A World With Time Travel
Here I speculate about what will hapen if time travel is possible. The really important consequences of the discovery of a method to receive information from the future for society as a whole are far greater than any former scientific discovery and almost impossible to anticipate. Some may view this as a threat, others as a new age. Whatever each individuals view, society as a whole will respond and this may prove another key factor in developments. It is my judgment that the technical difficulties in transforming an initial experiment into a mature time technology will be substantial but quickly surmounted. If sufficient effort is brought to bear I anticipate that Time Gate technology would be developed within a matter of years. If for example the proof of principle were reached this year, 2007, then by about 2012, the consequences would begin to be felt. What do I have in mind? Well here is just one possibility:
Secret Time Gate
Let us imagine a small group of physicists decide to develop the Time Gate purely for their self-interest. We are all familiar with the short term volatility of the stock market so as soon as the experiment is working well enough that it can send back in time a reasonably large list of stock prices of over no more than a few minutes, the project can begin in earnest. Using seed money from their own small savings they put themselves into a position of unstoppable advantage. We can assume these are very smart guys and they soon figure out how to automate the whole process so that a computer compares current prices with upcoming prices and then makes all the appropriate trades constantly changing their portfolio in anticipation of each change. They can be assured of frequent gains, almost no losses and gains coming almost every few minutes. Whilst their portfolio remains small, their presence will go unnoticed but it is the nature of exponential growth that it cannot remain like that for long.
Since they are a very smart bunch of guys they can predict ahead using other means than the Time Gate to give themselves some approximate idea of what will happen further off in the future. By an adaptation of perturbation theory to this special case, they will be able to anticipate when their presence would be felt. This would happen when they become very major traders. Before the market became aware that some major new force is eating up shares unstoppably, their ability to anticipate a possible chaotic change or collapse in share prices will allow them to shift strategy. By this point they might well be the world's largest stockholders. This should give them more than ample choice of where they want to go next.
Whilst only a single group of researchers secretly use their knowledge of the future for personal gain, their position appears strong but in reality is fragile and short lived. The kind of information they depend on might only remain reliable so long as their activity goes undetected. The moment this changes, all hell breaks loose. The markets would close; the world would panic.
The end of the age of capitalism might just be one small step compared with what lies ahead. It would however to be a mistake to assume that this is unavoidable. Not all information about the future would become available to us; something's will remain unknown. (See Many Worlds for my own predictions concerning the limits to retro causal transmission of information.) Exactly what information would become available in principle is not yet fullly understood. The concepts of present and future would partly merge. There would be distinctions but not as we know them today.
As soon as the time gate technology becomes widely known, the rush will be on to retrieve information from the future. Very quickly this will mushroom into a vast industry, the World will be gripped by great excitement. It is hard, indeed impossible, for us to imagine accurately what this will feel like. It will be an extraordinary period. The idea that the future is coming within view will be an intoxicant for science, industry, commerce and the military. This will be seen as the biggest idea ever.
With thousands or in fact millions of Time Gates opening up, we observe another key feature of retro-causality. So long as advanced technical civilization exists, it will build Time Gates. If the continuity of civilization is maintained unbroken information will continue to be handed back over arbitrarily long intervals of time. We can infer that rather a short time after the opening of the first Time Gates, an avalanche effect will insure that we will start to receive information from further and further into the future. The upper limit to the retro transmission of information is set only by the longevity of that future technical society. We must hope that this is explored in a similar way to the development of world wide web, where openness comes first, and that vested interests do not try and block public access to the new streams of information. This has the potential to be incredibly enriching culturally to our society as a whole, we will depend on the goodwill of society to insure this happens. The full potential of the time gates can only be realised if they are not stymied by secrecy.
It is my prediction that in the event the Cramer/Jensen experiment succeeds (or anyone else), there will be a pause while others verify this work. There will be a further period while we search really hard to find if there are any hidden factors preventing access to retrocausal data. If no such restrictions are found, very shortly afterwards a great wave of excitement will engulf physicists. The excitement will spread rapidly out from the physics community and the race will be on to realise this dream. With a prize this great, the intensity of activity would be unprecedented. Like the Moon Race, it would be a great engineering feat, unlike the Moon Race, it would not necessarily be centrally organised. There would be many different groups and organisations all scrambling to get in on the action.
I cannot imagine anything more utterly and totally extraordinary: the idea that I might live to, indeed within a short number of years, be in a position to learn about the arts, culture, science, technology, ecology, politics and history of our near and distant future. This seems to belong to a realm of pure fantasy but no so. At the very least we have brought this within the reach of hard SF and there is a non non-zero probability that this is about to happen.
