Let’s suppose that time travelers existed and were able to come back from the future and visit us. I’ve often thought, “Couldn’t we just test this by designating a place and time for them to show up at?”
It turns out that a few years ago, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking did just this.
For his birthday he made up invitations to be sent out *after* the party happened. That way the only people who could attend would be from the future. Since he’s one of the most well-known theorists in space-time (or whatever it is astrophysicists do) and sold 10 million copies of his book, A Brief History of Time, certainly people in the future would have heard about him and this party.
Unfortunately no one showed up.
I’ve read a lot of theories on why this might be the case, including reasons regarding time-lines, that conscientious future peoples not wanting to disrupt the space-time continuum, and the idea most popular with astrophysics nerds (including Hawking): It’s just not possible.
But there’s one theory that is less talked about. Hawking wasn’t visited by people from the future for perhaps a more obvious reason: the party was lame.
It was one nerd and a bunch of champagne. If you had a time machine that (presumably) could go anywhere in time, you’re not going to a party with one dude and bunch of Champagne. Who cares if it was Krug? If you have a time machine, you can go get the best Champagne in all of space and time.
So what does this thought have to do with IRLXD?
The idea is to create a way better party to make it worth the time-travelers’, uh, time. It’s likely that even time travelers have a limited lifespan (if for no other reason than accidents happen) and they need to prioritize the cool stuff.
How many millions of people would need to show up to make a party irresistible to the time travelers? 10? 100? A billion? Could we do it?
Ok, let’s start small and see how it could build up to a billion people party.
We’ll need some rituals, some darkness, some room for interpretation, some levity, some alcohol, and some costumes.
Many of the ideas will be crowdsourced and bottom-up instead of top-down to lessen the odds of the party turning into a cult. Perhaps there is a voting system of some sort.
Should it be annual?
Probably. The chances of getting a billion people to the party the first year are pretty low. What if we started with just a hundred or so people. We encourage the travelers to show up to any and all years that the party is held.
Maybe there are scheduled moments during the parties which are highlighted as “show up now” times. Let’s give the travelers many options as to when they come show up at the party, not just one big special climactic moment.
That way each attendee or group of attendees get to take their best shot at enticing the travelers.
This will also allow many more false yet somehow newsworthy claims of people having maybe sort of seen the travelers possibly.
We should not emphasize, promote, or encourage scientific inquiry.
We’re probably going to have to rely on hoaxes, misunderstandings, and delusions to ratchet the event up to an attendance of a billion people.
It’s much easier to get momentum by leaning into emotions and beliefs than it is to get it through leaning into the boring data and spreadsheets typical of even-keeled science. We don’t need to invite the sort of doubt and skepticism that comes from buzzkill analytical thinking as we build up the awesomeness over the years into the sort of billion-person parties time travelers will find most irresistible.
Scientists are welcome to attend, however. As long as they keep their opinions to themselves.
I think we should call the event “Stephen Hawking’s Birthday Party”. If we called it that and if it was cooler than his snoozefest attempt at attracting people from the future, then I believe we’ve lessened the impact of his “proof”: once we have made it known we have a better party than his original party, it’ll be obvious why no one showed up at his original party. It’s like we’ve contaminated his experiment. I sort of feel bad about that.