I feel strange when I emerge from the scanner. I guess it’s not really an MRI scanner any more, but it still feels like I’ve had an eight hour scan under some heavy narcotics. My thoughts are slow, undefined. Does this mean the experiment has worked? I try to check myself for new memories. The score of tomorrow’s Lakers game, that’s objective one. If anything survived the transfer, that did.
113-110. Am I just making that up? The drugs, coupled with a little wishful thinking could easily induce false memories. Then I catch myself off guard. I remember having false memories the first time, and they didn’t feel like this. This time it’s different. What first time? This is the first time. But it’s all right there now, clear as day. I got up out of the scanner, tested my memory, fooled myself a few times and finally, concluded that nothing had been transferred.
I spent some time on the balcony, smoking a few cigarettes, and thinking things over. It was cold, I remember that very vividly, but I wanted to stay out to smoke. I’m staying in now, so as not to confuse the two experiences. Take a different path, keep the memories distinct.
By the fifth cigarette, I had talked myself out of the sinking feeling of another failed experiment. My savings gambled away on a fantasy. No. there were plenty of options. I simply hadn’t made the transmission yet. Not from my perspective anyway. The loop has to start somewhere, so at first, the experiment can’t work. I resolved to follow the protocols I’d designed until the day of transmission and carry out the experiment as diligently as I could.
Now I’m inside, looking out at the balcony, where I was standing. Last week from my perspective, but the exact same moment in time.
The memorization protocol didn’t start officially until the results of the Lakers game are announced, but I couldn’t sleep, so I broke protocol, and started memorizing some of the random number feeds off the internet. That was a few hours from now. I’ll be able to check soon.
I remember most of the sequences quite clearly. I go to a preregistration site, and provide an encrypted record, together with timestamps. I don’t expect to require that level of evidence—the experiment seems repeatable—it’s mostly to ensure against hallucination. Who knows what damage I’ve done to my brain. Couple that with the power of suggestion, and a little paranoia is warranted.
I watch the feed, and the numbers come out just as I remembered. No need to compare with the prereg. My mind is crystal clear now. I have successfully transmitted my memories back in time. I remember the entire week ahead with astonishing clarity, just as if I’d lived it. The memories are just as clear as the ones I actually experienced one week before. I mean last week. My last week. You know what I mean.
I spend the week locked in the lab. It seems best to avoid interactions with others during the experiment. Think of it as a sort of causal isolation. Three miles to the next living soul, and nothing but atmospheric noise in between.
I intend to repeat the experiment at the end of the week. The prereg stands as proof of my accomplishment, but I realize that I’m in a unique position. Normally, when a scientist makes a discovery, they are required to rush to publication, for fear of being scooped. Rarely do we get a chance to really explore the phenomenon we’ve discovered. Rarely do we have time on our side.
The protocol calls for me to memorize the number sequences, but I know those already. It takes little time to revise a whole week’s worth, even the ones that haven’t happened yet. It takes a full day to reset the scanner to transmit. A thought occurs to me. Marconi, Edison, Morse, I have one advantage over them. I must be the first inventor of a means of information transmission who hasn’t needed to build a separate transmitter and receiver. In fact, if the scanner didn’t stay in exactly the same place, relative to the reference coils that line the walls of my lab, none of this would work at all.
I struggle at first to fill the rest of the week until transmission. I spend some of it drafting the first publication of my results, until I realize the futility; if I repeat the experiment, all this will have to be redone. I can’t take anything with me except what I remember. I decide instead to read. First some of the recent literature, but the excitement of my impending contribution makes it difficult to fully concentrate. Then, some literature. The books I’ve never had time for. I start with a Raymond Chandler novel. Given to me by an ex-girlfriend. I’d always meant to start it, but the work got in the way.
I read right up to the start of the transmission. When time comes, I put the book down, without folding the corner of the page, as I usually do. This time I’ll have to remember the page number.
This is the second time. I know it almost instantly when I emerge from the field generated by the scanner. The transition is quicker, more shocking. I become a different person instantly as I sit up. It takes all of five minutes to fully recall the week spent reading Chandler and, before that, the week spent memorizing numbers.
