Category Archives: Philosophy

The grandfather paradox and time travel

While reading this Stephen Hawkins article on time travel I came across a term called the “grandfather paradox” that’s quite interesting.

Suppose a time traveler goes in the past and murders his grandfather before the grandfather can meet his future wife and give birth to one of the traveler’s parents, and this means the traveler cannot be born, and this further means that since he cannot be born he cannot go back in the past to kill his grandfather and this means the grandfather doesn’t die so the traveler gets to be born and then he can go back in the past to murder his grandfather…and so on. The opponents of the time travel theory often use such paradoxes to refute the concept of time travel.

Coming to the concept of time travel…do I believe in it? I think time travel is possible if we don’t take it as a singular occurrence. In the above-mentioned article Hawkins talks about a wormhole, miniscule crevices in time that in future will be enlarged so that bigger objects, and if possible, even humans will be able to enter one entrance and exit from another. But due to the laws of physics these wormholes will collapse upon enlargement. Then he talks about traveling in great speed. Einstein’s theory of relativity says the faster you travel, the slower time gets. This has been proven by the facts that time on earth travels faster than on satellites and everyday the clocks need to be adjusted, and this happens because due to earth’s gravity and mass time travels slow. Read the article to properly understand the concept, but the whole idea again stands on the concept that the timeline is singular.

I believe, since we have an infinite universes around us, there are infinite instances of us happening everywhere, triggering different timelines. Being infinite is a big advantage, because it means every object, living or dead, can have its own timeline and every object in these infinite timelines can have their own timeslines and this goes on indefinitely. So the paradox doesn’t have to take place. Even if the traveler kills his own grandfather, he won’t be eliminating himself, but his replica existing in that timeline. And since there can be infinite timelines associated with this particular traveler there can be countless instances of his circumstances.

So in order to travel in time without causing chaos, we have to find a way to hop around different timelines. We don’t need a linear concept. We need bridges. We need tunnels that connect different timelines.

But then you may say, what happens to your own history? This is no timetravel. Timetravel would really mean an ability to go to ones own past, not the replica’s past. So if you go to your past, you’ll be experiencing it as a spectator, and not as the timetraveler. Valid question.

I’m not an expert on timetravel – neither scientifically nor philosophically – so it’s just a vocal thinking. What happens if you hop through various timelines? I mean, what if you become a serial timeline hopper, disturbing multiple timelines? According to the infinite concept it doesn’t really matter if a few timeslines, even if a few hundred timelines, get disturbed, because for infinite timelines there are infinite realities. We are only conscious of this timeline. I’m writing this blog post, then I’ll publish it, and at this moment you are reading it (oh, so you have read till now! Great :-) ) … we all belong to a particular timeline. If I go to another timeline I may disturb that timeline and the world existing in that timeline, and I may even alter this particular timeline with my absence, and then after a while, come back and resume my normal activities. People do disappear and then come back, without causing much havoc in the current timeline.

You might have done things in your life – whether good or bad – that you normally wouldn’t do. All of a sudden people turn into saints and normal citizens turn into mass murders and psychopaths. People fall sick without reason and the sick get better with no medical explanation. Why does the behavior of some people get altered without warning? Maybe someone crosses over from another timeline and completely changes the character of his or her replica in our world. Sometimes people come back to their normal selves and sometimes they don’t. Maybe that’s how we see ghosts too. Suppose a man dies and then his existence from another timeline comes over and now is totally clueless because in this timelines he’s dead and now the neighbor from another timeline simply is unable to go back.

This all seems hypothetical but if we want timetravel without murdering grandfathers and consequently, ourselves, we’ll need to think beyond linear timelines.

Hell or heaven? What will you choose?

A few days/weeks ago we saw a movie featuring Alec Baldwin, Anthony Hopkins and Jennifer Love Hewitt – I cannot recall the name of the movie. In the movie Alec Baldwin is an unsuccessful, broke writer who sells his soul to the Devil (Hewitt) for 10 years of fame and success. He panics when he’s about to run out of time (he’s never truly happy during those 10 years because he doesn’t get to write what he wants) and he seeks Hopkins’ help.

I’m just wondering, how difficult is it to resist the Devil? After dying, assuming, you either go to hell, or heaven, and when you sell your soul to the Devil, you certainly go to hell. That is an eternity of pain and torture, according to the information we have about hell.

