"If travel into the past never occurs, making past moments present will."
If the present can be perfectly displayed synthetically, within
cyberspace, by a reality simulator operating in its default
"here-now" mode, then the buffering (temporary storage) of data
will permit time-altered experiences of the present, such as
prolongations and instant replays of our favorite moments.
Long-term storage of these same data will allow us to relive
chosen moments in our past, and in this sense permit
discretionary, first-person-only travel backwards, and then
forwards again, through time. The "road not taken" will no
longer fill us with infinite melancholy, but will present itself
as a current cybernetical option.
In like manner, sensory data gathered by machines in
"being-there, now" modeold radio and TV broadcasts, for
example for the original purpose of effectuating the
equivalent of travel to arbitrarily chosen distant locations,
can also be stored. If and when re-displayed, these stored data
will create the experience of being at that distant location, at
that time, which is of course the "journey into the past" of
science fiction writers.
No, it is better than that. The journey into the past of science
fiction writers, which calls for the physical removal of the
subject from his present circumstances, and his reappearance at
an earlier point in time, has not yet been shown to be possible.
However, storing sensory data gathered at various points in the
universe, and replaying these data at a later time, is most
assuredly possible. If travel into the past never does occur,
making past moments present will.
Also, the logical contradiction inherent in the notion that a
time traveler into the past might, through interaction with the
earlier environment, create two, mutually exclusive presents, is
absent in the cybernetical hypothesis. We will be able to
interact with past environments to our hearts' content,
rewriting history at will, in cyberspace, in function of our
involvement with historical events.
"Let's roll it back just before the kid gets crushed under the
steam roller, and take it from there." Even now, movie
directors frequently dedicate a film to the preservation of the
memory of a lost loved one.
Of course, only those environments which have been "recorded"
at a certain time will be subject to revisitation at a later
date, provided also that the data are successfully stored in the
meanwhile. Thus, to ensure the widest latitude of choice for
future time travelers, recordings would have to be made at every
point in the universe, constantly, and the resulting data
stored, outside the universe somewhere. If the universe has no
outside, then the cybernetical hypothesis, at least in its
strongest formulation, is unrealizable as a matter of principle.
There would be no place to store the data, not to mention the
practical difficulty of gathering it everywhere. However, less
ambitious versions of this hypothesis, calling only for certain
cybernetical transcriptions to be made, at certain specified
points of space and time, are certainly realizable. We are well
along with that task at this writing, with mountains of audio
and video tapescrude forms of cybernetical transcriptions
already in the can. In the meanwhile, our cameras are getting
better, and our microphones more refined, and our recordings are
taking up less and less space to archive. At the moment that a
synchronized playback of these recordings produces an experience
comparable in quality to that of an experience of natural
environmental surroundings, the era of bona fide time travel
into the past will have begun.
As for the future, it will pass as easily before our eyes, in
cyberspace, as does the past; that is to say, with a great deal
of practical difficulty, and heating up great quantities of
silicon oxide, but flying in the face of no logical or
As we will see, reality simulators must be future generators to
the extent that they allow a user to interact within the chosen
bit of cyberspace, as a player.
© 1993, Gilbert Scott Markle.