Classic Time Travel Paradox


While at Capclave I sat in on a presentation about time travel in which I learned about a paradox of time travel that I never thought of before.  It came back to mind when I saw this video linked on Gizmodo:

The important part is right around the 3:20 mark in the video, but while they talk about the understandably disturbing element of having a white time traveler help invent one of the most important influences African-American culture had on American pop culture in the 1950s they overlook the slightly more disturbing paradox that the whole thing creates.  It goes like this.

Marty McFly lives in the 1980s.  He grew up watching performances of Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry and learns not only the song but the entire dance routine.  Then, through a series of movie contrivances, he finds himself back in the 1950s and playing guitar with a jam band at a school dance.  Wanting to play something hip, he plays Johnny B. Goode.  Halfway through the song we get the classic “Chuck!  It’s your cousin Marvin!  Marvin Berry…” phone call, creating the implication that Chuck Berry learns the song Johnny B. Goode from listening to Marty McFly sing it at this sock hop.  He records the song, it becomes a hit, and Marty McFly grows up hearing it and learns the song, starting the cycle all over again.

Except, and here’s the problem: who wrote the song?  Marty learns it from Chuck Berry.  Chuck Berry learns it from Marty.  Somewhere in there the song wrote itself and insisted itself upon the world through this loop.

See?  The 1950s were right.  Rock and roll music is of the devil!

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  1. avatar

    #1 by Day Al-Mohamed on March 2, 2012 - 11:14 pm

    Oooh! I’m seeing a time-travel story involving the spontaneous creation/invention of items that simply insist on being.

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