Less adjustment and soul searching this time. I set up the preregs, put the encryption keys somewhere safe, where they can be found if something happens to me. I start setting the scanner up for transmission. I even manage to revise all sequences for the week before I fall asleep. These are the basics, the activities that I will have to repeat every week, so I had better get them out of the way.
I decide that whatever I choose to do with my extra time, memory training is always a good investment. I know the basics, the method of loci, peg systems and so on, I used them to some extent when I memorized the sequences in the first week. But now I need a more elaborate filing system. Everything I experience, even the novels I read, need to be recorded properly. What I don’t remember, I may as well not have done at all.
Tenth time. The transition is instantaneous now. As soon as I sit up, the anxieties I felt that first time are gone. The memories of the previous run are clearer than those of the first one, ten weeks ago. Ten weeks ago… Yes, that’s exactly how it feels. Like something that happened to me ten weeks ago.
My memorisation techniques are working well and so far, the scanner has no problem transmitting whatever I fill my head with. It seems that the ultimate limit to the payoff of this experiment will be the limit of my memory.
Spending ten weeks in the same space (and indeed the same time) is, not unexpectedly, sending me slightly mad. But more than that, I’m struggling with the opportunities this new technology presents. Eventually, I will break the loop. I will choose not to transmit at the end of the week and go back to the world of the living. Right now, I will come out like somebody who has had a particularly long holiday, or a short sabbatical. Nothing superhuman. I’ve worked out that with a little extra memorization of stock market outcomes and sporting events, I should able to raise between 1 and 3 million dollars in a week’s time. I expect I’ll generate enough to pay off my debts and to make me comfortable in the aftermath.
The thought I keep coming back to is how far I can take this. I can easily stay in the loop for a year. I’ve always been good at suffering loneliness and monotony. Five years? Ten? It would be a challenge, but consider the results. Already, I’ve read all the books I have in my lab. If I keep this up for a decade, what could I learn? I have the discovery of the century already. What else will it allow me to do? What effect could I have on the world as I emerge?
Could I spend more than a lifetime in the loop? Could my memory hold the knowledge accumulated over such a span? I’ve taken some scans, and so far, there seems to be no neural degradation. I imagine emerging from the loop with several lifetimes worth of knowledge, and physical training, in the body of a 35-year-old. I would be more than human.
I’m frightened by the implications, but also by the effect that these thoughts have on me. I did not expect myself to be so easily seduced by thoughts of power. I’ve started reading up on psychology. Already, I’ve found a decent number of tricks and exercises that I can use to keep myself sane.
I had a nightmare the other day. I was in the machine, towards the end of transmission, just before the power schedule hits the final peak. I was suddenly in agonising pain, but still immobilised by the drugs. The pain continued, and the taste of blood filled my mouth. I was certain that I would die. When I awoke, the taste was still there.
Just a nightmare, induced by the stress of the experiment, by the integration of memories across time? Or something more. A memory of an experience near the end of transmission. Not transmitted long enough to be recorded properly, but just enough to take hold somewhere in the latent spaces of my subconscious?
I suppose it doesn’t matter in the end whether I’m committing suicide whenever I transmit, it was a calculated risk I took when I designed the power schedule. But it’s still a harrowing thought. My next transmission will be a tense one. If my stress-levels cause the transmission to fail, I may exit the loop as a corpse.
The more I think about how to eventually exit the loop, the more I realize I will need all the advantage I can get. Put it down to the blinkered view of the scientist, but until very recently I had given no thought to the implications this technology would have on society. Hell, on the structure of spacetime near earth. Once the secret is out, anybody can buy themselves a week-long timeloop at the cost of a luxury car. No limit on the amount of money you can accumulate, on the amount you can manipulate the world for your purposes.
I’ve tried to think of how warfare would play out with this technology. It’s difficult to reason through the consequences exactly, but it seems inescapable that humanity would trap itself in an ever escalating tangle of timeloops.
Should keep this to myself? Acquire a modest fortune, exit the loop, and live out my life like nothing happened? Could I live with that kind of secret?
