The Time of My Selfish Altruism

mario-charityPopularization of time-travel has deeply changed our lives. But it has also posed many new ethical concerns that we must urgently face.

This week, while tinkering with some old stuff that came in my moving from Germany to France, I invented a time-travel device.

It’s a different model from those available in the market. My device allows me to go back in time, but always to a parallel time line, as usual. I can also interfere and change that time line, which is also no surprise: the air displaced by my body volume is already enough to trigger a new sequence of events; you know, just butterfly effect.

However, what’s peculiar about my new time-travel device is that after two minutes visiting some alternative time line, I’m automatically kicked back to my original time line.

This is a bit disappointing, I must confess. In two minutes, I can’t properly do any of the top-three most-popular time-travel programs: watch dinosaurs, help King Arthur, and kiss Sophia Loren.

I could still go back and do some great good for humanity (in the other time line, naturally), like killing the mother of the guy who invented burger buns before he was born. Those disgusting, stodgy, soft brioches disgrace an otherwise perfectly fine dish. But I’d have to study history to figure out who did it; I’m too lazy to do that. Also, all this terminator plot is too much of a cliché for my taste.

Then, among those 48 boxes currently packing my life in a dark French cellar, I kept asking myself: what can I do within two minutes, while visiting any moment of history in a parallel time line?

I finally figured it out. I decided that I’ll dedicate myself to charity. Personal charity, I’d say. In each time travel, I’ll help myself in the other time line. (I modestly call it mariophilanthropy.) My goal is to make the multiverse a better place for thousands of Mario Barbattis in need.

The possibilities are literally infinite: starting from the trivial, I could gift my last-week self the Lotto’s results; I could deliver a six-pack of cold Leffe to myself in Mülheim that evening one month ago, when I realized too late that I had run out of beer; I could visit my 1995-self and tell him-me to drop out of college and invent Facebook.

But I also have some ethical concerns, which I’d like to share here.

Is to help my other selfs in parallel time lines an act of charity, or is it of selfishness?

On the one hand, I’m not profiting in any direct or indirect way from those mariophilanthropic actions. Discounting some enhanced sense of self-satisfaction, they’re all truly altruistic. On the other hand, the person whom I’m helping isn’t really distinct from myself, which could characterize, to put it mildly, nepotism.

Let me ask the same thing in another way: if I were a Christian at the Heaven’s gate, how would Saint Peter judge my actions? Would he grant me access across the Pearly gates, or would I get an one-way ticket down to the upper hell?

Maybe, I’m deceiving myself with all this self-congratulatory mumbling about time-travel charity, and altruism, and ethics. What matters is that I know that at any moment, one of my parallel selfs may drop here in my time line to help me in some way. And if this is really the case, things start to look less like philanthropy and more like a multiversal freemasonry, with Marios helping Marios across time lines.

Time travel poses so many ethical questions, doesn’t it?

(Dear Parallel Me, If you’re reading this post, let me just make it clear: I favor the Lotto’s result over cold beer.)

MB



Categories: Fiction

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