(Crossposted from my LJ.)
In the last couple of days I've been introduced to an interesting tale. A tale that disturbed me, concerned me, made me wonder if our world as we know it has less than 15 years left.
It is the tale of John Titor, a self-proclaimed time traveler from the year 2036.
Okay, it sounds crazy. It's not crazy, though...it's simply a hoax. It's a compelling hoax, so I decided to write my take on it. After some initial 'what if' excitement about it, the reality set in that this wasn't what it appeared to be. In this piece, I hope to prove relatively clearly that his claims are false both in theory and in fact. He seemed to know enough about physics to pass amongst laymen, but unfortunately he skipped philosophy and economics while he was reading all those physics books. Since this story just won't seem to die and there is evidence that the same perpetrator is now claiming to be an alien on various boards across the web, I felt it was worth sitting down and analyzing.
I should begin by providing the source material. This is the best collective of John Titor records I could find. I don't know who owns the domain or runs the site, but it wouldn't surprise me if it's 'Titor' himself. The skew is absolutely 'pro' Titor, clutching at the most remote potential 'proof' that what he claimed is true.
John's tale is one that is easy to believe. In a few short years from when he began telling it, the United States was to face some sort of internal crisis resulting in a civil war, one of militias and rural gun owners against totalitarian city states ruled by the federal government. Beginning in 2004 and early 2005, this civil 'flares up and down' for ten years until, in 2015, Russia attacks the government of the United States (AKA the urban city states), China and the European Union. The war is short and very nuclear. He claims that the US government (which he dubs the 'AFE (American Federal Empire)') is destroyed, along with the European Union and China. He says that in 2036, Russia is the new United States' primary trading partner.
Along with these claims of war, he makes reference to CJD (AKA Mad Cow Disease) becoming 'pandemic' by 2036 due to our current misunderstanding of how it gestates. (An apparent latency period of 10-30 years leads to virtually every meat eater in the world coming down with it.) He gives many details about the world of the future and his time machine, as well as his 'mission' in the past.
He revealed his story using bulletin boards across the web, particularly Art Bell's P2P bulletin board and anomalies.net. He seemed to answer people's questions to the best of his ability, but refused to answer certain questions based on a code of ethics. He supplied pictures of his time machine, even scans of the operational manual with cutaway technical drawings.
In April of 2001, he 'returned' to the year 2036 to complete his mission.
He never tried to convince anyone, at least, not overtly. He never asked for anything, never tried to sell anything, even refused to help change our potential future for reasons he attempted to explain based on his religious faith and knowledge of time travel and 'worldlines'.
The problem is, it was all a lie. He stayed a little too long and started to get his answers crossed up. I'm going to attempt to address some of the major flaws in his story and possibly debunk this story once and for all.
Titor mentioned economics a few times.
'There is no large industrial complex creating masses of useless food and recreational items. Food and livestock is grown and sold locally.'
'Life is much more rural in the future but "high" technology is used to communicate and travel. People raise a great deal of their own food and do
more "farm" work. Yes, compared to now, we do work long hours. After the war, my father made a living selling oranges up and down the West coast of
Florida. My closest friend raises horses and another works for a company that maintains "wireless" Internet nodes.'
'Its not very different than it is now. Yes, we have money and credit cards. However, like everything else, the monetary system is decentralized. Banking
is based mostly around the community structure. There are no multinational banking or computerized economic systems. There are also no income taxes.'
All good, right?
He stumbles here:
'In 2036, community life is a bit different. People are valued and judged based on their contribution and worth. Work is organized around the family and the value of that work is assessed inside of the community. Most communities range in size from 1000 to 4000 people. If a family wanted to move from one community to another or if a son or daughter wanted to move to another community, they must apply and be interviewed by the community leadership council. During this process, the family or individual is evaluated as to whether or not the work or skill they have is required or necessary to that individual community. Once accepted, the family or individual is expected to uphold their end of the work and support the community. If they don't, the community stops supporting them and they are forced to change their attitude or move away from the community.
The family work we did was picking, sorting and shipping oranges by sailboat up and down the coast of Florida. We were expected to produce a certain
amount for the community and a certain amount for other communities as agreed to by our CLC. In exchange, we received power, water, a certain amount of food and other necessities that were produced inside our community.'
He basically describes communal living. The economy is communist, with work creating goods or providing services in exchange for other goods and services. Where do credit cards enter into this picture? Money? The ability to make money or pay credit card bills? They don't. Those are elements of a capitalist society...the exact opposite of the cultural picture he paints in those paragraphs.
It gets worse.
'The people who sign my paycheck told me why we needed a 5100 and sent me off to get one.'
So he gets a paycheck. Does that sound like the trading/communal system? Watch as the economics of his claims fall apart.
'27. Yes, paper money is still widely used.'
