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Author Topic: EP334: The Eckener Alternative  (Read 3928 times)
Anarquistador
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« Reply #20 on: March 06, 2012, 08:57:48 PM »

Firstly, it shows that, in a world where people won't stop Hitler because it might not suit them, you pretty much have to invent your own values.

I picked up on that too. Really, no character in this one was particularly likable. Everyone seemed very self-centered and detached. So maybe the main character was mildly more likable, if only because we got to know him better.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #21 on: March 07, 2012, 12:01:37 AM »

Hmmm

I had a problem with this story. Summed up in one word. Airships.

Now, I love a good time travel story, and I like the debate about "butterfly problems". But really it was a mash-note for Airship Worshippers, of which I am not. Yeah, it's clever that he stopped Hitler by means of something other than a bullet, but he did it using the father of airships.

Airships are beautiful and graceful, but they are NOT a good alternative to airplanes. They are at the mercy of the weather to a far greater degree than an airplane, and they can hardly match an airplane for either speed or carrying capacity. Air travel would have been less "democratic" than it was in the 1950s.

And yeah, maybe he's happy that he's in a golden age of airships, but the author doesn't seem to indicate that this is going to end. And it would (on top of whatever world political problems might or might not have been caused, which IMHO is more interesting then "Horray! Airships!")
« Last Edit: March 07, 2012, 10:05:29 AM by InfiniteMonkey » Logged
Talia
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« Reply #22 on: March 07, 2012, 06:41:56 AM »

Hmmm

I had a problem with this story. Summed up in one word. Airships.

Now, I love a good time travel story, and I like the debate about "butterfly problems". But really it was a mash-note for Airship Worshippers, of which I am not. Yeah, it's clever that he stopped Hitler by means of something other than a bullet, but he did it using the father of airships.

Airships are beautiful and graceful, but they are NOT a good alternative to airplanes. They are the mercy of the weather to a far greater degree than an airplane, and they can hardly match an airplane for either speed or carrying capacity. Air travel would have been less "democratic" than it was in the 1950s.

And yeah, maybe he's happy that he's in a golden age of airships, but the author doesn't seem to indicate that this is going to end. And it would (on top of whatever world political problems might or might not have been caused, which IMHO is more interesting then "Horray! Airships!")


I'm pretty sure that was the entire point of the story, that he was chasing a dream that was doomed to fail, regardless of consequence. I thought that was made pretty clear by the fact airships failed all those other times...
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #23 on: March 07, 2012, 09:34:24 AM »

Hmmm

I had a problem with this story. Summed up in one word. Airships.

Now, I love a good time travel story, and I like the debate about "butterfly problems". But really it was a mash-note for Airship Worshippers, of which I am not. Yeah, it's clever that he stopped Hitler by means of something other than a bullet, but he did it using the father of airships.

Airships are beautiful and graceful, but they are NOT a good alternative to airplanes. They are the mercy of the weather to a far greater degree than an airplane, and they can hardly match an airplane for either speed or carrying capacity. Air travel would have been less "democratic" than it was in the 1950s.

And yeah, maybe he's happy that he's in a golden age of airships, but the author doesn't seem to indicate that this is going to end. And it would (on top of whatever world political problems might or might not have been caused, which IMHO is more interesting then "Horray! Airships!")


I'm pretty sure that was the entire point of the story, that he was chasing a dream that was doomed to fail, regardless of consequence. I thought that was made pretty clear by the fact airships failed all those other times...

I agree with Talia.  Which, honestly, is one of the things that aggravated me about the story.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #24 on: March 07, 2012, 10:12:55 AM »


I'm pretty sure that was the entire point of the story, that he was chasing a dream that was doomed to fail, regardless of consequence. I thought that was made pretty clear by the fact airships failed all those other times...

I'm not so sure. In every other timeline, the airships failed after World War II. The implication here is that without Hitler there would be no World War II, but our hero couldn't get rid of Hitler because that would be "too big a butterfly" (damn skippy). So the only way to put airships ahead is do something that would be forbidden but that the world might be better off with. Only of course he didn't do it to save people.

Morale: Don't give obsessed nerds the keys to the time machine.

