John Titor

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John Titor's military insignia

John Titor is the name used on several bulletin boards during 2000 and 2001 by a poster claiming to be a time traveler from 2036.[1]

In these posts, Titor made numerous predictions (a number of them vague, some quite specific[2]) about events in the near future, starting with events in 2004. He described a drastically changed future in which the United States had broken into five smaller regions, the environment and infrastructure had been devastated by a nuclear attack, and most other world powers had been destroyed. As of 2013, these events have not taken place.

To date, the story has been retold on numerous web sites, in a book, in a play, and the Japanese visual novel/anime Steins;Gate. Titor has also been discussed occasionally on the nationally-syndicated radio show Coast to Coast AM.[3]

History[edit]

The first posts appeared on the Time Travel Institute forums on November 2, 2000, under the name TimeTravel_0. At the time the posts had nothing to do with future events and the name "John Titor" was not being used. Instead, the posts discussed time travel in general, the first one being the "six parts" description of what a time machine would need to have to work (see below) and responses to questions about how such a machine would work. Early messages tended to be short.

The name "John Titor" was not introduced until January 2001, when TimeTravel_0 began posting at the Art Bell BBS Forums (which required a name or pseudonym for every account). The Titor posts ended in late March 2001. Eventually, a number of the threads became corrupted; but Titor's posts had been saved on subscribers' hard drives and were copied to Anomalies.net, along with new discussions of the science behind Titor's time travelling as well as his predictions.[4] Around 2003, various websites reproduced Titor's posts, re-arranging them into narratives. Not all refer to the original dates posted.[5]

Outline[edit]

In his online postings, Titor claimed to be an American soldier from 2036, based in Tampa in Hillsborough County, Florida, who was assigned to a governmental time-travel project. Purportedly, Titor had been sent back to 1975 to retrieve an IBM 5100 computer which he said was needed to "debug" various legacy computer programs in 2036; a reference to the UNIX year 2038 problem. The 5100 runs the APL and BASIC programming languages. Titor had been selected for this mission specifically, given that his paternal grandfather was directly involved with the assembly and programming of the 5100.

Titor claimed to be on a stopover in the year 2000 for "personal reasons"; i.e., to collect pictures lost in the (future) civil war and to visit his family, of whom he spoke often. Titor also said he had been, for a few months, trying to alert anyone that would listen about the threat of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease spread through beef products and about the possibility of civil war within the United States. When questioned about them by an online subscriber, Titor also expressed an interest in mysteries such as UFOs (which remained unexplained in his time). Titor suggested that UFOs and extra-terrestrials might be travelers from much further into the future than his own time, with superior time machines.

Time machine[edit]

Titor described the time machine on several occasions. In an early post, he described it as a "stationary mass, temporal displacement unit powered by two top-spin, dual positive singularities", producing a "standard off-set Tipler sinusoid". The earliest post was more explicit, saying it contained the following:

According to the posts, the device was installed in the rear of a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible and later moved to a 1987 truck having four-wheel drive.

Titor also shared several scans of the manual of a "C204 Time Displacement Unit" with diagrams and schematics. He also shared some photographs of the device installed in the car.[6]

Titor further claimed that the "Everett–Wheeler model of quantum physics" was correct. This model, better known as the many-worlds interpretation, posits that every possible outcome of a quantum decision actually occurs in a separate "universe". Titor stated that this was the reason the grandfather paradox would not occur; following the logic of the argument, Titor would be killing a different John Titor's grandfather in a timeline other than his own.

...The grandfather paradox is impossible. In fact, all paradox is impossible. The Everett–Wheeler–Graham or multiple world theory is correct. All possible quantum states, events, possibilities, and outcomes are real, eventual, and occurring. The chances of everything happening someplace at sometime in the superverse is 100%.[7]

Predictions[edit]

Although invoking the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, whereby events from his own timeline may differ from our own, Titor also expressed assurance that the differences were minimal. As such, his descriptions have been interpreted as predictions and compared with historical events since 2001.

The most immediate of Titor's predictions was of an upcoming civil war in the United States having to do with "order and rights".[8] He described it as beginning in 2004,[9] with civil unrest surrounding the presidential election of that year. This civil conflict that he characterizes as "having a Waco type event every month that steadily gets worse"[9] will be "pretty much at everyone's doorstep"[8] and erupts by 2008.