I have described how an experiment to detect retrocausality maybe carried out in the near future. By Application of the 'Asimov Daisy Chain' any small inverted time delay can be amplified by a factor in excess of a million, extending from microseconds to minutes the shift in time. By industrial scale development of vast numbers of 'Time Gates', subject to sharing this information, the second level of amplification triggers an avalanche of information arriving from all our future histories where Time Gates are in use. What might start as a 50 microsecond inverted delay can grow to a giant.
It is claimed that we live in the post modernist era. Intellectuals argue over the definition of this term or whether it really has meaning at all but no one can deny that the quality of social change has altered and that arguably this is a new era. It may however be but a brief interlude. It is my personal view that the rise of monetarism, the power of global markets and the fear engendered by the war on terror have temporarily overshadowed an underlying tendency for science to bring change. The age that we called modernism was characterised by the dominance of engineering and the physical sciences literally re-moulding society. The landscape was first transformed by mechanised transport. Later the arrival of telecommunications and computers provided enhanced access to information. Physics played a key role in driving the engine of change. Along with the technical change came tolerance, progressive politics and imaginative art and design. Today innovation continues but physics to plays little direct part in it. The last time that fundamental physics shook the world is now more than 60 years in the past. It appears that following the devastating vision of nuclear war; physicists took a vow to detach themselves from everyday life. This is far from true, some passionately argued the importance of a social conscience and the need to evaluate the impact of research but for most the question was simply not relevant. They had mostly moved onto areas that had no conceivable application either in the near or longer term future. They became involved with pure ideas, exploring the properties of high-energy particles and in pursuit of a unification of all physical forces.
Physicists continue to influence society with spin off developments, the world wide web was conceived at CERN, the European centre for nuclear research by Tim Berners Lee. High energy research is still very active with the completion of the LHC expected soon. While it is true that the long sort after breakthrough in String Theory is not expected anytime soon there is a new lively focus of research around quantum computing and cryptography and it looks hopeful that some important breakthroughs of great consequence maybe found. This research uses a mixture of different techniques and the discovery of observer entanglement and the possibility of retro causal communication comes directly from one of these areas of specialisation: quantum optics.
Most physicists and serious intellectuals would argue that ideas concerning time travel are wild conjecture and prefer not to consider the subject. I suggest that there is good reason to reflect upon this since even if the chances of a breakthrough are slim, the consequences are so significant. Amongst cosmologists, Paul Davies and John D Barrow have both recently put in writing that a breakthrough in time travel is possible in the not too distant future. There are others in this field who hold the same views and some who have even gone to the length of designing time machines, all be it, only as thought experiments. Most famous for this is Kip Thorne whose proposal for using a worm whole held open with exotic matter stirred up a huge debate. Thorne's ideas are based on general relativity; a subject where others had already proved a number of time machine like solutions to the equations existed. Einstein with his strict adherence to the principle of causality would have been unhappy about it, but the mixture of special and general relativity combined with quantum mechanics creates a brew of paradoxes that more than likely can only be resolved by accepting the reality of some sort of time travel.
If this change comes it will be the single largest influence on society that science has ever brought. To my knowledge no writer, either serious or fictional, has succeeded in reflecting upon the true impact that knowledge of the future will bring. The subject is simply so huge as to overwhelm. It has the potential to transform our civilization and take us into an era as different as today is from the Stone Age.
I believe this transformation will bring rich cultural rewards. While some will seek to exploit the new information, ultimately the sheer volume of entirely new ideas will exceed any financial or military aspirations. This will become a study of, and response to the arrival of vast amounts of knowledge. Society will respond by encouraging and stimulating learning, scholarship and much wider and deeper understanding; without this the wealth of new information would arrive without being comprehended. It will encourage diversity and will stimulate a move away from the monoculture brought by consumerism. As a society we will become more responsible as we watch the consequences of our actions over longer terms.
I will introduce a formalism to concisely represent my conjecture concerning the impact of time technology. Following the form introduced by Barbour who refers to the singularity within Platonia that corresponds to the Big Bang as 'The Alpha Point' and the speculative cosmology of Barrow and Tippler, wherein the point at which consciousness gains control over all matter and energy in all logically possible universes as 'Omega'. I now posit a third point that I shall call 'The Mu Point'.
'The Mu Point' occurs when consciousness, through application of retro-causal time communication, gains objective knowledge of its future.
There can be no mathematical proof of the uniqueness of 'Mu'. There maybe numerous other civilisations elsewhere in the universe who are on the way to or who have passed Mu. Our civilisation may fall only to rediscover this knowledge later. Alternatively our civilisation may endure and after we have passed Mu, we will find there is a clear view directly to Omega.