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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old April 24 2015, 12:00 PM   #1
LordJuss
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So you want to fight a time war...

Even after reading Watching the Clock (which I loved) Iíve been struggling to figure out how a temporal war would actually work in practice, so I thought Iíd share the pain and see what people come up with.

Iím reasonably comfortable with the idea of two sides from the same period each trying to change history. Presumably each would have some sort of temporal shielding (cf Year of Hell) to prevent changes wiping them out before they get a chance to respond. So, if Albert wants to prevent Bethís birth he travels back and prevents her parents meeting. Bethís shields prevent her disappearing, so she gets an opportunity to go back and change things. This is not far off what we saw in First Contact.

Where I run into trouble is how this works when the protagonists are in two different time zones. Specifically I canít figure out how it would work (or even start) with Future Guy two centuries ahead of Daniels (let's leave the other factions for the moment). The way its presented is almost like the two are countering (or adapting) each othersí moves in real time, but that canít be right because Future Guyís entire life is already over from the point of view of Daniels. If Future Guy travels to the past, makes a change and then comes back, heís done it before anyone in the future gets a chance to respond. It would be, from our 2015 perspective, like someone from 1975 suddenly travelling back and killing Hitler (which seems to be the standard example for time travel discussions). That canít happen now, can it? Because 1975s already happened and nobody did that.

But if we look at it from the time travellerís point of view things get messier still. Say I travel back from 1975 to 1938 with my handy pistol. Now, until I actually fire the shot, there are two possible futures Ė one where I succeed and one where I donít. While Iím in the past, the people from the one where I donít succeed could theoretically travel back to ensure that I donít, so ensuring the creation of their own timeline. Now theoretically that only holds while Iím in the past. But from the point of view of those who come back to stop me Iíve long left it. My brain hurts.

Any thoughts?

LJ.
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Old April 24 2015, 01:15 PM   #2
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

Don't forget that there's also things like phase discriminator-protected records or temporal scanners that keep their information even if the timeline changes, allowing comparison between local timeline records and "original" records, that solves a lot of the problems you describe in your third paragraph; while everything happens immediately in time travel in Trek and there isn't really a lag like in something like BTTF, the people in the changed timeline are still capable of seeing that something is different and responding appropriately.

And also, keep in mind that the TCW isn't a war purely about wiping out the enemy, it's a war of philosophy. It's a war between those that believe that the timeline should be kept as it is and those that believe that changing it for the benefit of others is a good thing. So while wiping out one faction or another might push towards the success of the latter side, it's not the goal of the latter side, it's merely a way of achieving that goal. So it wouldn't necessarily end just because some group of factions is removed from history, if that just means that new Accordist factions now exist; ones that might be less familiar and so less easy to deal with.
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Old April 24 2015, 01:53 PM   #3
LordJuss
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

Hi,

Thanks for your input. I agree with the philosophy of how the war may be prosecuted, but itís the mechanics Iím trying to get straight in my head.

Protected records certainly help, but itís interesting to consider what they do and donít protect from. Continuing the original example, if I create my protected archive in 2015 then I can reasonably assume that any time travel initiated after that point will show up in the records. This is what we see in things like Futureís End. Voyagerís presence in the 1990s was detected in Braxtonís time: i.e. at the moment the initial time jump (Braxtonís first one) took place.

But time travel that took place before the protected records were created (essentially before the phase discriminator was switched on) surely must be exempt. Otherwise, when I created my discriminator-protected record in the 24th Century, the records would show (for example) that the world was destroyed by a whale-hunting space probe a century before. The record wouldnít Ďknowí to include Kirkís trip but to exclude others. Therefore time travel before the temporal shields/protected records are in operation shouldnít be detectable.

So, assuming that the logic above is correct (which I accept is a fairly large assumption), that implies that when Future Guy started his interference with the past, it would be detected in the Federationís discriminator-protected records at the time of his initial temporal jump, giving them time to respond. Why then would it take them a further two hundred years to get round to responding?

Cheers,

LJ.
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Old April 24 2015, 02:14 PM   #4
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

Obligatory caveat: Please avoid making any suggestions that could constitute story ideas. Let's keep it general.

