Opinion: All so-called 'time travellers' are liars

Doc Brown and Marty McFly - fictional time travellers.
Doc Brown and Marty McFly - fictional time travellers. Photo credit: Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures

OPINION: If someone tells you they're from the future, they're lying. How do I know? I'm from the past.

If time travel was possible, at some point in the last 37 years I've been alive one of them would have shown up with incontrovertible proof - a Lotto result, a cricket score, a prediction Donald Trump's presidency would last more than a year.

Any of these things would have been solid evidence. Instead, we have people like Alexander Smith and his blurry photo of a futuristic city he snapped in 2118 (they apparently don't have digital cameras in the 22nd century) and Noah, a man from 2030 who claims the US will elect a 21-year-old woman called Ilana Remikee their commander-in-chief.

The past few weeks have seen news sites inundated with 'news' about alleged time travellers, including Newshub. Is there something special about the present that has them all setting their flux capacitors to 2018?

Nope, because they're not. Sites keep running these stories because people want to read them.

But unless human nature has been solved in the distant future, you can safely discount any so-called time traveller's claims on the fact they've never done a Biff Tannen and gambled their way to a fortune by betting on sports results.

If you want to get technical, let's get technical. There are three main theories on how time travel could work, and they explain why time travellers' extraordinary claims always fail to stand up to even the slightest scrutiny.

Biff Tannen
Biff Tannen's casino in Back to the Future II. Photo credit: Universal Pictures

The one most commonly seen in fiction is the single, changeable timeline. Think Back to the Future, or Ashton Kutcher film The Butterfly Effect - people can go back in time and change the present.

This doesn't make any sense because you could go back in time and change something that would prevent you going back in time in the first place - the infamous grandfather paradox wonders what would happen if you killed your own grandfather, erasing yourself from existence so you couldn't kill him at all.

You don't even need to kill someone for this paradox to arise - what if you went back just a few hours and smashed your time machine with a sledgehammer? So that one's out.

Benjamin Linus kicks off Lost's time travel arc with the turning of the donkey wheel.
Benjamin Linus kicks off Lost's time travel arc with the turning of the donkey wheel. Photo credit: ABC/Bad Robot

The next is the single, unchanging timeline used in cult TV show Lost. In this model, time travel back and forth is possible - but nothing you can do changes anything, because it already happened.

This would allow time travellers to make accurate predictions of the future, since that future happens regardless of what the time traveller does. But no self-described time traveller has ever made predictions that have stacked up.

While many make predictions for the distant future so can't yet be proven wrong, some have tried telling the immediate future - and spectacularly failed. The most infamous was perhaps 'John Titor', who appeared in web forums in the year 2000 saying he was from the year 2036 and on a mission to acquire an old computer that held the key to solving the 2038 problem.

Now, the 2038 problem is real - think the millennium bug, but way more serious - but at the time was relatively obscure, and Titor's detailed knowledge of it and technical knowhow suggested he was legit.

But he made the mistake of predicting near-future world events we know now never happened - for example, that the last Olympics would be held in 2004 after the US descended into civil war, which would rage until World War III broke out in 2015. Not even a year of Trump saw any of that happen.

Star Trek
A time travel device used the original Star Trek television series. Photo credit: Paramount

The third time travel theory - the many-worlds interpretation - says every action we make creates an entirely new universe. This way time travellers can't screw up their own futures - they're free to kill their grandfathers, safe in the knowledge their grandfather in the original timeline - the one they're descended from - is still alive.

But this is a serious copout. Anyone could make any prediction about the future, and when it doesn't happen, say the very act of travelling through time prevented it. Even if they were a legit time traveller, their predictions would be worthless.

Noah from one of the latest time travel videos on YouTube.
Noah from one of the latest time travel videos on YouTube. Photo credit: Apex TV/YouTube

So either time travellers are lying, or they're writing crap sci-fi not even the Wachowski siblings would put on the big screen.

We're all time-travellers in a way - travelling 24 hours into the future, every single day. But none of us have figured out how to go further, or come back, like Noah and John Titor.

But here's a prediction: as long as people want to pretend they're telling the truth, they'll keep clicking on these headlines.

Dan Satherley is a senior digital news producer at Newshub, and has watched Lost in its entirety too many times to count.