being-there, then...

"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" mode—old 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 tapes—crude 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 technological principles. 
     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. 

E-mail: philo@passports.com

 


 All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.