Version Control

As he drifted off, his father came to visit him, clothed in all his possible shapes.

Being is always becoming; people change and stay the same. What is true for bodies is also true for selves: even the most honest person has many faces, none of which are false.

But I’m not saying that falsifiability makes science better; I’m saying it makes science good.

But life isn't neat the way a story is. And if you try to pretend it is, then you just make yourself unhappy, or screw yourself over.

But the arrogance of old age can cloak itself in the authority of past accomplishments, which can serve to confirm the belief that one’s arrogance is justly held. It can shield a man from the realization that his beliefs have calcified, that he can no longer assess a situation accurately at first glance, that the world has changed around him and left him behind. Guarded from this knowledge, he remains content.

But the hair on her arms did not stand on end; she did not experience any strange instances of déjà vu; she did not see the ghosts of future selves shimmering before her, shouting stock picks back through time.

But who, in these modern times, slept well?

Every page refresh promised the little dopamine kick that came from the shock of the new. Meanwhile,

First, the idea of the multiverse is essentially the fantasy of preserving perfect information. One of the hard things to deal with in life is the fact that you destroy potential information whenever you make a decision. You could even say that's essentially what regret is: a profound problem of incomplete information. If you select one thing on a diner's menu, you can't know what it would have been like to taste other things on it, right then, right there. When you marry one person, you give up the possibility of knowing what it would have been like to have married any number of others. But if the multiverse exists, you can at least imagine there's another version of you who's eating that other thing you thought about ordering, or who's married to that other man you only went on two dates with. Even if you'll never see all the information for yourself, at least you'll be able to tell yourself that it's there.

'The second reason the multiverse seems like such a neat idea is that it gives human beings just an incredible amount of agency, which they can exercise with the least effort. Why, Carson here created an entire alternate universe when he ordered hash browns on the side of his French toast instead of bacon—'

'Ah, I should have gotten bacon, how could I forget,' Carson said, and attempted to hail the waitress.

'But the history of science shows that any theory that covertly panders to the human ego like that, that puts humans at the center of things, is very likely to be found out wrong, given enough time. So, just for the sake of argument, let's assume that there's just this one universe, and we're stuck with it. What happens to our time traveler then?

Given that the information you have is necessarily imperfect. Given that the history of events is necessarily under-determined. The history that you choose to believe will determine the person that you are. If only in a small way. You will be a person who chose to see the world one way instead of another. And that choice will color the way you see the world, and your future, and your image in a mirror. You will never be able to determine conclusively why she acted as she did. But you can determine what kind of person you want to be.

He felt that race was not a characteristic that was a part of his identity, but one that was projected upon him by the gaze of others who looked on him; as such it was ephemeral, there and gone as soon as the gaze was broken.

her gentle but continuous harangue as she coaxed him into dressing and tried to teach him to match his shirt and pants. But sometimes an incipient tantrum she had no time for meant that checks and stripes were the order of the day. “Have fun at the circus,” she’d say to Sean’s back as he ran out the door to catch the bus. Rebecca

His father's last word, which Sean had never told anyone, not even his mother, hadn't been goodbye: it had been hello. He hadn't died; he'd been set free from the constraints of history and flesh. And while the fathers of other children could only be the people they were, and were forced to live the lives they'd made for themselves, the Philip Steiner of his son's daydreams was all the possible versions of himself that Sean could imagine. He was always near, always ready to listen, always offering solace. He was all the possible fathers. He was a dragonslayer and a titan of industry; he was a cunning detective and a grizzled gunfighter; he was an astronaut and a priest and a jailer of thieves. He lived in the shadows, and he filled his son's world with light.

I can’t comprehend why any black man with even a lick of sense would have the slightest bit of interest in time travel. Going backward in time? A black man? You have got to be out of your mind.

I can tell you this. That in the absence of perfect information, I choose to believe in the version of events that would occur in the best of all possible worlds. What that version of events is: that’s your decision. That’s up to you. I can’t decide that for you; I wouldn’t try.

