Free Will in Time Travel

I was talking with my dear friend Theo-Known-As-Theremin the other day, and he showed me this video:

It’s interesting, because most of the time-travelling scenarios assume that the traveller is going back with the knowledge they have at the point of take-off, as it were.

If we didn’t have this knowledge, if every single thing in the scenario was exactly the same, every single atom in exactly the same place…it would actually make sense that we would make the same decisions. Decisions have context and motivation. If those things are exactly the same…it seems like a sound hypothesis that the decisions would be the same as well.

We talked for a while about the decisions that were on the edge; the ones that felt like they were practically decided by the flip of a coin, the ones that almost went the other way. But, if every single thing was exactly the same…that would include you. As the decision-maker you would feel exactly the same as you did the first time around…so would you really do something different? The exact same synapses would be firing in your brain…would that really end in a completely different decision?

I sort of don’t think so.

And I think that’s kind of beautiful, and sort of empowering.

It’s this idea of, this one decision, this is the only decision that I’ll ever make. It kind of puts it in a bigger perspective. It’s not just “Oh, shit, what am I going to do in this moment.” It’s “What is the decision that I’m going to make in this moment for all of time?”

That’s some pretty powerful stuff.


2 thoughts on “Free Will in Time Travel

  1. I find it just as empowering.
    I used to be laid low with the possibility that our “fates” are predetermined. It made me feel like…like I wasn’t actually making decisions or that my entire life was artificial or unimportant.
    Now, I realize that free will and predetermination can coexist. Even if all my choices will always be the same choices, or the choices I’ve made could not have been different, they were my choices, and I’ll continue to make more as my life goes on. Making an impact on the universe, leaving a mark, it’s not that important in the long run. Even if I acknowledge the possibility of some sort of destiny, the choices I make are still mine – hell, the knowledge of destiny might influence my choices.
    I’m so impressed by your decision to stay home. I hope choices like that present themselves to me – and I can recognize them and respond in the same way.


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