The future causing itself to exist in fiction; huge plothole?

Vivi22

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Phoenixmgs said:
I had the exact same problem with Intersteller. The human race couldn't actually get to a new planet without aid of future humans so how do those future humans ever even exist if humans are incapable of interstellar travel? Again, the future caused its own existence.
Actually, certain solutions for Einstein's equations of general relativity do allow for the possibility of closed timelike curves which could allow what was shown in the movie to occur. Now granted, we're talking some bleeding edge physics that so far only works on paper and may very well be proven wrong someday, but is it a possibility based on our present understanding of the laws of physics? Yes. Yes it is.
 

happyninja42

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DoPo said:
So, an hour passes for Bob, and he's at t[sub]-1[/sub] +1h and everybody else is also now at t[sub]0[/sub] +1h and still desperately struggling against the squirrels. And Bob has to race against time to prevent the squirrel apocalypse before people in the future die.
I dub this the Excellent Adventure Effect, since the first, and only time I can recall ever seeing it take place was in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, and sequel. I remember being puzzled as to why that would actually happen with a time travelling story, but shrugged it off because the movie was funny anyway. I mean I understand it from a storytelling point of view, in that it forces the protagonists to work under a deadline, which allows for dramatic tension, but it sure doesn't make any sense. xD

What other movies have used the EAE anyway? Can you name some? Because I'm drawing a blank on other movies that used this plot device.
 

Vivi22

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DoPo said:
Hubblignush said:
DoPo said:
Hubblignush said:
it's a bit hard to explain but basically
Bruce Willis as a kid sees a dude getting shot. When as an adult traveling back in time he get's shot in front of himself. It's impossible for him to change anything, since everything he could ever do has already happened.
Yet were he to die in the timespan between being a child and being an adult who was shot, there would have been a paradox. And also a variety of things could have happened as well - he could have been unavailable to go back in time for a wide variety of reasons. Why and how the timeline maintains itself balanced, is not really explored, there, as far as I recall.
Except he wouldn't die because he couldn't, he also couldn't do a whole lot of other things that prevented the thing. The things that happened were the also things that could have happened, no other thing could have happened as then the things that did happend would not have happened.
Did you even read my last sentence? Here it is again: why and how is the timeline keeping itself balanced?
This question is irrelevant, and fairly easy to think through quite frankly. Either he can't change his future because it is already pre-determined due to living in a deterministic universe and him being stuck in this closed time loop, or to avoid a paradox in a non-deterministic universe many world's theory could be brought in to explain that in any situation in which he doesn't go back and die there, the possible future he comes from is averted. So there won't be a timeline in which he dies in front of himself as a child but then fails to go back in time later without that universes timeline being altered.

And to be perfectly honest, the way you're presenting the question doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. What do you even mean by balance? That's a strange word to try and apply to causality if you ask me. If we're talking about a question of how do we know that the cause in the future will actually come about after the effect viewed in the past, it's fairly implied in most fiction that you're dealing with a closed timeloop in which you can't change the events which lead to the future cause since they are already guaranteed by virtue of the effect already viewed in the past.
 

MysticSlayer

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Pluvia said:
What I don't understand is why people find time travel so hard to understand? It's not that complex. Either you can travel back to the past and change things, creating all sorts of crazy shit, or you can't.

Harry Potter and the first Terminator all go on the logic that you can't change the past. All of that stuff that happened always happened. Nothing was changed when they went back to the past, that stuff had already happened, they just repeated it exactly the way it happened.
I think the problem a lot of people sometimes run into, is this:

An event needs to pass (X) in order to reach time travel Y, and Y is necessary to reach event Z, which is what the person does while time traveling. In other words, X leads to Y, and Y leads to Z, so X leads to Z. The problems arises in that we don't have anything that helps us conclude that Z leads to X, but the story is built around that very idea. So what we get is a story that tells us that Z leads to X, but we are left wondering how X could ever pass in the first place to allow Z to occur.

