Getting Back from the Official Future


Back in 1989 Francis Fukuyama introduced us to the End of History, and on Wednesday this week we bypassed the future; leaving us stranded in some temporal and cultural liminality more akin to a glitch than a speedbump. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the West’s victory over international Communism we have been promised a world in which Marty McFly’s reality of product placement and brand names can roll on out into infinity, free from all ideological challenges to the markets, and now that we have crossed over the threshold of our eighties’ nostalgic future we find ourselves stuck in a post-future reality where the Libyans are still after us.


As a youngster, after watching Back to the Future, I remember designing (redrawing) Doc Brown’s flux capacitor on my bedroom floor, and I can still recall the sense of importance this image had. Time travel was possible, and somehow this image contained the key to this possibility. It was an icon or talisman of our dream – one we all shared – of an escape, not from place but from time. It was the eighties. We loved the place and we feared the time. At school we were fed a diet of free milk and warnings of when the Russians attacked. At nine years old I had already seen images of what their bombs would do to us. Until the Wall came down we all wanted out of that time.


Fast-forward three whole decades and sometimes we revisit those memories with nostalgia of all things. Whether it was the crimes against fashion or music, the Neunundneunzig Luftballons, or prepubescent attempts at time machine blueprints, we all had our escape plans. Every so often I catch myself daydreaming about cheating auld Kronos and making that quantum leap. It’s not the case that I want to have some oedipal adventure with my younger mother or kill my father with Val Halen. It’s just for fun, but it’s all different now. Now I know that matter amasses weight as it approaches light speed and tends towards a requirement of infinite energy. So even protected by the stasis in motion of the general theory of relativity we can’t warp time (yet) by velocity alone.


The only other workable solution would be Miguel Alcubierre’s Drive. Matter can’t reach the speed of light, but space-time does, and at the furthest edges of our universe it expands from its centre at warp speeds. Theoretically speaking we can catch one of these waves like a surfer and ride it back in time. Protected by some sort of warp bubble Relativity will keep us safe. All of this, however, necessitates movement of time and place. I want to travel through time – of course I do – but I want to stay right here and do it. I want to give a younger me today’s lottery numbers and race results. I want to go back to some special moments – one in Front Square comes to mind – and I want to spend time with people I miss. We fear messing up the past, but we did a good enough job of that when we were there. Until we’ve ironed out these problems I’ll continue to travel back in my memories.

Ùr-Fhàsaidh
Jason Michael
Blog Author

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