Friday, 30 September 2016

"Very Messed Up" III

See Resonance, Resonance II and Temporal And Causal Vortices as well as "Very Messed Up" and "Very Messed Up" II.

In the combox for "Very Messed Up," we got onto what would have been the consequences if Carl had not time traveled pastward to betray his followers. I wanted to discuss this further but found that I had already done so in some earlier posts. See the above links.

Long before people started to think about time travel, they had already become familiar with three kinds of sequences:

chronological - A happened before B;
causal - A caused B;
logical - if Socrates is a human being and if all human beings are mortal, then Socrates is mortal.

Causal is one kind of chronological.

In time travel:

familiar chronological sequences can be reversed, e.g., a man might die before he was born;
effects can precede their causes;
the question arises whether an effect preceding its cause might cause it or even prevent it;
people tend to think of different times as different places existing at the same time, thus causing endless conceptual confusion, e.g., it might be thought that, if I travel from 2016 to 1889 to prevent the birth of Hitler, then as soon as I prevent Hitler's birth, the world of 2016 changes into one in which there had never been a Hitler who was the Fuhrer of Germany.

However, there is no way that time travel can negate logical relationships, e.g., time travel cannot bring it about that, although all human beings are mortal and although Socrates is a human being, Socrates is immortal.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    The thought that came to my mind was to wonder what would happen if someone did try to prevent Hitler's birth. In the immutable timeline hypothesis, SOMETHING would happen to prevent the time traveler from interfering with Hitler being born. I had THERE WILL BE TIME and THE DANCER FROM ATLANTIS in mind.


    1. Sean,
      Yes. This point applies even without time travel. Thus: we newly learn from top secret files that a British agent set out to assassinate Hitler early in the War; we have no record of what became of that agent after he entered Germany; however, we do know that, whatever else happened, his mission failed.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      Now that was interesting, the British trying to assassinate Hitler early in WW II. I can see why--with the possible exception of Goebbels, I don't really see a truly effective successor among Hitler's closest associates. Plainly, SOMETHING happened to that British agent to prevent him from killing Hitler.


    3. Sean,
      Sorry, that was only a hypothetical example but you can see the point. If we knew that someone set out to kill Hitler, then we also know that he failed - whether the would-be assassin was from the future or from Britain at the time.

    4. Kaor, Paul!

      Drat! I had thought this was a REAL event, something learned from records declassified under the Official Secrets Act. But I do see your point!


  2. A world in which Carl's Gothic descendants seized the throne and successfully cast back the Huns would be very odd indeed. The Hunnic invasion set the Volkerwanderung in motion, rather like a set of billiard-balls bouncing against each other; a whole series of world-shaking things were its immediate consequences, like the destruction of the Roman army at Adrianople in 376 CE and the breaking of the Rhine frontier in 406 CE (both referenced in Poul's work, btw.).

    Though the Patrol could have sent someone else disguised as Carl if he'd baulked.

    Hmmm. He could have gone and then shouted WODAN WITH YOU, DEATH TO EMMANARIC! I suppose.

  3. Dear Mr. Stirling,

    A world in which Hathawulf overthrew Ermanaric, took his place as king of the Ostrogoths and then drove back the Huns would indeed had been very, very different from ours.

    And it would have been more merciful for Carl if the Patrol had sent another agent disguised as him to betray Hathawulf and his followers.