Using the Harry Potter incident, if Harry died during the attack, then he could never reach the point where he saved himself. He would be dead. There's absolutely no way for the timeline to suddenly make him appear to save himself, because he can't save himself. However, we are told that he did save himself. So we are left with the question: How did he ever live in the first place so that he could go back in time to save himself? Sure, within the time loop that is created between him living and him saving himself, it makes sense. But how did that time loop ever get started in the first place?

Making things more difficult is that the more linear (i.e. non-cyclic) and more rigid (i.e. non-branching) your view of time is, the harder and harder this becomes to justify. And I'd say that a lot of people only ever think of time as perfectly linear and perfectly rigid, making it nearly impossible to see the possibility for Z to ever occur and, as a result, X to occur. This is why I said earlier about Harry Potter (though it could be applied more generally) that these universes are incorporating some element of "lost time".

Going back to Harry Potter, let's say that if Harry didn't save himself, Snape would. This allows Harry to live, which allows him to get to the point of time traveling, and therefore reach the point where he could save himself. In this case, we still have the same X/Y/Z loop, but we also have an explanation of how we could even enter the loop (Snape saves Harry). However, once we enter the loop, the timeframe "allocates" itself so that the characters (and by extension us) only see the loop, not the event that would allow us to enter the loop in the first place. In other words, the starting event is pointless, and becomes "lost time", leaving only the time loop in place. At most, the lost time just keeps the time loop in balance so that it doesn't fall apart at some point.

In the end, yes, things always happen in accordance with what is shown, but that's only because of what we aren't shown that allows what we are shown to ever take place.

Anyways, long-winded explanation aside, I'm not really sure that it is necessary for storytellers to show this lost time. It is ultimately pointless, considering it no longer has an apparent bearing on the story. That isn't to say that storytellers should never show it, but just having a potential explanation the fans can come to should be good enough.
 

Fieldy409_v1legacy

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What if in the terminator timeline, there was a timeline that existed before any influences of time travel affected it where John Connor didnt exist? Skynet still loses the war and sends back terminators to change things, but in the process they cause the resistance to create John Connor when they send Kyle Reese back to stop the terminators from doing whatever they wanted to do in a John Connorless universe. Thus creating this timeloop and their own worst enemy.

Thats the way I like to think of it. Time travel creates timeloops but then from the point of view of observers in the timeline it seems like this was a paradox because they never saw the original reason for creating them, just the results of the stablized loop.
 

Infernai

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Honestly surprised nobodies brought up the Legacy of Kain/Soul Reaver Games:

The entire point of those games is basically about trying to defy ones fate, and how Time Travel and the creation of paradoxes just seems to make things even worse then it was before. It's definitely a good look at why Time Travel isn't ALWAYS a good idea to solve problems. In short: Yes, you manage to fix issue A) or stop it from happening. But, because of stopping Issue A) it means that Issue B) is never solved and thus creates Issue C) in it's place. In short, fix one problem and usually another even worse one will rise up to replace it.

Granted, it still has problems inducing headaches but the characters are interesting enough along with the world, voice acting and gameplay that it doesn't destroy the experience.
 

Angelous Wang

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Phoenixmgs said:
I've come to absolutely hate sci-fi plots were the future is the cause of itself coming to be because it really makes no sense to me at all.

The example that probably won't spoil a movie for anyone since this one is so old now is the 1st Terminator. John Conner sends Michael Biehn to protect his mother so his existence can happen (ok, makes sense). The only problem is that Michael Biehn ends up being his father (doesn't make sense). How could that future possibly exist to begin with John Conner being there? Basically the future is the cause of its own existence.
A simple answer would/could be that a soon a person breaks out of their own time (ether going to the past or future) they technically no longer belong to any time period or timeline. So they are effectually free from time and timelines from that point on.

And therefore they can do whatever they want, even stop themselves from being born and it won't effect them directly.
 