More importantly, would everybody else do the same? I put this idea together after I read Hannigan et al. And that was already out in preprint for six months. How many ideas were invented a handful of times in parallel when the time was ready? Can I really be sure I’m the first to a prototype? There might be somebody else out there, going around in a timeloop of their own. I’ve started searching for the signs, for people suddenly having unprecedented stockmarket success, or rapidly accumulating a wealth of knowledge, but nothing has come up so far.
For now, my conclusion is that I’m like a kid who’s found his father’s gun. I may have been clever enough to find something important, but I sorely lack the wisdom required to wield it. At the very least, this problem has given me purpose. I will focus my time on working out how to proceed: how to prepare the world for what is to come. It may be a knotty problem, but I have all the time I need to untangle it.
I’ve now spent a year in the loop. The memory management techniques are functioning perfectly, I can still fully recall the details I memorized about the first book I read. Some of the number sequences I haven’t revised in ten weeks, and I can still real them off without hesitation.
But that doesn’t mean I have perfect recall. The more visceral memories, my early anxieties, the uncertainties about the experiment. I remember that I felt that way, but I can’t quite recall the emotion itself. It’s more like a memory of a memory.
I’ve begun careful interactions with others through chat or email. I’m deeply reluctant to create strong causal connections with the outside world, but everything I’ve read about human psychology says that some social interaction is crucial to staying sane.
Repeatedly interacting with the same person over a few weeks allows me to skip some of the basics, and streamline the conversation. I’m lying to them, essentially. Pretending that we’re talking for the first time, when we’ve had the same conversation many times before, but I only have a week to reach some level of intimacy. Some shortcuts are necessary. So far it takes me about five weeks to optimize the whole process. At that point I usually become bored and I move on to somebody else.
How the hell did I miss this? I’ve always been lazy on the related work, but this one should have stood out like goddamn lighthouse. Miyamoto et al, On the limit behaviors of particles in closed timelike curves.
The language is dense, and the grammar is poor, but the message is simple. Any dynamical system introduced to a closed timelike curve, must converge to a stable state. The math is sound as far as I can tell, but it’s difficult to see how it applies to my situation.
The implication seems to be that I am destined to stay in this loop. The particles in Miyamoto’s system may not behave the same every time around initially, after the loop is formed, but once they’ve gone round one time, there’s no escaping. The CTC cannot be dissolved and the only available solution is a stable state. Eventually, the particles must go round the loop in the same way each time. The inescapable metagravity of the CTC, she calls it.
Is this another one of those free will illusions that modern physics likes to throw at us? I could destroy the machine here and now if I wanted to. Just tearing down one of the reference coils would mean I couldn’t possibly transmit, and I would have to exit the loop.
If Miyamoto is right, I will eventually end up living through the exact same week twice in a row. At that point every week afterwards will be same, and I will be stuck in eternal repetition. So far every run is substantially different. I couldn’t repeat the same week if I tried. I will take heart in that and investigate this problem more closely. I think I can risk a few more runs to get on top of this problem. Heck, if Miyamoto is right, it’s already too late.
I’m making some progress on clarifying and extending Miyamoto’s work. Doing theoretical work with nothing but my memory for long-term storage is a drag. I never thought I’d miss my lab journal so much. I never realised the simple pleasure of being able to write something down so that I could forget it.
While I’m grumbling, I really wish I’d cleaned the lab before I’d started the experiment. I need a clean environment to be able to focus on theoretical work, but as soon as loop back, the place is a pigsty again. I think the experimenter and the theorist in me are quite different people.
My social life is becoming strained. I’m increasingly aware of the limits of these interactions. True, the more time I spend with these people the closer I get. The more I feel like I know them. I may not get much really intimate interaction with them in a single week. But every time I do get to that point I can ask different questions, and gradually learn more.
The problem is in the asymmetry of the connection. I may feel like I’ve know them for weeks, but to them I’m still a stranger they’ve only known a few days. The connection may feel amazing, and they may be ready to open up to me almost instantly, but in many ways that just serves to increase the distance between us.
I guess what I long for, is to be recognized. For another person to know me and for me to know that they know me. Even if I could tell them everything that’s happened to me, I doubt a week is enough for them to truly understand my situation.
