Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lost, Time Travel, and Creating Something from Nothing

The current season of the popular American television series Lost has been largely based around time travel. Several characters have traveled from our era (the first decade of the 2000s) to 1977. The show seems to be going with the "Gran Paradox" theory of time travel: that the past cannot be changed. ( to read about the Gradfather Paradox vs. Branch Theory)

Here's a conversation where the character Miles tries to explain this to Hurley.

So, we'll assume that this is the way time travel works on Lost. There is a single timeline, and the actions taken by the time travelers in 1977 will in no way change the reality that they know in the 2000s.

So, in tonight's episode Hurley was seen writing in a notebook, and admitted to Miles that he was working on the screenplay to the Empire Strikes Back. To paraphrase:

"I've seen Empire Strikes Back like 200 times. It's 1977 right now and Star Wars just came out, so I figured I'd just write the script and send it to George Lucas to save him the trouble."

The show used Empire Strikes Back as a metaphor for Father-Son relationships, but let's look at Hurley's idea a little deeper.

What if he's successful? He manages to write the entire screenplay and get it to George Lucas. Lucas (along with credited screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Bracket) pass it off as their own work and make the film. If this happens...


Hurley didn't write it, he was simply transcribing a film that he knew from memory. But George Lucas didn't write it either, he just used a screenplay that arrived in a mysterious package in 1977. If George Lucas hadn't made the film, Hurley wouldn't have been able to write it. But if Hurley hadn't written it, the second film in the Star Wars series wouldn't have been the same movie that we all know and love.

Assuming a single timeline, and assuming that Hurley was successful, then the script for Empire Strikes Back has no origin. Essentially, it created itself!

So what does this mean? Well, that's what we need to think about. Discuss.


Robert Vollman said...

What if I went back in time and gave you this blog post? Then who would have written it?

Still you. Because even if I hadn't given it to you, you'd still have written it on your own.

The question is, since you didn't have to write it, what would you have done instead with your time? Written a different post? Then we'd have two posts when only one post should exist.

But fortunately you'd probably spend the extra time eating nachos in front of the TV, so everything would be cool.

Amri said...

Whenever you don't know the answer, it is God. God did it.

Matsby said...

I haven't been watching Lost for some time, so this is particularly confusing.

Confusing because why are they wearing Ghostbusters costumes?

Matsby said...

Okay. I found out that this is called a Ontological Paradox.

Where you don't know the origin of something because of the time loop created.