How I keep time travel from confusing me
Recently I’ve been noticing that a lot of people seem to have problems and confusion over time travel. I figured that I would share how I view it based on the various sci-fi stories I have read and viewed over the years. Note that these are not set rules found anywhere and that time travel rules are at the discretion of writers.
The first thing that I’ve noticed in virtually any time travel stories is that no matter where in time somebody is (I’ll refer to this as their temporal location) they always experiance the flow of time in one direction in a linear fashion. You are born, live, and then die. A person doesn’t suddenly regress in age and move into the past (unless a mad scientest does something). Experiancing time is a one way street. The only point in time that a person actually experiances is the Present. We know about the past because we were told about it or experianced it once as the Present. The Past will always be remembered. Now the Future is something that is always cloudy and something that can always be speculated about and changed.
So everybody has their own experience of the Present. When someone travels in Time what is really happening is that a person is only changing their temporal location and the place where they are experiancing their present. That person will also still retain the knowledge of their past. For example if a person travels from 2007 to 1977, when that person reaches 1977 everything that happened pre 1977 is the Past. But, everything that happens after 1977 is now the future even though for the traveler it would be the past (relative to their starting point in 2007). Events between 1977 and 2007 can now be altered because of they lie in the future beyond 1977 and are not set in stone yet.
It boils down to this, the Past can not be changed but the future is maleable. In order to alter an event that to you happened in the past, you would have to travel to a point before it happened so that that event is a future event. But no matter where you go you will always experience the present.
I know I left out paradoxes in all of this. I plan on doing a follow up in a separate post. I hope this clears up some confusion for people, it’s what helps me keep track of things when time travel is part of a story.