Heartbreak in a time loop is loss on a whole new level. The kicker is that I had all the downsides worked out almost a hundred runs ago. I knew I couldn’t get what I truly need out of these interactions. These chats and emails, they’re a painkiller not a cure. I knew that.
And then I met Laura. And I realized I’d never actually been in love before. I didn’t have to do any trial runs, any exploratory conversation. The click was instant. We talked about the stupidest things. She told me the plots of all the movies she liked.
My favorite conversation was when we’d moved to video calls, three days into the first week we’d met and she told a joke she’d heard a comedian tell. She had no sense of comedic timing, and the joke didn’t come across at all. And somehow, that vulnerability, the shared moment of a punchline falling flat, the resulting embarrassment, and my ability to remove that by gently making fun of her, the smile she gave me in return. I think about that moment a lot.
In the whole of my time in the loop, that was the closest I’ve come to missing the transmission window. I could’ve let go then, moved to Seattle and spent a normal life with her.
But it wouldn’t have been a normal life. I would know too much, and the world would still be on the precipice of collapsing into a nest of time loops. Would I even experience my life with her, if somebody else trapped the universe in a loop? Was I keeping everybody else from experiencing their life by staying in mine?
I made the non-decision of doing one more run to buy myself time. One more week to figure things out.
When I came back, I should have let Laura live her normal week. Not gotten in touch, and focused on the problems at hand. As it happened, I got in touch almost immediately. I repeated all the things we’d said in the first week, but even when we were just communicating over text, my responses came too quickly, too eagerly. We did move to video towards the end of the week, but something was clearly off. It must have been deeply confusing to her. To live through a simulacrum of a genuine experience. To be attracted and repelled at the same time.
I refined my behavior over the coming weeks, doing my best to act more genuine. I even got her to tell me the joke again. But as I became more convincing, the returns diminished. It became like reliving a memory, and I came to hate myself more with every success.
Last week, I finally did what I thought I could never do again. I didn’t get in touch with Laura. I barely eat or sleep now. I almost missed the window again. The only thing that keeps me going is that this would be the absolute worst moment to exit the loop. Without preregs, or investment, I have nothing to show for the experience, and with my depression, I’m in no condition to help the world deal with what’s coming.
I’ve been depressed like this before. I know it ends. I’ll just have to live through it in the loop. I hope I’m strong enough to let Laura be.
I’m starting to get back on my feet. It’s a kind of stiff-upper-lip level of emotional management, but so long as I can get back into the rituals again, I think the rest will just take time.
Occasionally, I read again. Miyamoto is still too much for me, but geopolitics is a broad enough subject to keep my mind occupied. I’m taking some inspiration from the efforts to ban nuclear and biological weaponry in the last century. Perhaps I can move the world towards such structures before it becomes common knowledge how simple temporal transmission is.
Would that be enough? Since the 1950s humanity has lived with the knowledge that the technology exists to eradicate us, but would the same safety structures suffice when that technology brings the promise of boundless life and wealth? When that technology is within the means of the average middle class savings account?
The question is far too broad and too vague to answer. And that helps me to take my mind off Laura.
Restarting social interaction was difficult, but I know it’s necessary. The way I do it now is more as a research project than a search for connection. This is a helpful perspective. It provides me with enough conversation to stay sane, without falling into the trap that led to Laura.
If I’m going to prepare the world somehow to deal with this technology, I’ll need to understand people better. And a little micro-level analysis can’t hurt.
I’m back on Miyamoto, but I’ve made no progress, except to strengthen her results. If there is some escape from the loop, it must be hidden in the limits of modern physics. Could I work out a grand unified theory if I stay in this loop long enough? I’ve never had much talent for the really theoretical stuff. But I’m learning fast.
I’ll have been in the loop for ten years soon. I wonder if there’s anything I can do to celebrate. I have little I can indulge in.
Perhaps I can allow myself to talk to Laura again. I don’t think it would trigger a relapse into depression. I’m so much older now, and she is just the same. It would be more like looking at a photograph than getting back in touch with an ex.
Has it been fifteen years already?
I’m making steady progress towards a grand unified theory. I’ve taken to asking various experts very directed questions by email.