Maze1125

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Phoenixmgs said:
That can be interpreted as time "fixing itself" as maybe you can't change things. Say there's an asteroid coming to destroy the earth that is unstoppable and future humans appear and destroy it for us, that logic really makes no sense to me.
The problem is that you're trying to use your intuitive understanding of time to explain the situation when there is no evidence that our intuitive understanding of time is in any way correct.

Did you know, for example, that time changes shape depending on how fast you move. Does that "make sense" to you?
Did you know that inside a blackhole time is twisted so much that it turns into space and one of the spacial dimensions turns into time. Does that "make sense" to you?

Fact is that it doesn't matter if it makes sense, because those things are both true either way.

The only question with such a plot line is if it is logically valid.

Let's take your asteroid scenario.
Option one: No-one comes back in time and so the asteroid hits and so there is no-one to come back in time. This is logically consistent.
Option two: People from the future come back so the Earth is saved and so there are people alive in the future to come back and save everyone. This is also logically consistent.

Both are perfectly valid story-lines. Neither is "wrong".

This is in contrast to the grandfather paradox, which contradicts itself, when you go back and kill your grandfather so you're never born, so you can't kill your grandfather, so you are born, so you do kill your grandfather, etc.
 

mad825

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Itdoesthatsometimes said:
John Conner sends Kyle Reese to the past to ensure his present existence [movie timeline future]. John Conner knows he must close the loop by repeating his past.
I think you've been watching Salvation a little bit too much.

Since T1 and leading up to T3, the future had been changed. We know this because by T3, Conner dies during the war and is killed by the terminator because of Connor's nostalgic events of T2 who is then replace by his spouse; Kate who then leads humanity to victory when originally it was conner.

It's also made clear that Sarah lives longer than she should've done as the result of T1.

In the case of terminator, it's the butterfly effect mixed in with a litte fate. A alternative timeline is created regardless.

EDIT: and as the result of T2, Conner stayed off the grid to ensure that any other terminators could have found him, it worked.

Salvation is a mini-reboot.
 

Spaceman Spiff

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To the Terminator example, I'd counter that John had a different father before sending Reese back. The events of that movie made Reese his father, his mother obsessed with the coming war, and left robot scraps that changed the conception of the Terminators (the reason for breaking into Cyberdyne Systems in T2). We just don't know who John's father was or how the terminators were conceived leading up to the 'old' future.
 

Phoenixmgs_v1legacy

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Vivi22 said:
Actually, certain solutions for Einstein's equations of general relativity do allow for the possibility of closed timelike curves which could allow what was shown in the movie to occur. Now granted, we're talking some bleeding edge physics that so far only works on paper and may very well be proven wrong someday, but is it a possibility based on our present understanding of the laws of physics? Yes. Yes it is.
Maze1125 said:
The problem is that you're trying to use your intuitive understanding of time to explain the situation when there is no evidence that our intuitive understanding of time is in any way correct.

Did you know, for example, that time changes shape depending on how fast you move. Does that "make sense" to you?
Did you know that inside a blackhole time is twisted so much that it turns into space and one of the spacial dimensions turns into time. Does that "make sense" to you?

Fact is that it doesn't matter if it makes sense, because those things are both true either way.

The only question with such a plot line is if it is logically valid.

Let's take your asteroid scenario.
Option one: No-one comes back in time and so the asteroid hits and so there is no-one to come back in time. This is logically consistent.
Option two: People from the future come back so the Earth is saved and so there are people alive in the future to come back and save everyone. This is also logically consistent.

Both are perfectly valid story-lines. Neither is "wrong".

This is in contrast to the grandfather paradox, which contradicts itself, when you go back and kill your grandfather so you're never born, so you can't kill your grandfather, so you are born, so you do kill your grandfather, etc.
Just due to logic of how events happen, the future begetting itself makes no sense. Then there basically exists no consequences if future us can come back and just fix our mistakes or stop us from fucking shit up. Back to physics logic, I don't think there's any theory of how to time travel backwards yet whereas you can travel to the future.

