Time machine: A dystopian new-media investigation
Selavy Oh1, Stefan Glasauer2 1
Magoo, Second Life
Center for Sensorimotor Research, Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich, 81377 Munich, Germany
Abstract. A time machine is proposed that allows visiting the past and, under certain circumstances, even changing the present. This time machine, while impossible in the real world, can be realized in a virtual world: digital data can be recorded and stored continuously for revisiting at will. Our metaphor of a virtual time machine can be compared with human episodic memory, but also has unsettling implications: not only would the complete past be open for investigation, the time machine would, under certain restrictions such as avoiding inconsistencies in the time stream, allow changing the past as normative intervention in history. Modifying the past would even permit influencing the present. Thus, the idea of time travel turns into a dystopia that has astonishing counterparts in contemporary data collection and surveillance programs.
Duration is the transformation of a succession into a reversion. In other words: THE BECOMING OF A MEMORY — Alfred Jarry How to construct a Time Machine. 1899 The desire to overcome the boundaries of time is as old as mankind. Prophets and oracles incarnated the hope for a window to the future that, given we could see clearly enough, would allow manipulating our otherwise inevitable destiny. The idea of literally traveling time along both directions, to the future and to the past, has become a common dream ever since HG Wells famous novel published in 1895 . Notably, Wells was not even the first fiction author to propose a time machine - a couple of years earlier, a Spanish author publish a novel on the topic , which, however, was soon forgotten and only recently rediscovered. Time machines soon became popular and even entered avant-garde literature . However, time travel is not just a topic of fiction. Established physicists and mathematicians have devoted considerable thought to whether time travel would be possible. For example, the mathematician Kurt Gödel famously showed that a special case of solutions to Einstein’s relativistic field equations leads to a universe in which time travel is possible because it contains closed trajectories in spacetime , see Savitt 2005). Even in our universe relativistic time dilation could, in principle, be used to travel into the future, but just to get stranded there without any possibility to even tell these revelations to the contemporaries left behind, not to speak about physically getting back. Any time machine that would allow traveling back in time seems physically completely impossible (but see, for example,  for a discussion of relativistic time travel making use of spacetime abnormalities). Even more so, the perspicuous reason of visiting the past to change the present and thus allowing to completely fool destiny - see popular science fiction from Stanislavs Lem (The Star Diaries: