Friday, January 14, 2011
Should the U.S. Government Subsidize Time Travel Research?
Okay, the way you hear many politicians going on about the United States budget on various news shows and whatnot, we really shouldn't be spending federal tax dollars on...well...anything. But as we all know, no matter who's in executive or legislative power, we're still going to find a way to keep on spending no matter what. We're Americans...We love to buy stuff.
So presuming America finds another way to get its credit card limits raised again or cuts out something obviously useless like Medicare coverage or Social Security payments, should that new source of funds go toward time-travel research? Tyler Cowen over at Marginal Revolution ponders that very question, in an article titled Should we subsidize or tax research into time travel? His reasoning:
I believe no one understands the underlying science much at all. But there is some chance that the old science fiction movies are correct and that by time-traveling you alter the course of history, thereby obliterating the universe we used to have. I'll count that as a net negative, while noting there is some chance we end up with a better universe.
On the plus side, the human race will die out anyway. Time travel seems to yield a fairly safe haven. As disaster approaches, keep going back in time a few days, or decades, and that asteroid will never hit you. This is especially appealing if you are transporting back a body (upload?) which is programmed to be more or less immortal and you can take the technology with you, so as to keep on going back as time progresses.
On one side: immortal life for many of the last humans and thus immortality for the human race. And with time they may learn how to thwart the asteriod.(sic) On the other side: some probability of swapping universes.
There are certainly those issues of national security to consider. After all, if time travel was possible, we could go back in time and prevent things like JFK's assassination, the Oklahoma City bombing, or the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Center. Not to mention it would be an effective deterrent against future aggressive actions against our country, which could be rewritten and erased in some sort of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey fashion. If you thought that bombing someone with a nuclear weapon was effective at keeping them from invading you, imagine what preventing their leaders from being born could do.
Oh, and don't forget the economic advantages as well. That 777-point drop of the Dow Jones market in September of 2008? Prevented with a stock trading software patch. Bernie Madoff's investment scandal? Can't happen in Madoff gets hit by that car that missed him when he was sixteen. Hell, funding time travel research will pay for itself in no time.
Okay, sure, there may some questions we need to answer. Do we really want to give our government the ability to erase people from history? Or change the historical outcomes of other nations? Or alter the results of our own elections? Or tell Sarah Palin not to do that interview with Katie Couric? Definitely things that need proper consideration.
But think about one thing...If we don't start funding time travel research, what will happen to America if other countries start funding it themselves...?
(Cue the Doctor Who cliffhanger sting music)