What do you think is the future of humanity?
The consensus seems to be “time travel”. One cannot avoid it. We are the very cusp– or have already attained it, if the Mendecans are to be believed– of one of the greatest scientific revolutions in history, greater even than the “life-serum” of the mid-21st Century… and, I’m sure, equally confined to the wealthy. But to tell you the truth, I don’t buy it.
“Nostalgia for all” will not make a very effective war-cry. That’s in the very best-case scenario, if the technology will really be as accessible as our medial hallucinations seem to suggest. “The power to fix all of your mistakes”, yes, and the power to revisit them too, and to watch them over and over, to relive them… I think people underestimate the necessary attachment we have towards our failures. We tell ourselves we want to fix them, but to do so is to fundamentally alter our brain chemistry so we never learn from our mistakes in the first place. It’s agonising, yes, but also pleasurable to be able to go over, at any moment, a “top 10” list of all the times we’ve put our foot in our mouths, say, or failed to explain our feelings, at a crucial juncture, to someone that we love. Even if the feelings are “bad”, they are still feelings, and it is the bad feelings too that make up our lives. And suppose we go back and we find out that we don’t want to, or we can’t– even if it were physically possible– change our mistakes?
Life would become a kind of play.
Yes, and the most intimate and relevant. It would mean the death of art. “Nostalgia for all”. The slogan implies regression. To that extent, those that seek it are already lost in it– you’ll excuse me if I say they are a lower form of humanity.
Aren’t such distinctions inherently dangerous?
No. I don’t think so. The danger is in enforcing them. A regressive is just as likely to pull himself out of a regression as a non-regressive is to put himself into one. The distinctions are fluid. What I’m really describing is a physical state: today the puddle is frozen, tomorrow it might not be.
So you don’t think that time travel will bring on Armageddon?
Did television? Did the internet? Did virtual reality? The ones who live in those worlds forfeit ours. The math is very simple. You can’t be in two places at once. I know there is some concern that the wealthy will go back in time and re-align historical distributions of wealth… There is that ad-campaign, I can’t remember the name of the organisation, that goes: “Do you want the rich to not only bleed you dry, but Montezuma as well?” And there are the commercials with a destitute Genghis Khan, the Romans, the Pharoahs, etc. I find those spots very clever. And I’m sure that’s what the wealthy would try and do, if given half the opportunity. That being said, I’m not sure the opportunity will ever be granted them. My own readings have suggested that time travel, insofar as we can accomplish it, will be highly personal. There is also that old argument: if something bad was going to happen, why hasn’t it? We are a barrier between the future and the past. One would think that to alter either would mean our own obliteration… and who knows, maybe that’s already happened. I’m comfortable living for ever in an off-shoot Universe that will never come to anything.
So you’ve ruled out the “classic” idea of time travel?
No. I didn’t say that. I’m just not very concerned about it. As I’ve said, it might already have happened: perhaps in a parallel life I was a convict, or a mosquito. I could be a king too, but I can’t complain about the life I have now. I do, however, like the idea that all of history is a constantly shifting illusion. But for practical purposes we can’t treat that as anything other than a thought experiment.