The ending isn't closed, so we don't really know, but my sense of the story is that (at the very least in the main character's mind) this time it wouldn't.
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Balu
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« Reply #25 on: March 07, 2012, 06:32:26 PM »

Morale: Don't give obsessed nerds the keys to the time machine.

If a time machine is ever invented, I'm pretty sure it will be by an obsessed nerd.

Either that or Skynet.
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Anarquistador
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« Reply #26 on: March 08, 2012, 08:08:55 AM »

I'm fairly certain some kind of mind-bending paradox has already occured, thus preventing a time machine from ever being invented. It probably involves the unnecessary slaughter of many grandpas. And Hitler.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #27 on: March 08, 2012, 12:00:29 PM »

I was thoroughly amused with this story and it left me with all sorts of warm fuzzies about how popular zeppelins are right now. Then I read all of your comments, which have left my airship completely deflated. Tongue All of the criticisms raised are totally valid and now I can't help but seeing the flaws, so I guess all I can say is that for me at least, it was a fun ride while it lasted. Ahh well.
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childoftyranny
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« Reply #28 on: March 08, 2012, 01:31:33 PM »

Both great discussions as well as I story that enjoyed even I agree with others that protagonists actions are reprehensible at the least. And that airships aren't a particularly sensible travel method, which is why they did die out.

Firstly, it shows that, in a world where people won't stop Hitler because it might not suit them, you pretty much have to invent your own values.

Though I think this is misplaced, no one with any sense would argue there is anything good about Hitlers crimes, but how much different is causing the millions if not billions of lives that currently existed until Hitler was removed from not existing?

This story suggests that minor changes, won't make much difference, although they apparently changed how some parts of wars were fought, that seems like a pretty major difference to me but I digress. Which in turn would make it seem that history is pretty at sticking close to its current form, but then I ask why changing things would be so easy.

Time travel changed a lot for me once I'd read "Lightning" by Dean Koontz, while certainly not a masterpiece I thought the idea that time simply wouldn't allow paradoxes to occur to be fascinating, as so many systems in nature seem to have release valves and such in existence why wouldn't time? In the case of Lighting Road from Koontz the biggest limit was you could only travel forward in time and then back to where you started.

Obviously this story takes place in a pro-paradox universe, but nevertheless I can help but wonder if we can travel through time, its obviously non-linear, why wouldn't your actions just be part of the time stream. Instead of you don't exist to kill your grandfather if you kill your grandfather, why wouldn't time simply flow in a loop, since we already looped it once to get back? Hence your grandfather would first exist to have you so you can go back in time to kill him in the second loop of time over the same period.

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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #29 on: March 09, 2012, 09:34:27 AM »


Obviously this story takes place in a pro-paradox universe, but nevertheless I can help but wonder if we can travel through time, its obviously non-linear, why wouldn't your actions just be part of the time stream. Instead of you don't exist to kill your grandfather if you kill your grandfather, why wouldn't time simply flow in a loop, since we already looped it once to get back? Hence your grandfather would first exist to have you so you can go back in time to kill him in the second loop of time over the same period.

The only theory of time travel that really makes practical sense to me is branching timestreams.  You go back and change things, and because you changes events you travel down a different branch of possibility.  Even if you prevent your own birth in this stream, that's not a paradox because you originated in a different stream.  It does mean you can't go home again.  And it means that any changes you make to save things may not mean a lot because that other stream still exists--you're just not in it.
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El Barto
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« Reply #30 on: March 11, 2012, 03:57:05 PM »

I enjoyed this story for the most part.   It was so implausible that I tried to ignore the ridiculousness of not having fifty million times stronger security as well as the comment about the current bosses getting upset when people monkey in the past in a way that makes it more than 50% likely that the future will cease to exist.  I would imagine that the requirement would be more like ten  (99.99999999%) and even that is not enough when the entire Earth is on the line.

Also, presumably this guy had no friends, no family that he was possibly wiping out.

One interesting thought point, if you believe that time can be non-linear and changes to the timeline ripple instantly forwards, is that if his action has caused the time traveling program to not exist then maybe he would not have been able to come back and mess with things the way he did.

