“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” –Arthur C. Clarke
“Any time you’re down with a major head cold the number of blog entries increase.” -Rich Baker
I have an idea for an invention. Before I tell you what it is I want to be clear that I have no hope of actually inventing this in any real sense. I have conceived it much like when Stan Lee conceived of Spider-Man. Maybe one day someone will come up with a way to genetically alter their biochemistry into possessing Spider-Man’s powers. And maybe some day someone will actually build my idea. Then they will have invented my idea – regardless of whether they came up with it on their own or not I can still claim to have conceived of it once.
I am no expert in physics by any stretch, but based on my rudimentary understanding of it, I think this invention does not necessarily disobey any fundamental physical laws. But I’m not sure on that, so this could just be an exercise in fiction. If it is that, then I still think its worth thinking about.
I call this invention The Records Recaller. I’m sure someone in advertising could come up with a catchier title, but that’s what it is for now. Essentially it’s a monitor that can show you any angle of any place at any time in history. In other words, you type in 6AM CST April 1st 2002 at Longitude x and latitude Y. Then the monitor shows you a still image – essentially a photo – of that moment in history. Obviously it would not exactly be a photo since a photo by definition needs a camera to take a photograph.
The Records Recaller however would not do this. Instead it would run an incredibly complex algorithm that would take the current properties of all the atoms on earth and reconstruct them linearly backwards to the point you indicated. It would then take that information and decode it to an image that would essentially look like a photograph. Then at that point you can press play and see that point in history go forward in time just like you’re watching a video. There would also need to be more parameters for viewing angle and distance of course.
Why do I think this is theoretically possible? Since information can neither be destroyed (except for possibly a blackhole) or created (except for possibly a white hole) it seems reasonable to me that a smart enough computer could run the equations and figure out how to go from A (the present) to B (the past). It’s not wholly dissimilar from what a detective would do. Look at a crime scene, examine evidence and tell us what happened at that crime scene in the past. My machine will do it billions of times more accurately however. In theory we could calculate this large amount of data with a large enough computer (maybe quantum computer or some other huge leap in technology) might one day allow us to do this.
Regardless, I think it’s a fun thought experiment for now if nothing else. What would a world look like if this invention were ever to materialize into reality?
Trials: Trials would be really different and much faster. We should still bring in a jury I think, but rather than have them listen to witnesses just have them watch the machine display the time of the crime from many different angles. The defendant would be allowed to try and explain why it looks the way it looks, but it’s up to the jury to judge the evidence against that. The need for blood samples, DNA, fingerprints, etc. would essentially be obsolete. Our overpacked court system could get unclogged for the first time in many many years.
Crime: I can’t find studies on this, but it is my guess that there is a certain segment of the population that only obey certain laws because the potential of getting caught is not worth the the gain from breaking said law. I don’t know what that percentage is, but I can tell you that this would shoot that number really close to zero. Any crime could be caught with irrefutable evidence as long as someone knows to look for it. The only way you wouldn’t get caught is if you either 1. Did nothing wrong or 2. No one ever happened to punch in the right time and place coordinates to find the evidence that you ever did it. For small crimes like taking acid the risk may still be worth it. But robbing a bank, defacing someone’s property, or another big crime, someone would certainly know about it and would have access to proving it. I know this won’t eliminate all crime, but it will eliminate some.
Conspiracy Theories: Human beings have the ability to deny anything. I could deny the existence of breakfast cereals even if you handed me a box of Frosted Flakes. I could deny that the box is real. It’s unlikely that I’d get many others to agree with me, but I could do it. However, most people seem to bend their wills to overwhelming evidence. I believe the evidence is clear that JFK was assassinated by a lone gunman. You may interpret the evidence differently and conclude that it was the result of an as of yet still secret conspiracy. But I bet we can both agree that it would be immensely satisfying to watch the assassination on the Records Recallerr from several different angles. If in fact there was a bullet fired from a second gunman on the grassy knoll then I will change my mind and say there’s more to it than a lone gunman. However, if we see that all the bullets originated with Oswald’s gun then you have to admit that he was the lone gunman.
Sidebar: I think most conspiracy theories are wrong. But I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong. I just wanna know the truth. And secretly I would enjoy being wrong on a number of things like the existence of fairies and vampires and super powers.
