Are You Hungry? I Haven’t Eaten Since Later Today: Chrono-Ethics in “Primer” – Part 1

When we develop the ability to time-travel there will be


because that’s a seemingly absurd way to begin.

It’s the stuff of sci-fi movies.

Let’s be honest, when we hear the phrase “time-travel” we think of “Back to the Future”.  That’s not exactly the hard science that would actually be needed.

Think of some things from the “Back to the Future” era that seemed impossible:

  • an end to the Cold War
  • the breakup of the USSR
  • cell phones smaller than a shoebox
  • the Furby (I didn’t say ‘should have been done’)

Long before those events, we split the atom, traveled to the moon, and dissevered the building blocks of the material universe. It isn’t that much of a theoretical leap to envision breaking apart the space-time continuum. So then, if and when we do develop the ability to time-travel, an entirely new philosophical discipline would have to arise:

chrono-ethics or, if you like, time-crime.

In essence, we would have to accommodate the fourth dimension in the constitutional process.

Yes, a constitutional process.

Perhaps life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, and unmolested space-time.

This new right of continuum integrity might consist of legal agreements allowing a future version of oneself to travel back and possibly affect the continuum of the untraveled. Indeed, the “present” version of oneself may not be allowed to travel back without executing a similar agreement. This attempt to legislate time-travel is fraught with complex issues, however, and would require an infinitely complex set of laws protecting, for instance, the rights of Jay2007 against the incursions of a Jay2009. How would these laws affect our Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination–would that include incriminating a future or past version of oneself?

This week, we’re going to talk about this very thing as it occurs in the 2004 movie “Primer”. Catch up with it tomorrow in Part 2.

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