That said, I did enjoy the alternative approach to Hitler and could imagine other people having various strange/petty reasons for wanting to prevent his ascent to power.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #31 on: March 15, 2012, 09:44:23 AM »

First, I want to see what Electric Paladin has to say about this one. Seems right up his alley. EP may very well be the protagonist in this story. He has not listened to this as he is currently enjoying a schnapps on the deck of a zeppelin in a deviant time stream that he created. Prost!

I enjoyed this story as it subverted my expectation as a time travel story. I didn't expect the protagonist to make a last major change and dive into history forever, although the establishment supported these actions. This also feels like something a freshman college student would do - spend an inordinate amount of time and effort and get into danger to do something they think is cool. Even if that effort may have significant consequences.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and when fossil fuels become scarce, humanity will either travel less, or find alternative fuel sources.  Personally, I think that 75-80% of business travel could be avoided with online meetings.  But that's a separate tangent.

I agree that a portion, but not a majority, could be eliminated. There are a significant number of people, often in the decision-making caste, that work better face-to-face and refuse to proceed without getting to know someone. A business meal is invaluable, as it humanizes everyone at the table making them more real, and helps people relate as people. Completion of tasks can be done in a sterile environment, but development of relationships is more challenging to accomplish in that fashion.

This one missed the mark for me because, while I think airships are pretty neat, they really are a technological cul de sac.  Airplanes are some pretty effing amazing feats of engineering,(e.g. The Concorde, SR-71 Blackbird) and I think people miss that sometimes.  That said, with fossil fuels becoming scarce, we may see a resurgence of solar airships, or perhaps ultralights.

Not just airships, but sailing ships too.

19th century tea clippers could make it from China to England in a few weeks. Add modern materials to the build, and you've effectively got a totally sustainable source of fast, trans-global bulk transport.

And thus would be born the second golden age of pirates. Sounds fantastic to me!


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jdarksun
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« Reply #32 on: March 19, 2012, 11:28:54 AM »

Cool story, highly enjoyable.  Some of the details were just great.  I liked how the presentation of the Coke changed, even though the taste never did.
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NoNotRogov
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« Reply #33 on: March 27, 2012, 12:46:51 PM »

Both great discussions as well as I story that enjoyed even I agree with others that protagonists actions are reprehensible at the least. And that airships aren't a particularly sensible travel method, which is why they did die out.

Firstly, it shows that, in a world where people won't stop Hitler because it might not suit them, you pretty much have to invent your own values.

Though I think this is misplaced, no one with any sense would argue there is anything good about Hitlers crimes, but how much different is causing the millions if not billions of lives that currently existed until Hitler was removed from not existing?


Time travel ethics, now this is an interesting area. Consider, if we erased the current population of 7-point-something billion and replaced them with a different population of 7-point-something billion, we have done something wrong, correct? Because human life has, in terms of the universal human concepts that keep society flowing and mentally healthy, intangible values, dignity, individual human freedom, etc.

But how about this: We reshape the current population into a different but equally large and equally healthy and happy population. There was no clear point of destroying one and then creating the other, the creation of the other is what destroyed the forebearer. Have we done anything wrong? Has anything been lost? If the "mass" as it were, of human beings and their quality of life as well factored in remains the same, on what grounds is it morally wrong to replace one crop of individuals with another, equally free crop of individuals? After all, by changing time we are not designing or otherwise removing even in an abstract way free will from the human population. The new timeline's population will be, barring altered events in the timeline, as free and causally determined as the previous population. At no point has the "human mass" been destroyed, only reshaped.

And even if you place some weight of ownership on currently existing people over possible people, that it would be a violation of personal sovereignty to erase existing people, there has to be some sort of pragmatic utilitarian ratio of the cost of freedom vs. increased population and well being. So just exactly how much better does the new timeline need to be for us to be justified in erasing the current crop of humanity? Rationally speaking, if one follows consequentialist rather than deontological ethics, there has to be a certain point of increased human life and well being that outweighs the collective loss of freedom/violation the current population would suffer.

