Two of the most common literary devices that science fiction authors use to give their stories a real “science fiction” feel are time travel and faster-than-light travel. We sci-fi writers do that to get our characters around the hugely time-consuming task of traveling the galaxy. Even at the speed of light, a spaceship would take over four years just to get to the star-system nearest Earth. That’s too much time to waste, so a spaceship that can travel faster than light (“warp drive” or “Lightspeed” or some other convention) is usually invoked to speed the plot along. We really can’t travel faster than light, at least not according to Einstein, and neither can we travel forward or backward in time, though it can be used to good effect in a story. See H.G. Wells The Time Machine, for example.
But I’ve heard that time travel and faster-than-light travel may actually be possible in the future. Perhaps our science hasn’t advanced far enough to understand how it could be possible. If this is true, it brings up a curious paradox. Surely out there in all those billions of stars in our own galaxy, there must be a civilization far more advanced than us. That is, a people who can travel in time. I’d love to meet them. But, if they can travel in time, why haven’t they visited us here? Why, if time travel is really possible, haven’t we seen some indication of it by now? Are there really people out there who can travel back in time and drop in and say hello?
Of course, if time travelers are really visiting us, they may be so good at hiding among us we just haven’t seen them. There are people on Earth now who claim to have been taken aboard alien spacecraft and lived among them and been dissected or interrogated, but their stories have never been rigorously confirmed. To date, there is no credible evidence of visitors from beyond our planet, Roswell, UFO’s and Area 51 notwithstanding. I emphasize “credible.”
Are they really there? Or not? If they are really there and are capable of visiting us any time they want, why not drop in for a visit? The fact they haven’t could indicate that time travel just isn’t possible at all. That’s one possibility, but I have a different take on this. The fact that we don’t have any good evidence they have visited us could be an indication that they don’t want to visit us. Any civilization sophisticated enough to travel in time or travel beyond the speed of light might just be so sophisticated they’ve eliminated disease, hunger, and warfare as well, and just don’t want to put up with a planet that hasn’t. Why would they come to a planet where one country invades another on the basis of racial purity, or because it wants to impose its style of government on another? Why would they visit a world where the inhabitants plant bombs for the sole purpose of terrorizing others? Or fly airplanes into buildings for the main purpose of killing some people they don’t like? Or lets its environment go when it could easily do something about it? I could give hundreds of more examples, but you get the point. They might be so disgusted with us they’ve blown us off. Perhaps there are civilizations out there waiting for us to learn to live together, to live within our own sphere, to exist together without rancor and distrust. Maybe then they will invite us to join a real Brotherhood of Planets.
Well, they’ve got a long wait ahead of them. But stop and think about it. Would you visit a planet as dysfunctional as ours?