Maybe it didn't take the Federation 200 years to respond. Maybe they responded, but in a way that caused problems further up the line, so their successors from 200 years later came back and said "Let us handle this our way." Or maybe they recognized they were technologically outmatched by the opposition, so they requested help from uptime. (It's a lot easier to send a message to the future than the past. See the closing scenes of Back to the Future Part II, or that Quantum Leap episode where Sam and Al switch places.)

Or maybe there were two separate temporal conflicts going on that overlapped chronologically and causally, so that one faction allied with another against their enemy. As I suggested in the book, there could be lots of such overlaps between unrelated conflicts. We saw this in the show with Future Guy, the Sphere Builders, and the Na'kuhl all pursuing different agendas.

Anyway, I figure the cause and effect are so messed up that it may not be possible to define who caused what and who reacted to it. It's conceivable that people could react to something that hasn't happened yet (in a sense) and thereby unwittingly cause it in the first place. I implied in Watching the Clock that this may have been how the Omegans and the Aegis got involved in meddling in the Eugenics Wars: each side had records saying the other had intervened in the past, so they both responded to each other, with neither actually initiating it, because of the tangled causality.

Also, something I made a significant amount of use of in WTC is the imperfection of history. It's hard to track down an opponent in the past if your historical records aren't detailed or accurate enough to tell you where and when they were acting, or exactly what they changed.
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Old April 24 2015, 02:32 PM   #5
Idran
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

Christopher wrote: View Post
Maybe it didn't take the Federation 200 years to respond. Maybe they responded, but in a way that caused problems further up the line, so their successors from 200 years later came back and said "Let us handle this our way." Or maybe they recognized they were technologically outmatched by the opposition, so they requested help from uptime. (It's a lot easier to send a message to the future than the past. See the closing scenes of Back to the Future Part II, or that Quantum Leap episode where Sam and Al switch places.)
If I remember right, didn't you establish that the DTI even has a dedicated message vault specifically for that purpose? (A time capsule, you might say (though certainly no one in the DTI would). )

(Edit: Man, if the book itself used that joke, then I'm going to feel silly.)

Last edited by Idran; April 24 2015 at 02:46 PM.
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Old April 24 2015, 03:03 PM   #6
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

I didn't say anything about a "message vault," just that there were unspecified protocols in place for contacting uptime temporal agencies.
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Old April 24 2015, 03:08 PM   #7
LordJuss
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

Hi,

Indeed. Generalities it is.

Interesting suggestions and I can see how they would work. I think my logic on Ďwhení (if such a word is even relevant) a time travel is detectable is basically sound, and these all seem like sensible ways of rationalising the position as itís presented in ENT.

Analysing my own psychology, I suppose I have a desire for there to be an Ďoriginalí history from which others deviate through time travel. But I suspect in Trek there ainít no such critter. Did the Borg Queen change history in First Contact or simply become part of it? I suppose the same question could be levelled at the whole of Enterprise. Actually Iím not convinced the answer matters.

I think, having established that the Ďtwo centuries apartí aspect of Temporal Cold War is consistent with Trek temporal mechanics (which was what I was struggling with), Iím reasonably happy.

I also canít help but feel that English tenses are not sufficiently nuanced to express temporal issues properly!

Cheers,

LJ.
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Old April 24 2015, 04:20 PM   #8
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

LordJuss wrote: View Post
I also canít help but feel that English tenses are not sufficiently nuanced to express temporal issues properly!
I think I tended to have Lucsly and Dulmur talk about it all in the present tense, on the principle that when dealing with relative time and causality, it's better to "step outside of time" and treat it all as a simultaneous whole. It's easier to see the map of timelines and changes if you look at it from "above."
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Old April 24 2015, 04:30 PM   #9
LordJuss
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

A very sensible approach.

I can tell from your writing that you are a Doctor Who fan but I don't know if you watch Red Dwarf. There's a very silly sequence in the episode 'Future Echoes' where they fail entirely to deal properly with the temporal language barrier.