“Bill Nye, do you believe in ghosts? No. However, I’d love to see one.” –Bill Nye (http://youtu.be/N22eMZP5phI 19:59)
Patents: No one could ever falsely claim they came up with something first unless it was true. The Records Recaller would prove them correct or not. If someone claims they are lying and they can prove it by showing the point in time where the liar stole the idea then we take the patent from that person and give it to whomever it belongs. One thing we’d need to define is who has the right to the patent? If the Records Recaller were to be invented I don’t think I have any rights to its patent. I didn’t put the time into inventing it. And even if this blog post was the direct inspiration for someone to build it (possible, but unlikely) then I believe it would be solely the discretion of the patent holder to give me any credit and/or monies. If they decide to then that’s awesome, but if they decide to give me no credit then I think that’s cool. I can still honestly claim I thought of it first, but that should not earn me any of the money from holding the patent. And of course this would also be true for copyrights as well.
Relationships: No more lying to your significant other and getting away with it. Just tell the truth no matter what.
Skeletons: We all have secrets. But what if we didn’t? What if we all dropped the pretense that we’re all blemish free? Your secrets wouldn’t be posted on your Twitter feed in some Scarlet Letter type way. But rather you would know that any curious individual could find out your deepest darkest secret with the push of a button. That time we shoplifted and never told anyone? It’s on the screen. The time you hit someone and they didn’t see you and you never took responsibility? The time you swore you bought condoms or fed the dog or whatever. It’s now all discoverable in a world with the Records Recaller. And with them all accessible to everyone maybe we can stop feeling so much shame and just admit that we’ve all done things we are ashamed of and that’s totally fine.
Politics: Any money exchanging hands. Any affairs. Any crazy thing that resembles a moment from the show House of Cards or the movie A Clear & Present Danger or any other scandalous political thriller story. Politicians would be forced to clean up their lives or voters would have to just accept that those types of incidents will happen in politics.
Religion: A fundamental belief of Christianity is that Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross and later came back to life. Of course there are several other beliefs in Christianity, but this is one of the lynch pins. If the Records Recaller could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that that happened, then Christianity would likely reign supreme as the one true religion and many people would convert to it from their current beliefs or lack of beliefs. Conversely, if it proved that the crucifixion and resurrection did not happen then Christians would be forced to admit that their belief system is either incorrect or redefined in some way. What if we saw footage of Muhammed ascending into Heaven? Would you convert to Islam if faced with overwhelming evidence? What about the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, Joseph Smith’s golden plates? The complete fabrication of the teachings of Scientology? etc. If the Records Recaller could ever exist it could definitively answer the question: If there is a supernatural force and which religion (if any) accurately describe it?
Just curios, did the last paragraph make you feel bad at all? It did for me. I wonder why that is. That seems to imply that I either have a doubt in my mind about my belief system or a I wish to cling to my belief system even if it’s possibly untrue? Or both. But why are those things making me feel bad? Do I have a bias for my beliefs over a different set? Well…yes. I have to. If I didn’t really care about my beliefs they wouldn’t be my beliefs. They would be a non-issue. Do I care which form of writing (Cursive or print) is taught in schools? Nope. I don’t know, but I don’t care. So, if you changed it from one to the other that would be fine with me. But my belief system. That seems way more touchy. Whether we live after death or have a person-like entity there to hear us when we pray? Yeah. It’s a touchy subject.
Lost History: Historians recently discovered strong evidence for how the ancient Egyptians actually built the Pyramids (http://phys.org/news/2014-04-ancient-egyptians-pyramid-stones-sand.html). And it wasn’t with the help of aliens. There were theories, but nothing that everyone felt completely confident about based on evidence. This new thing is based on evidence. So, most everyone is jumping on board. It’s amazing how many pieces of our recent history (20,000 years or so) are so unexplained: Easter Island, Teotihuacan, The Voynich Manuscript, etc. Wouldn’t it be cool to fire up the Records Recaller and see the answers to all those mysteries? And we don’t just have to stop there. We can watch human beings from 40,000 years ago. Maybe there is a lot to learn from doing what we can’t even imagine. Grad students could devote a lot of their time collecting the exact coordinates to input to let you see certain major events in history such as the invention of fire, the Trojan War, Amelia Earheart’s whereabouts, etc. It would be very similar to how astrophysicists devote a lot of their time to looking at different patches of the night sky. The historians would devote their time to looking at different patches of the Record Recaller’s history archives in creating a master index of coordinates or web addresses.
There are probably way more applications for this machine if it ever actually came to be. Write your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear them. Would you use the machine or not? If so, what would you wanna look up?
To me just the discussing of this is a step in the right direction for humanity. We need to think about our beliefs as not necessarily fact until proven.
Oh, and if anyone does ever invent this machine, they could theoretically use it to go back to July 1st of 2014 at 12PM PCT and see that I did conceive of the idea back then. =)