If God created humans with the ability to dictate the direction of history (by imagining future states of the universe and steering its path toward one version or another), then humanity's duty to God was to direct history toward the best of all possible worlds.

If the worst thing a physicist could say about a statement is that it was “false,” the best thing he could say is that it was “interesting.

I shouldn't tell you this, but I've been having these weird dreams like every single night for three weeks now where I'm being contacted. Not by ghosts, exactly, but people from other histories, where things turned out differently than they did here. And they're all envious. And they all say: You are so lucky. You live in the best of all possible worlds. And you don't even know it.

It was hard to know what direction to take when you suddenly found yourself in a future different from the one you'd expected to be in the day before.

Later—how much later? Hard to tell. In times of tragedy clocks will trick you—Philip stood in the kitchen doorway.

Rebecca approached the causality violation chamber (too grand a name for such a faulty thing), placed her hand against its door, and closed her eyes, much as Philip had during its christening years ago. There was no response from the machine; no prophecy; no apology; no advice. It did not relay the news from other, brighter timelines. It did not tell her what would have transpired had she returned from yesterday's shopping trip a few hours later, or had she turned the steering wheel left instead of right two years ago, or had she not taken that first drink, or had she turned down any one of the thousands of drinks that had followed, or had she chosen not to respond to Philip's insistent and perhaps deliberately oblivious messages during the early days of their online courtship, or had her parents or her grandparents, or her great-grandparents never met. The machine's obstinate silence was all it had to offer; the message of that silence was that she had made her choices in life, and her choices had made her in return.

Science fiction is the fantasy that science always works.

(T)he actions of humans that are most likely to "please God" are also those that allow humans to act collectively to mitigate the negative effects of chance on individual lives.

The causality violation device may be doing something else. May have already done it. Something wonderful and terrible.

The thing about memories wasn't that many of them inevitably faded, but that repeated recall of the ones you remembered burnished them into shining, gorgeous lies

The thing that's hard about it—the thing that makes it so hard when the person you love has been taken from you, not by something evil you could have seen coming but by random, pure chance—is that you find yourself suddenly living through a history other than the one you expected to live, through no fault of your own. I feel . . . it's hard to describe, but I feel weirdly outside of time. Ever since the accident I've had these moments when I felt like a visiting guest in this world, not a permanent resident. Like sometimes I look in a mirror and I feel like I can almost see through the version of me on the other side of the glass. And sometimes I feel like I can see the history I used to be in more clearly than the history I'm in now—the real history is one where Philip and Sean and I are all together, being a family and doing whatever family things people do, and this one's like . . . like a fake version of events that I've been yanked into, where everything's gone wrong.

This is the last moment of contentment untainted by sorrow, when the brain hesitates before delivering the message to the heart that it knows it must.

To agree to a marriage is to consent to a mutual act of transformation, to promise to ensure that the versions of yourselves that you will become will always remain in harmony, though you yourselves can never stay the same.

To agree to a marriage is to consent to a mutual act of transformation, to promise to ensure that the versions of yourselves that you will become will remain in harmony, though you yourselves can never stay the same.

What we are proposing,' Alicia said, 'is that the laws of physics are such that causality violation is subject to a form of version control, one that prevents a forking of history. That instead of causality violation creating an alternate universe, one version of history is outright overwritten by another. One past is replaced with another future. Which means that the memories of the past of the people in that future are replaced with memories of a different past.'

Carson interrupted. 'Including the memories of any—'

'Purely hypothetical—'

'—time travelers.'

'So take our time traveler from the traditional story,' Carson continued. 'He leaves his utopian future for the past. He kills the butterfly. The Magna Carta is never written. He returns to the dystopian future that his misstep created. But he doesn't see it as a dystopia: he sees it as home, the world he grew up in, the world he left to go back in time. Because he doesn't remember that first future, and has no other world to which he can compare this one. Maybe he even sees it as a utopia. Maybe everyone does. Maybe everyone in this dark place believes that they live in the best of all possible worlds.