merely an idea, an explanation of the nature of reality as I propose, then any explanation could never go further than words, because time is not a thing, but a philosophical idea.
There is nothing to fear, not now or ever, regarding the invention of time travel
However, even if time travel were indeed possible, then according to my original theory, ultimately it would not matter. You would not have to worry about things ever changing, because even if time travel was ever invented at any time in the past or future, we are always living out the final timeline.
There is no intermediary timeline which “changes”, even if time travel were ever invented. From a practical standpoint, this effectively means that whether or not time travel were ever invented, it would have absolutely no effect on your life. Nothing you do could ever be undone, and nothing that happens in the past could ever be changed in the past (although you have the power to reverse any damages now and in the future).
Therefore, there is nothing to fear regarding time travel, it is simply a fascinating science fiction premise which makes for awesome movies and shows which are truly “out of this world”. The fiction of time travel is a wonderful fantasy escape from reality which ironically causes us to time travel between 45 minutes for one episode to days into the future if we binge watch Doctor Who.