Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Back To The Present

I am finding John C. Wright's AI future difficult and am back in the Internet present with Lisbeth Salander hacking Mikael Blomkvist's computer in Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played With Fire. Instead of emailing, Lisbeth, wanted by the police, communicates with Mikael by untraceably creating documents using his own Word programme.

The Time Patrol, if they needed to, which they don't, would be able to trace Lisbeth by using future technology. We are told that the computer glimpsed by visitors to Manse Everard's New York apartment is a fake and that he changes the subject when they recommend their preferred brand of PCs to him. But he was not using computers when he joined the Patrol in 1955. Then he had to visit a public library to read back issues of the London Times from the late nineteenth century. The Patrol eases its members into advanced technology and carefully conceals from everyone else any evidence that it is using such technology.

Lisbeth is wanted for murders that she did not commit but it is not the job of the Patrol to solve such murders and might even be their job to ensure that the murderer is not apprehended if it is historically recorded that he was not apprehended. I would not be able to work for the Patrol.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I did wonder if Manse could have looked up back issues of the London TIMES using Patrol resources. Or was he first supposed to prove he could find what he needed to know using more primitive technology?

I can see why you might not be able to work for the Patro--because you would object to letting innocent persons be falsely accused or even suspected of crimes they had not committed. Or, you would dislike the Patrol not preventing crimes? One famous we have discussed here being the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo in 1914. Even putting the literally world shaking consequences of the assassination, any decent man would want to PREVENT it from happening because it was simply wrong for Francis Ferdinand and his wife to be murdered.


Anonymous said...

Kaor, Sean!

There seems to be a complication here. Imagine a decent man in Sarajevo in 1914, who sees what Gavrilo Princip is about to do. Presumably, the decent man tackles him to prevent a murder.

Now imagine a decent man today, who is offered the opportunity to travel back in time to prevent the murder of Franz Ferdinand. He might well decide that the murder was wrong in itself, and led to many other evil consequences, but decline to prevent it, saying that without that murder, history would have taken a different turn, which might end up being better or worse, and could well have had great evils of its own. This seems to be a reasonable view, and is the view that the Time Patrol takes, I believe.

But should we therefore not interepvene to stop a murder or other evil act about to take place in front of us? From the perspective of 2117, that evil may have brought good, or been an alternative to greater evils, or at least stopping it would have led to a very different world. And yet, most of us do not believe in practicing pure passivity.

Does time travel alter the moral calculus? If so, why?

Best Regards,
Nicholas D. Rosen

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Nicholas!

Thanks for your interesting comments.

I argue that we CAN'T know what the world would have been like if someone had stopped Gavrilo Princip. I can't help but think a world spared monsters like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, et al, would have been better than what we have now.

Yet another complication is this: CAN the past be changed? Wouldn't SOMETHING happen to prevent any effort by a man from the future from changing the past? That was the idea Poul Anderson used in THERE WILL BE TIME.

Or might an attempt to prevent the Sarajevo assassination simply end with an alternate world splitting off from the other? That is, World A, where Francis Ferdinand is killed; or World B, where he was not murdered.

I simply know the murder itself was wrong and it would have been RIGHT if someone HAD tackled Princip.