It’s a cold, dark night in 1850. Atop a cliff, a man on a horse is lost, riding along the cliff edge using the moon’s reflection on the waves as a guide. The skies become cloudy and a storm breaks out, a violent thundery hell on high. There are no towns or villages nearby, no roads, no light of any kind, a totally empty, black landscape of complete isolation. The man, named William, is a brave man, and not scared by the events of the evening. But his horse is very frightened, and a sudden flash of forked lightning in the sky scares him. He rears, standing high on his hind legs, sending poor William flying into the air. So close to the cliff edge, the wind howling, surely William has no chance. Suddenly, a strange man dressed in a dark cloak lurches from the darkness and grabs William’s hand. William is saved from certain death. The cloaked man runs away, never to be seen again. That night haunts William. He becomes enchanted by the occult, to keep the dark away, and one day finds himself in an infamous occult market. There, he is offered the chance to ‘see the future’. What he agrees to, and what is done to him, today, would be described as cryogenic freezing, albeit primitive. But, miraculously, it works. 200 years later, in 2050, he wakes and starts a new life. One day, the gullible fool falls in love with a time machine. In the back of a catalogue, a real time machine! He buys it, of course, and to his surprise, it works. So he packs his things, including a disguise, grabs his camera, and goes back to that fateful day in 1850 to find his rescuer. But he becomes lost on that dark stormy night and confused in the darkness. He forgets his purpose. In the haze, he sees a man falling from a horse, and runs over to save him, running off into the night thereafter. Upon arriving back in 2050, he realises something. He was that man that night in 1850. This, readers, is the predestination paradox. But what is going on? ‘Tis the question.
This is world famous, better known by its science fiction name ‘the causality loop’. Although outside of science fiction, nobody calls it that. It occurs when a time traveller is caught in a loop of events that predestines him or her to travel back in time. The paradox of changing the timeline is null because it’s already happened. William already saved himself from falling off the cliff, therefore everything that happened must happen. No change to the timeline. So if a time traveller tries to change history this way, they would only serve the purpose of fulfilling their role in history. It already happened, history has not changed. One’s personal history, their past, present and future, have already happened, from the moment of birth. They can never change or be influenced. This paradox is airtight.
A temporal causality loop is only theoretical, obviously, when a chain of events cause-effect events in circular. If Event A causes Event B, and Event B causes Event C, and Event C causes Event A, then these events can be considered a temporal causality loop. Using the logic above, it’s easy to understand how the paradox, despite being a paradox, can actually work. A paradox is not always impossible. It’s just sounds impossible. As for William, although the notion of saving himself sounds fairly illogical, a paradox, it’s actually quite possible.
The predestination paradox is a classic, and does question our free will, somewhat. Because if you were William, you were always going to save William. You can’t get away from that. Not with this paradox. See it as a destiny.
Wrapped inside a brilliant little paradox.
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