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What If a Time Traveler From The Future Appears? | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Noah Baum WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
Many people have claimed to be a time traveler, visiting Earth from another dimension... But what if they could scientifically prove it? In this video, Unveiled imagines how the world would change if a time traveler from the future suddenly revealed themselves... How would they be treated? What paradoxes would they be risking? And what would it mean for the future of the human race?
Transcript

What If a Time Traveler From the Future Appeared?


Time travel has been a mainstay of science fiction, ever since H. G. Wells revolutionized the genre. In his novella “The Time Machine”, a Victorian inventor visits both the past and the future. Unfortunately, while physics MIGHT allow both forms of time travel, scientists tend to agree that it would be PHYSICALLY impossible to achieve and/or survive. But . . . what if they were wrong? It wouldn’t take a scientific breakthrough to prove it - just a convincing wanderer from further on in our history.

This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; what if a time traveller from the future appeared?

One of the biggest philosophical objections to time travel is the grandfather paradox. If you could travel back in time, you could presumably change the past - but that could remove the conditions that allowed you to time travel. For example, if you killed your own grandfather before he had your mother or father, you wouldn’t exist, and therefore COULDN’T have killed him . . . which would mean that you WOULD exist after all . . . and COULD kill him. The paradox seems to demonstrate that backwards time travel is logically impossible. Nonetheless, some physicists have proposed solutions inspired by the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, that allows time travellers to create branching timelines. Alternatively, philosopher David Lewis has suggested that while a time traveller CAN kill his grandfather, he definitely WON’T - since he exists and all.

However we solve the paradox, a time traveller from the future would be subject to the same rules. He MIGHT not be able to change anything. But he might be able to tell us about what was going to happen. We just might not be able to do anything about it!

Of course, this raises the question: would a time traveller from the future even tell us who they were? In many science-fiction stories, it’s often imperative that the time travellers don’t let on that they have vital information about the future. Depending on the solution to the grandfather paradox, spilling these secrets might create a radically different timeline, or just fill us with completely useless dread. So, if time travel is real, maybe the reason we don’t see time travellers from the future is that they’re actually good at going under the radar. They’re not accidentally winding up in old photographs, or letting slip the results of elections that haven’t happened yet. After all, if time travel technology ever exists, it will surely be closely monitored.

Then again, if time travel hoaxes are anything to go by, future time travellers might not be able to HELP themselves form spilling the beans. One of the most famous of these hoaxes was orchestrated by “John Titor”, who made bold claims in internet forums in the early 2000s. His predictions included a looming nuclear war, but his credibility was destroyed when none of them came true. People now think “John Titor” was really a Florida entertainment lawyer named Larry Haber.

Today, the internet is still awash with people claiming to be time travellers with advanced knowledge of the future. In 2017, the story of an alleged time traveller called Noah, who kept his face and voice distorted to foil assassination attempts, went viral. “Noah” claimed he’d travelled back from 2030, and brought with him “evidence” of his forays even further into the future: footage of Las Vegas in 2120, with flying cars. He predicted that Donald Trump would win a second term in office, that we’d reach Mars by 2028, and that the President in 2030 would be someone named Ilana Remikee. In July 2019 however, YouTuber Denis Bel claimed he was really Noah, and that it was all a hoax masterminded by YouTube channel ApexTV.

Given all these hoaxes, would we even believe a REAL time traveller? It’s likely that their initial claims would be met with scepticism . . . even when one or two predictions came true. After all, they could have just gotten lucky. Even photographic and video evidence might not be taken seriously, since these have all been faked before. How much proof would we need before we believed what we were being told? By the time we did, would it be too late? What if John Titor’s prediction of a nuclear war in 2004 had been true, and changing our timeline was possible . . . but we hadn’t believed him?

Of course, as more and more of a time traveller’s predictions proved accurate, people, and even governments, would take notice. The authorities would certainly subject a time traveller to rigorous testing and interrogation, especially about how to build a time travel machine, since creating one would be the ultimate proof. Even if we COULDN’T change history, governments would still probably send people back in time for other reasons. John Titor claimed his true mission was to retrieve an IBM 5100 computer, in order to debug computers in the future. Could real time travellers have similarly non-obtrusive missions? Presumably ones that don’t include spending their free time posting to internet forums. In a time travel enabled future, these agents could act more as spies, or elite operatives, trained in science and history to achieve their objectives.

Since time travel technology would undoubtedly remain at the highest levels of government for a long time, the secret agent route makes sense. You wouldn’t expect a CIA agent to blow the lid on whatever their current, top-secret mission is, which is why people like that would be the best candidates to time travel.

It might also be inevitable, however, that private corporations would eventually get their hands on the same technology. Besides opportunities for corporate espionage, this might result in time travel becoming available to ordinary consumers. Maybe we could achieve time tourism, with time tour guides in place to stop people from straying too far, and potentially messing with the timeline . . . again, if that’s even possible. Space tourism is gaining more traction nowadays, but only a hundred years ago it would be impossible to imagine that any amount of money could buy you a trip to the Moon. Similarly, it’s hard for us to imagine now that you could pay a lump sum to be zapped to the past, but who knows? Who would pass up the chance to see dinosaurs? Or to witness key historical events, such as Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963? Historians and archeologists would have a field day, being able to study from afar how the Egyptians really built their pyramids. Then again, time tourists might just want to watch the world-premiere of “Star Wars” in 1977, or jump to the 1990s to get a pot of limited-edition Szechuan sauce from McDonald’s. Nostalgia is big business, after all.

It’s hard to imagine how all this would be regulated, however. Would we need time police to monitor time travel activity? If our actions COULD create branching timelines, would we need advanced computers to help us determine whether a minor action might cause a butterfly effect that could irreparably damage the future? How easy would it be to accidentally change events? And what would be the effect? Would it just create a parallel universe, or would it break the space-time continuum entirely? The risk of these dire consequences might not be worth the reward.

Unfortunately, the most likely outcome is that we wouldn’t believe someone was a time traveller from the future, unless they had really hard proof. And if they weren’t trying to change history, they probably wouldn’t let us know they were here anyway. Who knows, maybe they’re quietly among us right now . .. And that’s what would happen if a time traveller from the future appeared.
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