And from a purely utilitarian standpoint, seeing as "erasing" or even "reshaping" are clumsy metaphors that imply a physical coercion that is not there, is any harm being done at all even if the replacement timeline is only just as good and not any better? If the current timeline's population will never have existed and thus will not suffer any pain or displeasure or fear or doubt or sense of violation, isn't it not a crime to change history so they never come into being? Or maybe, even if that doesn't cause any additional pain, maybe unless we are minimizing pain; making the world better, the future better, we can't justify the act. But if we reasonably can, then we can. Right?

Unless one wants to get into the deontological side of things were certain things are always wrong no matter what and classify this as one of them, I suppose the primary ethical limitation on altering the timeline would be that we cannot reasonably claim to have a reliable and responsible power over the changes. Any changes we make to create a better world, no matter how justified that would make our actions, cannot be guaranteed to not create a worst world. That seems to be the most pragmatic argument for an intrinsic unethical quality to altering the timeline; but that doesn't seem to be a quality that couldn't be outweighed. For instance, if the current timeline has a nuclear war and most of humanity dies, isn't it worth risking all humanity having died to try to alter the timeline to prevent that destruction? Maybe, from a pragmatic, humane standpoint.

But then what about the Holocaust? Considering the sheer carnage involved, there has to be a certain threshold of reasonable certainty that could theoretically be achieved through research and running the possible scenarios that would eventually make it the ethical decision to take a calculated risk by changing the timeline.

So the limitation there is not ethical in of itself, but practical: can any available or achievable prediction model reliably allow us to make responsible choices altering the timeline, or is the course of human and other events too unpredictable to allow for ethical and responsible time alteration?

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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #34 on: March 28, 2012, 08:46:14 AM »

Loved the big philosophical post about time travel ethics.  I'm not sure I have anything to add, except:

Any changes we make to create a better world, no matter how justified that would make our actions, cannot be guaranteed to not create a worst world

This is concisely the reason why I would consider the change a bad idea, because you have no guarantee you won't make things worse.  You're rolling the dice on the future of humanity with no guarantee that you won't get snake-eyes.
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Gamercow
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« Reply #35 on: March 28, 2012, 03:50:46 PM »

Loved the big philosophical post about time travel ethics.  I'm not sure I have anything to add, except:

Any changes we make to create a better world, no matter how justified that would make our actions, cannot be guaranteed to not create a worst world

This is concisely the reason why I would consider the change a bad idea, because you have no guarantee you won't make things worse.  You're rolling the dice on the future of humanity with no guarantee that you won't get snake-eyes.

Also, "better" is very relative.  A cat is having a great day when he catches a mouse, but the same cannot be said for the mouse.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #36 on: March 29, 2012, 08:23:16 AM »

Loved the big philosophical post about time travel ethics.  I'm not sure I have anything to add, except:

Any changes we make to create a better world, no matter how justified that would make our actions, cannot be guaranteed to not create a worst world

This is concisely the reason why I would consider the change a bad idea, because you have no guarantee you won't make things worse.  You're rolling the dice on the future of humanity with no guarantee that you won't get snake-eyes.

Also, "better" is very relative.  A cat is having a great day when he catches a mouse, but the same cannot be said for the mouse.

Good point! 
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LaShawn
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« Reply #37 on: May 11, 2012, 11:30:42 AM »

This one was okay. I had an inkling that the MC was doomed to failure, so his last act felt like, "well, damned if I do, damned if I don't." But I'm going to he spent the rest of his life hanging out on airships...

Though it makes me wonder...what about blimps? I mean, those are still around, especially at football games. Why didn't he get obsessed over those?
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #38 on: May 16, 2012, 11:07:07 AM »

Though it makes me wonder...what about blimps? I mean, those are still around, especially at football games. Why didn't he get obsessed over those?

I got the impression that he wouldn't consider blimps much differently, but he wasn't satisfied with the mere existence of them but wanted them to be the preferred mode of transport, or at least a very very common form of transport.
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Zuishness
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« Reply #39 on: May 19, 2012, 06:13:29 PM »


Bit over the whole Zep thing really.

I do love an obsessive compulsive, sociopathic time traveller through.
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