Monday, October 14, 2013

Time Travel … huh !!


Last month, I completed a collection of Philip K Dick stories and rather than picking up another one of his, I picked up Asimov this month. Started a collection of 17 short stories by Asimov titled "Earth is Room Enough" and ended up reading half of them in a single month. I had to struggle with myself to not complete the other half within the month itself.

This is the first time I am reading Asimov short stories (consciously. I might have read an Asimov short story randomly or as part of some collection or magazine). I think I read one of his novel but did not like it much.

The stories have a certain element of intellectual debate or paradoxes in them. The very first story 'Dead Past' is about viewing a past event (through a device) that is time travel without the actual travel. The story revolves around an individual's pursuit to build a chronoscope which will enable him to 'see' events of the past. His reasons are purely academic – historical research - where he wants to confirm the events of the history as passed on to the world. He feels that the government is preventing free research by not providing him with access to the chronoscope and wants to build one. He enlists the help of a physicist who ultimately builds a small chronoscope for him.

The moment the chronoscope is built, the researcher's wife's perspective comes into play along with a few other ones and we realize the trouble the chronoscope can get many people into. The researcher and his wife have a history of a lost baby and the researcher feels that with the chronoscope, his wife will want to see their child and then get so drawn into it that she would start living her present life 'in the past' over and over again and not come in the present. The researcher realizes how people around the world who have lost someone close to them would use the chronoscope to live in the past and the world would cease to 'move forward. He promptly destroys the chronoscope.

I am not sure if you ever thought about time travel or 'viewing' the past events like that.

But the story does not end her …  

The chronoscope is destroyed but the physicist does not want the knowledge to disappear so he persists and to stop him, our researcher goes to the regulatory body and brings them in the loop. They promptly arrive to arrest our physicist and present their own perspective and reasons for NOT allowing chronoscope to become more common place. It was the first time I was reading of this perspective and it really shocked me that I had never really thought of it before.

I have read several stories about time travel over the years but none presented the perspectives and moral dilemma that Asimov highlighted through this story. I am floored by Asimov. I would really recommend that you read this short story by Isaac Asimoc - "The Dead Past" – to get the perspective.

While I was writing this blog-post, I also thought of another application of the chronoscope – how about viewing past crimes and convicting the right person responsible. Wouldn't the chronoscope provide irrefutable proof which can help get a fix on the criminal and justice can be served faster with minimal doubt. Result would be that people would be discouraged to commit any crime since they would be surely caught. Only the crimes of passion and on-the-spur crimes which are not pre-meditated would happen. What do you say ???

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