Fieldy409 said:
What if in the terminator timeline, there was a timeline that existed before any influences of time travel affected it where John Connor didnt exist? Skynet still loses the war and sends back terminators to change things, but in the process they cause the resistance to create John Connor when they send Kyle Reese back to stop the terminators from doing whatever they wanted to do in a John Connorless universe. Thus creating this timeloop and their own worst enemy.

Thats the way I like to think of it. Time travel creates timeloops but then from the point of view of observers in the timeline it seems like this was a paradox because they never saw the original reason for creating them, just the results of the stablized loop.
That makes sense to me and the movies would be much better with that plot.
 

Suhi89

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There's a recent film called Predestination which takes this idea to ridiculous extremes. Big spoilers ahead obviously.

In it, Ethan Hawke is both his own Mother, his own Father, the man who causes himself to meet herself (this is explained in the film) and his own killer.

My problem with these devices is I always feel a bit empty at the end. Like nothing really has been achieved. What happens is what is bound to happen because it's already happened.
 

Maze1125

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Phoenixmgs said:
Just due to logic of how events happen, the future begetting itself makes no sense.
Just saying it over and over again doesn't make it true.
And just because you're having problems making sense of it, doesn't mean it doesn't make sense.

Then there basically exists no consequences if future us can come back and just fix our mistakes or stop us from fucking shit up.
Now you're talking about fixing mistakes, not stable loops. Those are two completely different things.

Back to physics logic, I don't think there's any theory of how to time travel backwards yet whereas you can travel to the future.
Well, you're wrong there. There are several theories on that.
 

Itdoesthatsometimes

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mad825 said:
Itdoesthatsometimes said:
John Conner sends Kyle Reese to the past to ensure his present existence [movie timeline future]. John Conner knows he must close the loop by repeating his past.
I think you've been watching Salvation a little bit too much.

Since T1 and leading up to T3, the future had been changed. We know this because by T3, Conner dies during the war and is killed by the terminator because of Connor's nostalgic events of T2 who is then replace by his spouse; Kate who then leads humanity to victory when originally it was conner.

It's also made clear that Sarah lives longer than she should've done as the result of T1.

In the case of terminator, it's the butterfly effect mixed in with a litte fate. A alternative timeline is created regardless.

EDIT: and as the result of T2, Conner stayed off the grid to ensure that any other terminators could have found him, it worked.

Salvation is a mini-reboot.
Terminator canon is not my strong suit. I was speaking from a logic stand point.

Kyle Reese is my father I better make sure I get born.

Any changes to timeline that I have seen don't change that, oh shit I better get born aspect.
 

Phoenixmgs_v1legacy

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Maze1125 said:
Just saying it over and over again doesn't make it true.
And just because you're having problems making sense of it, doesn't mean it doesn't make sense.

Now you're talking about fixing mistakes, not stable loops. Those are two completely different things.

Well, you're wrong there. There are several theories on that.
Your option 2 in your last post is the same thing as my "fixing mistakes" example.

I just watched a quick video of Michio Kaku talking about time travel and saying the past is fixed and The Terminator plot is not possible.

 

[Kira Must Die]

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I actually don't mind those types of Time Travel plots.

I've learned not to overthink time travel in movies nor take people's complaints about it seriously, because in the end of the day, time travel is a theory, not fact. We can't say for sure if time travel works the way we think it does/will because it only exist in the realms of science fiction. There are convincing and believable theories about how it would work, but I do like seeing other people's interpretation on the matter, as it can sometimes lead to different and interesting stories about time travel.

Honestly, the theory you're talking about is probably the most believable to me. It's not so much as the future causing itself, it's that the past can not be changed and that the future is destined to happen. Whatever you may do in the past is not gonna change anything in the future. It's not that hard to wrap your head around.
 

