The Internet Legend of John Titor, Time Traveler

(Updated 10/12/06)

The Internet is not what it once was a decade ago. Most people today look to it as an empirical source of information without understanding its true nature. From its humble and genuine beginnings in the 50’s as a means for researchers to test ways of creating a communications network that could withstand multiple failures and automatically reconfigure itself to guarantee delivery of information, it has grown to a major component of our economy and daily lives. Where once egghead researchers at government and educational institutions used it for benign and uncorrupted communication between each other, it is now the source of crime, lies, and intrusion into the personal lives of its citizens on an unprecendented scale and in ways never before imagined. But amidst the noise of all the bad influences poisoning the purity of the Net’s original mission remains some genuine truth. The difficulty we face more than ever today is in differentiating fact from fiction.

One case in particular tests the limits of both. Late in the year 2000, a man going by the name of John Titor began posting to the Time Travel Institute forum with an extraordinarily compelling story. He explained that he was a soldier and historian who was sent from the year 2036 back to 1975 in search of an IBM 5100 computer which was extinct in his time (most electronic devices are destroyed by EMP during a future war). It was needed for debugging the second Y2K problem that Unix faces in 2038 on legacy computer programs, because it had a closely-guarded capability by which it could translate binary machine code between APL, Unix, BASIC, and some obscure IBM mainframe languages, and it was portable enough for time travel. John had stopped in 2000 because of a promise to his grandfather, who he claimed was on the team that designed the 5100. He had an unusual level of knowledge about its capabilities, which were never publicly known. He had concrete and detailed specifics that went beyond what anyone but the original engineers knew about the 5100, so much so that one of those engineers (Bob Dubke) admitted it could only have been someone from his team who could know that much about it.

The details he gave about his time machine were tantalizing indeed. He had photographs of the unit, installed first inside a 1967 Corvette then later inside a pickup truck due to the mass of the thing, which weighed around 500 pounds, and detailed schematic diagrams from the operational manual of the “General Electric Model C204 Time Distortion Gravity Displacement Unit” from March 21, 2034 that would be very difficult to fabricate, especially since nobody else has ever produced a design of a working prototype based on Kerr fields and Tipler sinusoids. His story had a level of internal consistency that would challenge even a veteran police interrogator, but he seemed to have no interest in whether or not anyone believed him, nor did he expect that anyone would. He argued that there are multiple “worldlines” and he just wanted to make a difference in this one, even though the machine would only return him to his own. He was challenged by people very knowledgeable in theoretical physics and his answers held up to their skeptical scrutiny, about the nature of time travel itself as well as the supposed operation of his time machine, which worked by creating two artificial microsingularities and a localized Kerr field, and this produced a stationary black hole between them to travel through in time. He said that the ability to create artificial microsingularities would be discovered by CERN at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, which they are currently planning to have operational in 2007. He explained its theory of operation from his training and described the experience of time travel, which he said put up to 2G’s of force on the body at full power, made a crackling noise from the static charge, and took about an hour for each 10 years traveled – so it distorted time by a factor of about 88,000. He also discussed the development of the machine by GE’s engineers. There were fascinating details, like how the first ones being sent back in time just a fraction of a second would fall out of the sky 15 miles away from 3000 feet in the air, due to the failure to compensate for the speed of the earth’s rotation and its movement through the universe. This led to the first major developmental hurdle of figuring out how to measure the gravitational distortion of the microsingularities, to keep the humans from traveling into a mountain or out in space somewhere.

Then four months later he was gone, leaving behind a mystery that won’t be fully solved for at least another decade. The revelations he left behind about our present and his future were at best troubling and at worst cataclysmic. Among them:

  • There will be a second American Civil War from 2004-2008 during which civil liberties will be progressively surrendered in the name of national security, and will continue until everyone realizes “the world they thought they were living in [is] over.” He described it as a Waco-type event every month or so until people begin to see through the lies, that it is truly about the government attacking its citizens and holding them without due process in prison camps. This conflict consumes the entire country by 2012 and continues for three more years until…
  • The third world war occurs in 2015 and ends with Russia bombing cities in America, China and Europe. 3 billion people are killed. He suggested avoiding Washington DC at 3:45am on March 12, 2015 as it would be destroyed along with most other major cities in the U.S. The survivors are in the rural areas of the country, which splits into five major regions with separately elected leadership.
  • China forcefully annexes Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and attempts to do so with Australia but fails.
  • The major health problems in 2036 are CJD (mad cow disease), AIDS and cancer, as no cure has been found for the latter two.

“How can you possibly criticize me for any conflict that comes to you?” Titor asked. “I watch every day what you’re doing as a society. While you sit by and watch your Constitution being torn away from you, you willfully eat poisoned food, buy manufactured products no one needs and turn an uncaring eye away from millions of people suffering and dying all around you.

“Perhaps I should let you all in on a little secret. No one likes you in the future. This time period is looked at as being full of lazy, self-centered, civically ignorant sheep. You were the generation that had it all and squandered it. Perhaps you should be less concerned about me and more concerned about that.”

The entry in Wikipedia is here.

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