In the following paper, we discuss a sub-genre of fiction that we call time-loop fiction, texts that are predicated upon a situation of seemingly eternal recursion. Drawing upon examples taken from literature (Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life, Ken Grimwood’s Replay, Richard Lupoff’s “12:01,” and Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill) and from film/telefilm (Edge of Tomorrow, Groundhog Day, Source Code, 12:01 PM, and “Cause and Effect”), we explore the “time as conflict” between endless looping and narrative closure for both the protagonists and the readers/viewers who follow their plights. After describing the forking-paths structure of time-loop narratives, we examine a key feature of them – the emerging metaconsciousness, a character’s ability to transcend the loop in which they currently exists and to recall past loops in order to bring about a better outcome with each passage through the loop. We conclude by discussing three different types of time-loop narratives and their implications for our understanding of time.
Foresight is the long-term view into the future or different futures, defined as the more action-oriented ‘structured debate about complex futures.’ The academic pendant is Futures Research dealing with possible, probable and desirable future developments. Even if the future cannot be predicted, major developments emerge already today in their basics. The guardrails of the possible, probable and desirable can be determined in this sense by scientific methods and in social discourses. Foresight is thus a concept to prepare for futures and avoid urgent reactions, quick and un-reflected, reactive answers to problematic situations or sudden occurrences. Methods are available to work with the different time horizons (e.g., Delphi surveys), to work with different long-term scenarios in preparation or decision-making, or even to travel in time as thought experiments. But although time scales up to 30, 40 or even more years have to be considered when e.g., investing in new infrastructures, technologies or to change the behavior of people, decision-making is often still ad hoc and does not take the time to think about the consequences. It remains in reaction to urgency. In Foresight and Futures Research, a very linear time concept is still in the forefront, although the thought experiments make it possible to go back and forth in time thinking, prepare for different futures, or even shape ‘the’ preferable future with visioning processes (mainly in innovation research but also in transformative studies). This contribution demonstrates examples from empirical research mainly in ‘government Foresight’ but also ‘Strategic Foresight’ of companies, associations or others with the aim to avoid urgency situations. It tries to explain why both long- and short-term time considerations are so important and what long- and short-term means for the different stakeholders (relativity of time considerations).
This essay explores the trope of reincarnation across the works of British author David Mitchell (b. 1969) as an alternative approach to linear temporality, whose spiralling cyclicality warns of the dangers of seeing past actions as separate from future consequences and whose focus on human interconnection demonstrates the importance of collective, intergenerational action in the face of ecological crises. Drawing on the Buddhist philosophy of samsara, or the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, this paper identifies links between the author’s interest in reincarnation and its secular manifestation in the treatment of time in his fictions. These works draw on reincarnation in their structures and characterization as part of an ethical approach to the Anthropocene, using the temporal model of “reincarnation time” as a narrative strategy to demonstrate that a greater understanding of generational interdependence is urgently needed in order to challenge the linear “end of history” narrative of global capitalism.
For over 150 years theoretical physicists have been faced with a conundrum: with one exception that is far too small to affect the issue, the known laws of nature give no explanation of why all macroscopic phenomena in the universe unfold in a common temporal direction. Like the stars, we all get older together; we never meet anyone getting younger. This issue first came to prominence with the discovery of entropy in the 1850s and the demonstration that in a closed system it can never decrease and, in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics, has a general tendency to increase. It is widely claimed that, in agreement with the second law, the entropy of the whole universe is increasing and that the only explanation for this is some very special – and inexplicable – state in the past, probably at the big bang. I will argue that the failure to find a more satisfactory explanation arises from an inappropriate approach to the problem, which goes back to the discovery of thermodynamics through the study of steam engines. Critical for the working of those machines, which had such a great impact on the development of the industrial revolution, was confinement of the steam in a cylinder. This led to the development of the beautiful theory of the statistical mechanics of systems confined to a ‘conceptual box.’ But it seems hardly plausible that the universe is in a box. By a simple example I will show that the theoretical consideration of unconfined systems has the potential to remove all the puzzles surrounding the existence of time’s arrows.