Maze1125

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Phoenixmgs said:
Maze1125 said:
Just saying it over and over again doesn't make it true.
And just because you're having problems making sense of it, doesn't mean it doesn't make sense.

Now you're talking about fixing mistakes, not stable loops. Those are two completely different things.

Well, you're wrong there. There are several theories on that.
Your option 2 in your last post is the same thing as my "fixing mistakes" example.
No it isn't.
Option 2 was a stable time-loop. Not a mistake that happened and then got fixed. In option 2 the mistake never happened in the first place.

I just watched a quick video of Michio Kaku talking about time travel and saying the past is fixed and The Terminator plot is not possible.

He very clearly does not say that.
 

DoPo

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Happyninja42 said:
What other movies have used the EAE anyway? Can you name some? Because I'm drawing a blank on other movies that used this plot device.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is the most recent example, I can think of. OK, it's partially explained there with Wolverine having to be "maintained" in the past.

In Supernatural there was one episode where the protagonists had to go back in time in order to stop an entity killing their parents. In a different episode, they meet Chronos, who pulls Dean back in time and Sam has to bring him back to the present. What's doubly baffling there is the very strict timeframe - the spell to bring Dean back had to be cast EXACTLY when Dean and Chronos were fighting in the past. Which makes so little sense, I'm confused how anybody thought it could work at all.

Back to the Future (one of them), has Marty not disappear immediately when his parents decided to not get together. He starts of slowly fading away. For, reasons that I can only assume can be described as "reasons". I can't remember how the movie explained it.

12 Monkeys where Bruce Willis is sent to the past to prevent a catastrophy in the future. He was also pulled back from the past and resent there one or two times to be questioned on his assignment.

In Men in Black 3 Will Smith goes in the past to save Tommy Lee Jones from being killed there. Slight subversion as he was actually already killed when he went back. Which, of course, means that he wouldn't be killed there anyway.

There was a TV Series from years ago I recall seeing on TV called Early Edition (I just looked up what the name was) - in it, the main character received newspapers from the next day showing what would happen in the present. And the plot of each episode revolved around him trying to fix whatever bad thing was going to happen. The newspaper would change accordingly if he made any changes. I don't think it was ever explained how that worked, though I've not watched all episodes, either. I recall the protagonist met another guy who, like himself, had been getting the future newspaper but he abused it (used the information there to gamble) so it stopped appearing. Or something like that - it's been a very long while since I saw it.

In Heroes Hiro can exist in any point in time. And any point in space, too. Anything that happens he can change, yet stuff still happens. The excuse that he cannot control his powers doesn't hold, as he is shown to be able to control them as his future self.

The Terminator franchise is also an example[footnote]even though the events are technically in the future, let's assume we're viewing them as the present[/footnote] Skynet sends an assassin back in time to remove John Connor and instead of things already being resolved in the present, John Connor sends a bodyguard, too. This is done multiple times. And Skynet seems to even only be able to send assassins "progressively" along the timeline - the first T-800 goes back to kill Sarah from before John was born, the T-1000 after, and the chick (forgot her model number) when he's older. Skynet is either unwilling (which is illogical) or unable to, say, have sent the T-1000 when Sarah was a child herself.

These are off the top of my head - it's a non-exhaustive list.


