An article in Discovery News in May 2010 illuminated four potential means Steven Hawking theorizes we could achieve time travel through, some far more likely than some of us might find comfortable.
Time, as the article mentions, proven through space flight and GPS satellites, runs at differing speeds in different places, these variations determined by mass curving space and time. For example, aboard a spacecraft, which experiences less pull from gravity when not on our planet’s surface, the clock, despite its precision, gains one third of one billionth of a second each day compared to what we experience on Earth. One could extrapolate this out further and theorize that in deep space, between solar systems or galaxies, time would run even faster. Add in traveling near the speed of light, and a whole realm of possibilities, frightening and exciting, emerge.
According to Professor Hawking, only the future can be reached through time travel, never the past, a disappointing idea for history buffs and those with deep regrets, but one that makes sense. How else could we avoid paradox and prevent ourselves from stopping our own conceptions and births?
Reading all this got me wondering. If I had the chance to travel to the future, would I want to? And further, how far would I dare go if I decided to take that dangerous step into the unknown?
My first answer is that I would not wish to go into the future; though, I confess, I am insatiably curious what the future holds. The primary reason I would not want to go is because I could not come back. I have too much in the present worth living for: my husband, my children, the rest of my family, and friends. I would never wish to leave them. No matter how hard life sometimes is, I would not wish to escape to a place I could never return from.
But assuming we found a way to come back, my mind races to dozens of possibilities. How far would I want to go into the future? As far as I could. My curiosity is too strong to resist wondering what the world, what humanity will be like in 10 years, 100 years, 10,000 years. Will we still be here? Will anything that exists resemble our present lives? Will it be habitable at all? Will we have changed so much that we are no longer the same species when compared to our present biology?
Perhaps the future would hold hope for us, hope that all the causes we fight for are worth the effort and sacrifice they take from us? But then again, perhaps seeing into the future would show us how futile our fights are? Perhaps it would destroy our belief in an ever-improving world? Might we realize that we are as we have always been and that only trappings and technology changes, that the darknesses of humanity cannot be culled through the efforts of time? Or worst of all, perhaps the future would reveal to us that, instead of climbing toward betterment, we are, in fact, falling toward greater chaos, brutality, or destruction.
Perhaps seeing the future we could not resist going further and further forward out of curiosity or as a means to escape a time we find too repulsive or disappointing to endure? Might time traveling junkies or cults arise, frantic to take the next step and the next and the next into infinity until there truly is no safe, habitable time left for them to go?
How would real time travel interact with faith, politics, and commerce? What would happen if, instead of killing himself, Adolf Hitler jumped forward in time to another opportunity to enact his vision for the world? What terrors and wonders might we find in the exploration of the future?
What about you? Would you want to travel into the future if you knew you could never come back? If you did travel into the future, how far would you want to go?