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Thread: The ethics of the Protocols.

  1. #11
    Veteran Member bajisima's Avatar
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    Actually upon thinking about it, is time travel itself ethical? It would be virtually impossible not to have a desire or want to change history so those temptations might derail the entire effort. Anyone who has compassion or empathy would certainly be challenged to not offer help or assistance to someone needing it. Or changing something so terrible that happened so others will live or be better off.
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  2. #12
    Spock of Vulcan Ian Jeffrey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bajisima View Post
    Actually upon thinking about it, is time travel itself ethical? It would be virtually impossible not to have a desire or want to change history so those temptations might derail the entire effort. Anyone who has compassion or empathy would certainly be challenged to not offer help or assistance to someone needing it. Or changing something so terrible that happened so others will live or be better off.
    Doctor Who explored this in the 1st season (of the rebooted series, with Christopher Eccleston) episode "Father's Day," where Rose saves her father from being killed in a hit-and-run. Chaos ensues as deadly creatures try to repair the damage to the time-space continuum, until the Doctor and Rose can save the day.

    Star Trek has also dealt with the issue. Even Babylon5 had a time loop issue, where someone had to go back in time and effect changes, to maintain the integrity of the time-stream.

    Most (not all*) time-travel stories deal with ethics and consequences of changing the past - which is an interesting hypothetical, considering that the physics of space-time do not allow for travel into the past. See The Science of Doctor Who, which is no longer on NetFlix, but is available on Prime. Naturally, not an in-depth course, but a fun hour or so.

    * Notably, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells involved travel to the future, so the issue did not arise.
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  3. #13
    Retired Admin Macduff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Czernobog View Post
    Watching the second season of a fascinating show on Netflix called Travelers. Don't stop. This isn't a "TV" topic. It really is about ethics. Without boring anyone with too much detail about the program, basically it is kind of a twist on Quantum Leap. People from the future send their consciousnesses back to now, to be hosted by people here. To prevent paradox, trvalers only come back to hosts at the moment of their deaths, to minimise changes to the existing timeline, outside of specific changes that are determined to create a better future than the one from which the Travelers come.

    Now, first, this very idea carries with it, it's own paradox. After all, would not every person that the no longer dead host interact with actually constitute an alteration of the timeline? After all, they were supposed to be dead, and would never have interacted with those people.

    But, let's put a pin in that for a moment. The following are the protocols for Travelers:


    • Protocol 1: The mission comes first.
    • Protocol 2: Never jeopardize your cover.
    • Protocol 3: Donít take a life; donít save a life, unless otherwise directed. Do not interfere.
    • Protocol 4: Do not reproduce.
    • Protocol 5: In the absence of direction, maintain your host's life.
    • Protocol 6: Do not communicate with other known travelers outside of your team unless sanctioned by the Director.


    Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't these protocols contradictory, and impossible for someone to follow? I mean, Protocol 3, for instance. As I pointed out, doesn't their very presence, since the person they are inhabiting are now interacting with people they, otherwise, never would have.

    And, what about Protocol 4? I mean, if the person you jumped into happens to be married, and they were trying to have a kid, in order to keep protocol 3, doesn't that mean you would have to violate protocol 4?

    Wondering what you guys think. (Yeah, I know...I think way too much about the shows I'm into.)
    If you go by Chaos Theory, which is that something as minute as a butterfly flapping it's wings can cause a hurricane, or even Observer Effect, where just observing something changes it, then those rules couldn't possibly work.
    I kind of like the science fiction idea that some parts of time can be altered but others are too hardwired in to change. So Marty McFly could change history enough to change his dad's personality but he couldn't kill baby Hitler.
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    Spock of Vulcan Ian Jeffrey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Macduff View Post
    If you go by Chaos Theory, which is that something as minute as a butterfly flapping it's wings can cause a hurricane, or even Observer Effect, where just observing something changes it, then those rules couldn't possibly work.
    Right. Any change, however minute, would cause ripple effects.

    Quote Originally Posted by Macduff View Post
    I kind of like the science fiction idea that some parts of time can be altered but others are too hardwired in to change. So Marty McFly could change history enough to change his dad's personality but he couldn't kill baby Hitler.
    Doctor Who called these "fixed points in time," that could not be changed without disastrous results (if they could be changed at all - I do not recall which). But the McFly example illustrates the basic principle.

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    Veteran Member Czernobog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bajisima View Post
    Would it really be ethical though? I mean its more designed not to upset the time line right? That doesnt necessarily mean ethics but rather necessity. Its necessary to not undo the time line, or the future will be affected. Do I make sense?
    But, how does one do that? Really? I mean unless you go back and do absolutely nothing but observe, undetected, doesn't your very presence, by definition, alter the timeline?

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    Veteran Member Czernobog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bajisima View Post
    Actually upon thinking about it, is time travel itself ethical? It would be virtually impossible not to have a desire or want to change history so those temptations might derail the entire effort. Anyone who has compassion or empathy would certainly be challenged to not offer help or assistance to someone needing it. Or changing something so terrible that happened so others will live or be better off.
    Well, I understand how one can justify not "helping". After all, you are all already dead. Long dead. So why should your deaths and suffering affect me? It is just history. Something that happened long before I was born.

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