The popular perception says that only the noblest, only the holiest among us get to go to heaven. Let’s say there’s a 99.99999999% chance of you going to hell and just 0.00000001% of going to heaven. You’re not going anywhere in terms of career and money, you don’t have a social life and there is a fat chance of you ever becoming rich, famous and loved. With this statistic, if the Devil comes to you and tells you that you can get whatever you want, for as long as you live on this earth, you can indulge in every kind of Bacchic pleasure you can think of and any conceivable sin, you are going to be the richest man or woman in the world and the people of the opposite sex (or the same sex) will satisfy your every possible sexual fantasy as if they were born to do just that and your loved ones will love you as nobody has ever been loved before, and in the history books you name is going to be written in golden letters, etc., and in return, the Devil is going to own your soul after you die. This means that you lose that 0.00000001% chance of going to heaven.

What are you going to do? Your choices are:

  • Experience all worldly pleasures for as long as you live and then go to hell and experience pain for eternity.
  • Live a miserable, non-happening life with a 99.99999999% chance of going to hell and experience pain for eternity.
  • Live a miserable, non-happening life with a 0.00000001% chance of going to heaven.

Please share your thoughts. I’ll share mine in the next post.

Brutality sees no limits

Be careful when you see your kids tormenting upturned insects and causing pain to puppies and kittens. It might be a sign that they love torturing and one day they may inflicting it on you or other human beings without seeing much wrong in it.

Mai invited me to join a FaceBook account dedicated to Junko Furuta, a 16-year-old girl who was held captive for 44 days (then succumbed to the torture) by 4 boys and raped, tortured and mutilated in every conceivable manner. To add insult to injury, those boys remain free now, so that they can carry out the same act upon someone else.

Torture and brutality are an obsession. Psychiatrists say they give a high to the mentally disturbed. The victim is totally at your mercy; you can do anything to him or her, and anything means anything, there is no limit. Two English movies come to my mind (fortunately, no such movies are made in India, and again, fortunately, they don’t even have a market for such themes): The Hostel and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In The Hostel, the perpetrators visit a torture site just as you may visit a brothel. A victim is bought, you are given a room, and you can do anything to the victim. A thriving market is shown where unsuspecting tourists and locals are brought to the place and then captured. It is a totally sick movie, but I don’t know where I read, that some of it is reality, and this is where it becomes a true horror.

Among living forms only humans inflict pain for pleasure and entertainment, may be because human thinking is more complex compared to animals. We can associate unlimited feelings to a single act. More than pleasure and entertainment, it is the feeling of unlimited control over another human being. People torture animals too, but an animal cannot beg for mercy, you cannot humiliate it, you cannot devoid it of dignity because in our perceptions such characteristics cannot be attached to it.

So to say torture is human, is misleading. Torture is very human because this act is perpetrated by only humans.

The case above makes it more important to denounce torture, no matter how justified it seems. Torture is torture, there is no good torture or bad torture, because the person inflicting it, whether he or she is your hero or villain, does it for the same purpose: total control over the existence of another human being.

Whether you call it a beauty or a tragedy, nobody knows when you can become a target of torture. If something exists around you, there is a great chance you may become its target. You cannot discuss the pros and cons of torture when somebody, even if a policeman, is inserting a rod into your anus or breaking your ribs with blows. Talk against it when you can.

But then how to punish the perpetrators? I have no idea. Do you?

Living for more than 1000 years

Personally I’ve got no problem with ageing being optional. Why should people die of old age if they don’t want to, and if it is medically possible? In ancient scriptures we often find mentions of people living for 100s, or maybe 1000s of years, so even if it is not true, this concept of living for a really long time has been alive forever.

Scientifically and philosophically, we can live for ever if our consciousness can survive without a body. Even in terms of body, old age happens due to wear and tear and if somehow this wear and tear can be stopped, or better, reversed, we can remain young forever. This doesn’t mean all illnesses and accidents are ruled out (if possible, why not?), but if somehow this process of wear and tear is halted, a big problem is solved.

I feel scientists should consider multiple possibilities. What about changing bodies if ageing cannot, for the time being, be stopped. Stem cell research shows that we can grow body parts. We can grow our bodies, and then get our brains transferred to the newer body when we want to.

If somehow our “self” learns to live and function without a body even then we can become ageless. Why bind the soul, the real existence, to the vortex of biology?