I’ve learned to ask them specifically to get back in touch with me with their first impressions by the end of the week. I usually make some excuse about me going on holiday soon. If I don’t ask for a quick, initial response, I don’t usually hear back at all. My questions must trigger too many ideas for them to sort out in so short a time.
Initially, I was afraid that I would put them onto the idea of temporal transmission. But so long as I don’t ask the same question again next week, the damage is undone.
I’ve just realized that I’m coming up on what might normally have been the end of my life. It’s difficult to estimate exactly.
I feel like my memory is becoming strained. I’m devoting more and more time to revising what I already know. How long can I keep this up? Information compression has a natural limit. I’ve decided to spend more resources on refining the structure of my memory. At some point I’ll have to be much more rigorous in what I forget and what I retain.
Two purposes stand out above all. First, helping the world deal with the transition to temporal transmission. Second, Miyamoto.
I think I’ve cracked the the unified theory. It’ll take a few more decades to run it through, and to compute all the consequences. but the basics are sound. I’ll require access to computing resources to run the necessary simulations.
Step one is easy: find some account with sufficient resources, and hack it. I don’t know much about information security, but it won’t take me more than a decade to figure it out. Step two is more complex: I’ll need to run the simulation over several weeks, so I’ll need to figure out a way to save the checkpoint and the program in a brief enough format to memorize. This may require some minor breakthroughs in computational modeling.
I’m surprised to feel so little thrill at my own discovery. These are the kinds of breakthroughs I lived for, once. Chasing the excitement of scientific discovery is what got me into the loop in the first place. I wonder if it’s down to the amount I’ve structured my mind. All the memory exercises and psychological coping mechanisms. Without so much as a piece of paper to offload my long term memory or computation to, perhaps there is little room left for my personality.
I don’t feel too regretful of this mechanization of the self. There is little joy in the loop for a natural mind. This is for the best.
How long did I initially estimate it would take? A few decades? I don’t fully remember. But it’s finished now. I’m committing extra memory to the final checkpoint in case I ever need to doublecheck the simulation. So far, the unified theory holds for all known experimental results and any small experiments I’ve been able to convince people to run in a week.
The results are clear on Miyamoto. No get-out clause. If my unified theory holds, this can only end in convergence to a stable loop. And yet, I feel like I’m able to escape whenever I like. I held my hand around one of the reference coils for fifteen minutes yesterday. One twitch of my biceps would have caused a catastrophic misalignment, and forced me to exit the loop by the end of the week.
So long as the weeks are still different, I can still escape Miyamoto. I don’t care what the theory says. I’ll work out a plan to help the world survive and then I’ll yank the coils from the wall. I’m close. I know enough codes and sequences to accumulate billions in capital. I know enough secrets to manipulate every country on the security council. I know so much already about the geopolitical dynamical system. I have isolated so many drivers already that I can control.
One of the better options is to crash the world into war. It’s shocking how little I think of sacrificing billions of lives. But the right kind of conflict will set up a strong enough world government to regulate research. The problem is that the wrong kind of conflict will accelerate research. It was a global war that gave us nuclear weapons after all. And with temporal transmission just around the corner, a global war with functional military research budgets would spell disaster.
If I stop now, I know I’ll fail, and the technology will get out. Better that I alone fall victim to Miyamoto, than the whole world. I still have time. I can still perfect the plan.
When did I pass my second lifetime in the loop? I can work out what number it must have been but I have no memory of the specific week. They all seem so similar now. Is this Miyamoto taking hold? Most of my memory is filled with the necessities, the things I must remember for the plan to work. Most of my memories are in a stable state already.
If my body were as old as my mind these memories would have decayed long ago. But as it is, they are burnt into young neurons every week, and information does not decay. Or at least it hasn’t so far.
I have so little memory to work with. So little room left to optimize. For the first time I feel that Miyamoto is winning. Even though I have long ago proved her correct, and refined her framework, and even fixed some of her mistakes. For the first time I feel that she is right.
And at long last I see how she does it. How Miyamoto gets the better of me. In my desperation, last week, I tried to free up memory, to rearrange things and to forget some things I that I can rediscover later if I need to.
