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It was the 1990s and I was 20, so we had arguments like this: What, ultimately, is more plausible – time travel, or the invention of liquid metal with the capacity to think? You will not be surprised that Terminator 2 was central to our dialogue. There were a lot of debates over this movie. The details of the narrative never made sense. Why, for example, did Edward Furlong tell Arnold that he should quip, “Hasta la vista, baby” whenever he killed people? Wasn’t this kid supposed to like Use Your Illusion II more than Loc-ed After Dark? It was a problem.

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But not as much of a problem as the concept of humans (and machines) moving through time, even when compared to the likelihood of a pool of sentient mercury that could morph itself into a cop or a steel spike or a brick wall or an actor who would disappoint watchers of The X-Files. My thesis at the time (and to this day) was that the impossibility of time travel is a cornerstone of reality: We cannot move forward or backwards through time, even if the principles of general relativity and time dilation suggest that this is possible. Some say that time is like water that flows around us (like a stone in the river) and some say we flow with time (like a twig floating on the surface of the water). My sense of the world tells me otherwise. I believe that time is like a train, with men hanging out in front of the engine and off the back of the caboose; the man in front is laying down new tracks the moment before the train touches them, and the man in the caboose is tearing up the rails the moment after they are passed.

Blockquote. It would be wonderful if someone proved me wrong about this. Wonderful. Wonderful, and sad.

There is no linear continuation: The past disappears, the future is unimagined, and the present is ephemeral. It cannot be traversed. So even though the prospect of liquid thinking metal is insane and idiotic, it’s still more viable than time travel. I don’t know if the thinking metal of tomorrow will have the potential to find employment as assassins, but I do know that – if this somehow happens – those liquid metal killing machines will be locked into whatever moment they happen to inhabit.

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