'Does money look different than it does now? No, money is pretty much the same. Unfortunately, I do not have any money with me because I wouldn't be able to use it here.'
'Is the same type of currency used? Is ours today good in 2010 or 2020? Yes, we use money. That's a good question. I don't see why you couldn't use
your current bills in the future.'
It IS a good question. Currently, the value of the dollar is based on a 'floating currency system'. In 2002 that became a -dual- currency system when the Euro came out as the competition on the world market for dollar share. A good link describing money in the US is here.
The current system of currency would collapse in the event of a catastrophic world war wiping out the financial centers and banking hubs of the world. Paper money would just be paper, as there would be no banks or federal reserve to guarantee it. Even falling back on the old gold standard wouldn't work, as there wouldn't be a United States government to put one in place. (Is one to believe that Fort Knox would be spared from the nuclear barrage? Lots of tanks there as well as gold.) Even -if-, in the 20 years since the initial attacks, the U.S. had managed to create a new monetary system to replace the old, and give it some sort of basis that would allow for trading it not only amongst ourselves for goods and services but also with other countries, our current money would certainly be worthless seeing as how it's value is based on systems no longer valid after the catastrophic destruction of half of mankind.
There are other economic and logical problems with his story. GE makes the time machine...but surely, all urban areas were destroyed? Somehow not only did GE (headquartered in New York City) somehow survive as a company, but their research and development allowed them to continue current research UNABATED throughout civil and nuclear war! Quite an amazing company, that GE.
Moving forward, we run into philosophical problems with his time travel model.
The entirety of his explanation for time travel is based on one single concept: that there are infinite universes where every single possible occurance has already played out. Each one of these universes is a 'worldline' and the time machine allows you to return to the past by jumping 'worldlines' into one where you were in a time machine and arrived at that time. This explains away all of the philosophical questions about time travel, paradoxes, etc. You aren't changing YOUR past, it's a past virtually identical to yours. You can't return to YOUR future, it's a future virtually identical to yours. He explains this away here:
'However, the reason there are no paradoxes is because the universe doesn't care how we react to its handy-work. In a Universe made up of infinite worldliness (super universe), everything is possible and has a 100% probability, therefore: no paradoxes.'
Now, stay with me here. Matter leaves one worldline. That matter is the machine and the human transported in it. That matter appears in another worldline. The very fact that it appeared in that worldline makes it a different worldline.
How can matter jump from one worldline to another? If all you are doing is creating another worldline, then that worldline is changed the moment you interact with it. In short, every single moment and movement you make is represented by another worldline, to infinity. Even the slightest variation in 'reality' or action is represented by another worldline.
If that is true, then there is no empirical 'you'. 'You' are not travelling anywhere. Your consciousness cannot go from one worldline to another simply because every moment a new 'you' is created in a new worldline. Nothing 'goes' from one to another, there is no possible way for them to be linked because they simply do not exist relative to one another! In order for matter to transfer from one worldline to another, according to this theory, then one empirical, overriding worldline would have to exist. One 'you' would be able to jump from one reality to the other. Changes you make to that reality would be changes. By bridging two worldlines in such a way, you run into quite the philosophical paradox indeed. Where do you exist?
He explains this away by saying that he won't return to his worldline, that he'll just return to another almost exactly like it. He also says he'll have to jump back to his original destination (1975). Later, he says he has to hit 1998, THEN 1975, THEN back to 2036. Using his reasoning, he's bridging six different worldlines...the original 2036, the first 1975, the 2001, the 1998, the second 1975, and the second 2036. When you have to imagine the 'hims' in all these relatively identical worldlines making the same bridges, eventually the lines start to cross. Logic and reason break down, paradoxes occur, and the whole thing becomes simply impossible. Let's not even broach the subject of his so called 'ethics' in attempting to avoid changing our worldline, yet giving us details of an impending civil war and a nuclear war thereafter.
This smacks of a hoax from the start. It has all of the classic elements of a well-planned hoax. The paranormal individual has a reason to avoid direct questions, or to proclaim ignorance about anything direct. Using educated guesses and estimates of his audience, he spins tales that sound soothing to their ears. (His libertarian-ish militia-happy anti-goverment future plays well to the conspiracy types over at anomalies.net and his other haunts.) Really, he's not far removed from cold-reading psychics or old time spiritualists. Do a little research and be ready to wow them with knowledge from beyond!
Towards the end, his tale fell apart completely. He had personal contact with some of the anomalies.net board mods and promised far more than he could deliver. After repeatedly stepping on his own story (in examples given above and those I didn't go into) he promised a video would be made of his 'jump' home. Word had it that the video was made...then it simply never arrived. The final breakdown of his story appears in this link, as the moderators discover that he is indeed still with us...posing as an alien on another board.
And so, one of the best hoaxes of the information age comes to a close. Does anyone have any opinions or questions?