I couldn’t do it. I have spent lifetimes revising these sequences, and I cannot forget them anymore. Most of my memory is now read-only. What little I have left will eventually crystallize into a fixed form and I will end up repeating the same loop exactly. When that time comes, she will have won.
I hope that I have some time left to come to terms with this. I can’t bear to think that the misery of this realization is what I’ll end up repeating indefinitely.
The worst of it is that I have come so far. I have so much to offer the world. To help it deal with the coming calamity, but if I pull the coils from the wall now, I ensure its demise.
Such unexpected relief! I may have found my loophole. A way I can let Miyamoto win and still help the world. A simple message, that’s all I need.
Of course, I can’t communicate directly with normal people. Any hint of the possibilities would do far more damage than good, and I have so little left to work with.
But what if there were others. I spent years, in the beginning, looking for evidence of others trapped in time loops. Of them coming out. Beating Miyamoto. People suddenly rich and wise beyond their years.
I know now that that’s a fantasy. Anybody capable of breaking the loop, anybody irresponsible enough, would never be able to enter it in the first place. The only reason that the first experiment worked at all, so many lifetimes ago, is that I would never be able to make myself miss the transmission window.
But what if I could send a simple message to somebody else, trapped already in a loop of their own? I could save them time. Communicate as much as I can of what I know. In such a way that only somebody in a loop could decode the message. Perhaps through the stock market. They would have to find it there.
If only the memory I have left is enough to make the arrangements. Everything takes so much time now. Once I have the steps I need, it’s just a matter of repeating them week after week, until Miyamoto wins.
I’m feeling joy. Joy, hope and relief. When did I last feel anything this strongly? I probably never will again. Perhaps there is room to hold on to the memory of this feeling as I move into the stable state.
I continue to be surprised by how many runs I have left. So far, there are still differences from run to run. Things I’m doing now that I didn’t do last week.
The main messages are in place. I don’t have much bandwidth. In the more obvious channels, hacked servers, stock market manipulation, transcripts of presidential speeches, I can only leave a simple note, something that will not tip off any normal people who stumble across it. I’ve opted for “Miyamoto is right”. Reading that would certainly have caught my attention. After that, I’ve added just the IP address of a public server with as many detailed notes as I can type out in 5 days. The decryption key requires elements of the unified theory. It will cost them one lifetime, at least, to decode my notes, but that puts it out of reach of the normal population. It will leave them with at least two lifetimes to make progress. Perhaps more, if they spend their time more wisely than I did.
This is it then, I will spend every week from now on, into eternity arranging this message. If somebody else enters a loop, and finds my notes, it’ll give them a considerable head start. Maybe they can finish the plan before Miyamoto takes over. If not, perhaps they can leave notes of their own. They have the keys to my server, they can just append them to mine.
One suggestion I left, one that is too dangerous for me to try in my current state. Seek out a responsible person and induce them to try the experiment. Put them in a loop. It’s a horrific fate to condemn somebody to. Not to mention the risk of the technology getting out. But it would buy us an army of researchers, with several lifetimes each. In the end they will each seek out a successor of their own, and play the same cruel trick that condemned them.
If enough people submit to a loop, we may perfect the plan, and find out how to set it in motion from inside a loop. None of us will see the consequences of our efforts. Miyamoto was right, we will all stay trapped. Leaving hidden an army of bloodied corpses in modified MRI scanners, and as many detached minds, going round in their own private circles.
But we can give the world a fighting chance.
I spend five days of every week typing out the messages. The last day of the week I’ve reserved for myself. I realize that I’ve forgotten most of my favorite book. It’s the Chandler novel I first began to read so many years ago. I’ll spend most of the day reading that. In my current state, I retain very little of the book, and every week, I feel like I’m reading it almost for the first time.
Then I’ll think of Laura. Maybe I’ll give her a call, just to hear her voice. And then I’ll get in the scanner and transmit.
I’ll stop fighting Miyamoto now. Stop trying to make the weeks different. Maybe that will speed up convergence a little.
Run 16833. Or is it 16832? How can I forget five simple digits? Is this it, Miyamoto? Have you finally come to visit me?
I had better focus this week, and make it count. Rehearsal is over.
Run 16833. Or is it 16832?