Vivi22 said:
DoPo said:
Hubblignush said:
DoPo said:
Hubblignush said:
it's a bit hard to explain but basically
Bruce Willis as a kid sees a dude getting shot. When as an adult traveling back in time he get's shot in front of himself. It's impossible for him to change anything, since everything he could ever do has already happened.
Yet were he to die in the timespan between being a child and being an adult who was shot, there would have been a paradox. And also a variety of things could have happened as well - he could have been unavailable to go back in time for a wide variety of reasons. Why and how the timeline maintains itself balanced, is not really explored, there, as far as I recall.
Except he wouldn't die because he couldn't, he also couldn't do a whole lot of other things that prevented the thing. The things that happened were the also things that could have happened, no other thing could have happened as then the things that did happend would not have happened.
Did you even read my last sentence? Here it is again: why and how is the timeline keeping itself balanced?
This question is irrelevant, and fairly easy to think through quite frankly. Either he can't change his future because it is already pre-determined due to living in a deterministic universe and him being stuck in this closed time loop
Bruce Willis goes back to the past. He fails to finish his mission. There is nothing stopping anybody further in the future from going back and trying to stop him going back to the past. A deterministic universe would just mean nobody did, not that they couldn't do but for whatever reason they decided not to. Still, it could be that a derministic outcome would be that somebody would actually try it. Thus starting a perpetual paradox. It is an entirely good question, I think - the reasoning "But nobody does it", doesn't explain why or how they don't. They very definitely could.


Vivi22 said:
or to avoid a paradox in a non-deterministic universe many world's theory could be brought in to explain that in any situation in which he doesn't go back and die there, the possible future he comes from is averted. So there won't be a timeline in which he dies in front of himself as a child but then fails to go back in time later without that universes timeline being altered.
You would notice that if that's the case, you've proved my point in pointing out that Hubblignush's explanation makes no sense. Because, yes, what you say would be sensible, but it's directly in conflict with the claim that the timeline is static.

Vivi22 said:
What do you even mean by balance?
Not having paradoxes.

Vivi22 said:
That's a strange word to try and apply to causality if you ask me.
OK, admittedly, not the best choice of words, but I do think a paradox throws history out of balance. You can replace the word with "consistent", if you wish. Or maybe "keeps its integrity" is better.

Vivi22 said:
If we're talking about a question of how do we know that the cause in the future will actually come about after the effect viewed in the past, it's fairly implied in most fiction that you're dealing with a closed timeloop in which you can't change the events which lead to the future cause since they are already guaranteed by virtue of the effect already viewed in the past.
No, the question is, what is the mechanism that guarantees it. By merely observing a future event, that doesn't guarantee it, unless free will is not present. And sometimes, it isn't, depending on the work, other times, it's handwaved into "it happens because it happens". Which is not a good explanation - if I see myself (through time, somehow. And let's assume I'm not just viewing one possible future, but the future) eating a tuna sandwich tomorrow, I can choose to eat a bacon sandwich instead. Unless, of course, a mechanism of some sort that makes sure everything does happen the way it's supposed to.

Of course, that was a trivial example, let's make it slightly more complicated by, instead of seeing the future me eat a sandwich, I meet my future me and he could give me a high five, which is slightly more complicated in the imlications, namely, that there is timetravel as well.
 

MysticSlayer

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Pluvia said:
MysticSlayer said:
Pluvia said:
What I don't understand is why people find time travel so hard to understand? It's not that complex. Either you can travel back to the past and change things, creating all sorts of crazy shit, or you can't.

Harry Potter and the first Terminator all go on the logic that you can't change the past. All of that stuff that happened always happened. Nothing was changed when they went back to the past, that stuff had already happened, they just repeated it exactly the way it happened.
-Snip-
Because you're misunderstanding it.

X, Y, and Z already happened. They always happened. The events never led to each other due to time travel, they just always happened.
I don't really think it matters. The point was more than there was another variable beyond X, Y, and Z that could keep the timeline stable, not so much that that other variable ever had to have occurred at some point in the timeline. Did Snape, in some other pass through the time, save Harry? I doesn't really matter. I was only using that an example. The importance is more that time can always keep the series of cause-and-effects going, so long as there is some way it can get to the desired goal.

But anyways, I don't think the concept of time is set in stone enough to really be dogmatic about things. Perhaps the very nature of time travel so completely unravels our concept of continuity through time and the aspects of cause-and-effect that there is no needed explanation for how time remains stable. I just view it as a fun thing to think about, and since I don't currently have any other way to overcome the confusion caused by "drop off points" (for lack of a better way to summarize what I mentioned in my last post), I just stick with what I explained earlier.