LJ.
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Old April 24 2015, 04:32 PM   #10
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

LordJuss wrote: View Post
I also canít help but feel that English tenses are not sufficiently nuanced to express temporal issues properly!
English is a disappointing and frustrating language in many ways. Not nearly precise enough. Trying to write about intimate loving relationships; not enough words to distinguish the varied and overlapping forms of affinity - what in the hells is "love", it can mean anything! - ; the word for offspring being the same word as that for a pre-adult; madness.

It's like the English just have a vague category of "other people and these annoying emotional things that you pick up from them" and just sort of merge it all together into one slightly uncomfortable category of vaguely unseemly regard.

As for time, the DTI advises its recruits to simply act as though they're standing outside and looking in, at an objective all-inclusive view of that dimension. It's all there before you to be analysed in the shape that it holds, and the various currents and threads that cross it. It all happens, eternally now.

It's like the Prophets on Deep Space Nine; Sisko exists because the Prophets arranged it, but when he first encounters them as an adult they don't know what he is. The reason being that the Prophets aren't constrained by time and they don't touch it, except for the point where contact is initiated, when Sisko finds the wormhole. The realm of the Celestial Temple connects to space-time there. The rest of his relationship to the Prophets is meaningless in terms of time, it's simply how the ripples and paths travel from that one point, lapping against different regions of that objective time-shape.

I think.
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Old April 27 2015, 04:25 PM   #11
LordJuss
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

OK, so now I’d like to consider the specifics of how timelines change. The Xindi War provides an interesting example. A timeline exists (or existed) where the Sphere Builders didn’t involve the Xindi and were defeated by the Federation in the 26th Century. The Sphere Builders in the 22nd Century (or possibly much earlier) look into this future, see their eventual defeat and try to change it by provoking the Xindi into attacking Earth. On the surface this feels somewhat different from them travelling back after that defeat and changing history, but I think it could be viewed that information has travelled back, so in essence this is a typical prochronistic incursion.

Daniels says that the Xindi War did not occur in his history, so he’s clearly from the original timeline. He also says that the results of the changed events have yet to reach his era. I can't see that time changes propagate uptime at a measurable speed and this isn't what we see anyway (c.f. First Contact). So my interpretation of this is that two timelines currently exist (that Daniels can see in the temporal observatory) – one where Earth is destroyed and another where it isn’t. The War must happen in both timelines as its been set in motion and not retconned, so the original timeline is gone, but both outcomes are still viable. Since neither has replaced the other the outcome of the events is still uncertain. When Archer destroys the Expanse presumably both collapse into a timeline where the Expanse is destroyed in the 22nd Century. Does that sound reasonable or is there a better way of thinking of it?

Part of the problem here is trying to figure out how the passage of time applies to time itself. In the case of the Expanse there is clearly a timeline where it stays until the 26th Century and another where it is destroyed in the 22nd. But at some point (in time?) one becomes the other, or at least one stops being accessible and the other takes over. When does one become the other? Is that question even meaningful?

LJ.
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Old April 27 2015, 04:28 PM   #12
Christopher
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

Honestly, I have no opinion. Some temporal tangles are too much of a hassle to work out if I'm not getting paid for it.
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Old April 27 2015, 05:22 PM   #13
LordJuss
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

Rofl. Entirely fair point. I accept my OCD nature.
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Old April 30 2015, 02:10 PM   #14
LordJuss
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

So I’m still plugging away at how the changing of timelines actually works, particularly with regards to the Delphic Expanse. I’ve gone back over the end of ENT season 3 and found some interesting things, particularly in the conversations among the Sphere Builders when they are monitoring the possible futures that spread forward from their subjective present. As the humans get closer to destroying the superweapon, the number of ‘favourable timelines continue[s] to diminish’. This can lead us to some potentially interesting conclusions.

From the point of view of the universe as a whole there are a theoretically infinite number of timelines. Presumably they all start at the same point but then continually branch out. The entirety of past, present and future in these timelines exists simultaneously. I could go further and suggest that, in the initial conditions, only the timelines that contain no time travel exist, but I’m not certain this is necessary or sensible.

