Less on the Social Ramifications of Time Travel

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Time traveler Noÿs Lambent

Yesterday I started reading Isaac Asimov’s time travel novel, The End of Eternity for the 17th time. In related news, today I came across a blog post called More on the Social Ramifications of Time Travel. Golly. And I sometimes worry that I take science fiction too seriously….

Well, maybe I’ve only read The End of Eternity 15 times. But who’s counting? In any case (15, 17 or 23), I enjoy reading this novel and I agree with Asimov who excused the scientific implausibility of time travel by saying that time travel stories are simply too much fun for writers to avoid dabbling in them.

I’ve always found it hard to get too serious about Eternity. I think Asimov was joking when he said that humans used time travel to send clover seed through time. He seemed to take more seriously the potential impact of future technology being made available to less technologically advanced eras. There is a rather long section in The End of Eternity about the problems arising from using time travel to make available a cure for cancer. Each person who might be saved by making the cure available to them must be carefully evaluated in order to be sure that saving their life does not cause a Reality Change. Thank goodness for the momentum of Time! Of course, those who are told that they cannot get the cure are resentful.

The “big social issue” presented by Asimov is the sorry fact that the existence of Eternity causes human extinction and a failure of humans to spread through outer space to other worlds. Time travel is used to make Earth a safe and stable environment for humans. As the story is told by Asimov, humans stop evolving and eventually they simply die off.

One of the interesting aspects of The End of Eternity is that it is an Asimov novel that includes the idea of there being other human-like creatures who evolve on other planets of our Galaxy. A major reason for the extinction of the human species was that while humans played around with time travel technology, those other beings developed space travel technology, moved into outer space and colonized all of the available star systems before humans ever got around to developing interstellar space travel technology. We must ask: did any of those other space travelers also develop time travel? If so, how did they avoid the “trap” that led to human extinction?

More importantly, why is it that, as Noÿs explains:

“There are other stars with other planets, you know. There are even other intelligences. None, in this Galaxy at least, are as ancient as mankind, but in the 125,000 Centuries man remained on Earth, younger minds caught up and passed us, developed the interstellar drive, and colonized the Galaxy.”

Why did it take 4,000,000,000 years for humans to evolve on Earth and the “younger minds” 4,012,500,000 years? Providing a reason for this cosmic coincidence was one of my goals for The Start of Eternity, a collaboratively written fan fiction sequel to The End of Eternity.

Image Credits. Noÿs Lambent is currently living in Athens. When contacted, she gave permission for her image to be used and commented, “They won’t believe it’s me, anyhow.”

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