A Loophole in Niven's Law (written few hours before The Time Traveler Convention)

Niven’s Law says that if it is physically possible to build time machines and change the past using them, then a stable world is one, in which no time machine has ever been built and operated. This is so because if some inventor built a time machine at a certain time, then in the future, there will always be a time traveler, who changes history so as to prevent the builder from building his time machine.

This assumes that a single brilliant inventor invents a time machine. A single person can be blocked. This is a single point of failure.

However, what if the world has technologically advanced to such a state that there are millions of people, who have the know-how and materials, so it takes only a small leap for them to build a time machine?

My thesis is that such a case represents a loophole in Niven’s Law.

This is so because it is as possible to block development of a time machine as preventing superheated water from eventually boiling, or supersaturated salt solution from eventually crystallizing all excess salt. Water needs to be cooled or the salt solution needs to be diluted. In the case of human technology, this means setting the technology back – shutting down the Internet, having a large natural disaster, etc.

Otherwise, no single time traveler from the future will be able to block all people, who are capable of building time machines. There would be no single point of failure, such that acting on it would prevent the world from having a time machine altogether.

Author: Omer Zak

I am deaf since birth. I played with big computers which eat punched cards and spew out printouts since age 12. Ever since they became available, I work and play with desktop size computers which eat keyboard keypresses and spew out display pixels. Among other things, I developed software which helped the deaf in Israel use the telephone network, by means of home computers equipped with modems. Several years later, I developed Hebrew localizations for some cellular phones, which helped the deaf in Israel utilize the cellular phone networks. I am interested in entrepreneurship, Science Fiction and making the world more accessible to people with disabilities.

2 thoughts on “A Loophole in Niven's Law (written few hours before The Time Traveler Convention)”

  1. The concept of time machines is paradoxical. If we would be able to go into the past, we might have changed things which affects our past and our present, therefore creating a paradoxical endless loop. If we could predict the future, we would be able to gamble and win the lottery, or in any casino game. Therefore, it's not possible to change the past nor to predict the future. It is possible to travel into remote future, using relativity for example – but it's not possible to come back. Time, as we perceive it, is a one way direction – past, present, future.

    I read two good books related to the issues of time:
    1. A Brief History of Time (Hawking)
    2. The Arrow of Time
    (You can also read about it in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow_of_time)

    I believe that the arrow of time as we perceive it, or what is called the thermodynamic arrow of time (the second law of thermodynamics), is not inherent in the physical world itself, but only in the way we perceive it. Therefore, it is possible to “go to the past”. But although it's physically possible to go to the past, we will never be able to perceive it. This is because the way we perceive time. Our common sense just can't handle such things, due to our biological limitations. But it doesn't mean that's impossible.


    E-mail: uri@speedy.co.il
    Website: http://www.uri.co.il


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