So, from any given point inside one of those timelines there are multiple actual futures. They are not just possible ones – they are real futures, all of which are possible outcomes of the subjective present, though with differing numbers of each occurring depending on the initial conditions. As each moment passes (and events take place, or are observed) these futures are pruned away. This doesn’t mean they don’t happen in other parts of the multiverse, just that they are no longer accessible to the inhabitants of the timeline where the event takes place, which for all practical purposes is the same thing. The lost timelines have to continue to exist because, if not, all of history would eventually collapse into a single timeline and, since all times exist simultaneously, there would only ever have been one timeline and free will would be an illusion (c.f ‘Parallels’).

When an observation reduces the number of possible futures containing a given event to zero, those futures are culled/inaccessible. Hence if the Sphere Builders observe the destruction of Earth, any timeline without that destruction is gone/locked. So, by extension, until they actually observe that event from their subjective present, possible futures exist in which the humans prevail, which brings us back to the initial quote.

That’s all fine provided nobody is time travelling, which complicates the model.

Once we add time travel it follows that, until an event takes place, people from futures where that event didn’t occur can travel back in time to the subjective present and change the likelihood of said event. So, even though the initial attack on Earth had already taken place, Daniels could still travel back from a timeline where the Earth wasn’t destroyed and help ensure that it stays that way. But once Earth is gone, only people from futures where it was destroyed could travel back (unless they have temporal shielding, in which case they maintain their presence in the timeline despite their history no longer reflecting the one in which they find themselves).

Of course, once someone from the future travels back to an earlier point, there are now (subjectively) more possible futures available (the observation has not yet happened), so they can change events and send history down a different path entirely. Watching the Clock posits that (certain forms of) time travel entangle timelines that would be naturally independent, which results in a new paradigm where timelines are no longer locked but actually replaced by the new history. As a timeline’s probability of occurring reaches zero it actually vanishes from the multiverse – no wonder time travel is risky! As Watching the Clock points out, there’s a parallel to wavefunction collapse in quantum mechanics here.

It’s interesting to consider this model from the point of view of those left in the future by the time traveller. If Alice travels back in time and kills Bob’s grandfather, the timeline changes instantaneously for Bob at the moment Alice departs. Specifically the new timeline does not include any further time travel from Bob’s original present. But if Bob from the old timeline is protected somehow, by temporal shields for example, then he can travel back and create another new timeline in which his grandfather was not killed and Alice’s history is destroyed. This is exactly what we see in First Contact.

But local conditions at the arrival point can affect the outcome of a timeline change because they control the probabilities of the various possible futures. If it is possible for the original timeline (or something like it) to survive, then it does so, at least for a time. How long such a timeline would stay in existence is difficult to predict. What we see in the show is that some sort of link is formed between the time traveller and the timeline they left (entanglement again?) so that, as time passes for one, it passes for the other. Only when the time traveller witnesses (or causes) an event that changes the probability of their originating timeline to zero does the timeline collapse. Going back to First Contact, there is no way humanity could have survived the Borg’s presence in the past without the input of other time travellers, so the originating timeline collapses instantly and only further time travel can create a future that includes the Federation.

This is not the case with the Xindi War. It was entirely possible that Archer et al could have defeated/persuaded the Xindi without any help from the future. Hence local events could still result in timelines where Earth survives and Daniels has no need to help Archer initially. But this is not true in the case of Carpenter Street, where the local 20th Century humans cannot possibly survive the bioweapon without future help. This is an instant threat to Daniels history and so requires time travel to fix.

So how does the Xindi War play out from Daniels’ perspective? He originally exists in a history that had no Xindi War (apparently). At a specific moment (exactly when is debatable for a variety of reasons), a change is made to history that creates the Xindi War. Daniels now exists in an unstable present that includes both the original attack and an Earth that survived, but as time passes for Daniels there is an increasing likelihood that the Sphere Builders (entangled to Daniels’ subjective present) will cause an event that brings the probability of that subjective present to zero and so collapses it. This is what Daniels means when he says that the outcome of the Xindi War has yet to reach his present.

Wow. That was longer than I intended. So, am I crazy or does that sort of work?

LJ.
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Old April 30 2015, 02:18 PM   #15
King Daniel Into Darkness
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Re: So you want to fight a time war...

Well, that or this...
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