Monday, July 6, 2009

Time Travel, Cont. Or: Maybe they just suck too.

I had a conversation with a friend this afternoon on the same theme as earlier, but with a twist. A similar challenge came up, essentially, "We know that either there is no time travel, (or else the time travel thing does cause time-line splits or other shenanigans) because Hitler was not assassinated, strangled as a baby, taught pacifism, etc."

I think, though that this still isn't counter-proof. After all, how many people today would go back in time to assassinate Napoleon Bonaparte, Genghis Khan, or Oliver Cromwell? Sure, they were bad guys, but traveling back in time to kill them just seems somehow excessive at this remove.
And as bad as they were, each in their own way helped pave the way for the world we're living in now. It won't take that much time until people think of Adolf Hitler as just another jerk.


  1. This is the old Isaac Asimov's End of Eternity argument - should you prevent history's tragedies if you can, or would that also wipe out so much of history's triumphs as collateral damage that it's not an unequivocally good thing to do? (Of course, there's also a higher level argument about whether it's moral to intentionally mess with history at all, which I think you'd need a nailed-down definition of exactly how time travel works to even start having.)

  2. That's a lot of it, sure -- being that far removed lets you take the long view of things.

    If you think about it, any kind of catastrophe that still results in people being able to invent time travel... can't have been all that bad, right?

  3. Well, there's always the Time Agent viewpoint: Groups of people will make whatever changes to history they prefer, until someone is happy with it and uninvents time travel.

    As for the original question, consider this hypothesis: Hitler was more a product of his times than anything else. If someone were to go back in time and kidnap Hitler, someone else would end up taking his place. Minor points might change, but the general flow of history would still be the same. For that matter, this may have already happened. :)