Titor claimed that as a 13-year old in 2011, he fought with the Fighting Diamondbacks, a shotgun infantry unit of Florida, for at least four years. However, in other posts he describes himself as hiding from the war. As a result of the war, the United States splits into five regions based on various factors and differing military objectives. This civil war, according to Titor, will end in 2015 with a brief but intense World War III:

In 2015, Russia launches a nuclear strike against the major cities in the United States (which is the "other side" of the civil war from my perspective), China, and Europe. The United States counter attacks. The US cities are destroyed along with the AFE (American Federal Empire)...thus we (in the country) won. The European Union and China were also destroyed.[10]

Titor refers to the exchange as N Day. Washington, D.C. and Jacksonville, Florida are specifically mentioned as being hit. After the war, Omaha, Nebraska is the nation's new capital city.

Titor is vague as to the exact motivations and causes for World War III. At one point, he characterized the hostilities as being led by "border clashes and overpopulation",[11] but also points to the present conflict between Arabs and Jews as not a causation, but rather a milestone that precedes a World War III.

Criticism[edit]

Predictive failures[edit]

The posts were met with skepticism when they were being posted, but it was impossible to prove beforehand that the predicted events would not happen. Because Titor claimed the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics was correct, effectively meaning that his travel was from a parallel universe and that things could occur differently than he had predicted, the details he presented were unfalsifiable.

One of Titor's earliest assertions was that CERN would discover the basis for time travel sometime around 2001, with the creation of miniature black holes about half a year after his departure. This did not occur. An article occurring generally around the time he had predicted about miniature black holes being created by CERN (a recurring theme, also ascribed to Fermilab and Brookhaven at various times[12]) was taken by some to be evidence of this claim; but these events did not occur either. Civil war did not break out after the 2004 presidential election, nor did conflicts in 2008 and 2012 as described by Titor.

Titor also unambiguously claimed that the last Olympics would occur in 2004. While it is unclear if he meant the summer or winter Olympics, both the 2008 and 2012 summer Olympics and the 2006 and 2010 winter Olympics have been successfully hosted.

Problems with the technology[edit]

In the context of the demonstration image provided by John Titor, the laser pointer's beam being "bent" reveals the obvious inconsistency of objects near the beam not appearing to be bent as well. The framing of the window visible in the background, for instance, should appear distorted in proximity to a large gravity gradient, but it does not. Some have speculated the "beam" is an optical fiber.[13]

Titor claimed that he was sent back to obtain an IBM 5100 because it could translate several types of computer code. According to IBM engineer Bob Dubke, Titor's statements regarding the IBM 5100's little-known ability to emulate and debug mainframe systems were correct.[14] Supporters state that this information was not publicly available in 2000 or 2001 when Titor made his declaration,[15] and Titor himself stated that this feature was "discovered" as late as 2036 when Unix, as the underlying source behind all computer operating systems still running local infrastructures and other computational tasks, was only two years away from no longer functioning due to 32-bit integer limitations.[16]

However, this emulation capability was widely known in the industry and commented on in depth in numerous publications dealing with both the 5100 and programmable microcode in general.[17] References to this fact were also available on the Internet as early as 1999 and therefore predated Titor's postings. This is a fairly obscure bit of trivia, however, which suggests that whoever was making the posts either was familiar with the machine specifically or else had at least a general interest in retrocomputing.[18]

Problems with the story[edit]

Numerous commentators have pointed out the extensive similarities between the Titor story and Pat Frank's classic post-apocalyptic science fiction novel Alas, Babylon.[19] Among other similarities, Alas, Babylon takes place in a small river-side town in Florida just before and after a nuclear war and describes the struggle to survive as a family in the aftermath. In the book, the protagonist lives in the fictional town of "Fort Repose", while Titor claimed to live in the "Fort", formerly the University of Florida.

The internal consistency of Titor's story has been questioned: for instance, in some posts he claims that money is widely used and people still have credit cards, despite his statement that centralized banking no longer exists. (This is either an inconsistency or implies the rise of private currencies). In another posting, he speculated that today's dollar would be usable in his time, but that this would be after the reorganization of the federal government according to his own history, potentially making the currency worthless.[20]

Other problems with the story include inconsistencies in Titor's comments. His first appearance appears to have been not in 2000, but in the summer of 1998 through two faxes to Art Bell's radio program Coast to Coast AM. When he began posting the online story, Y2K (January 1, 2000) had come and gone without any real problems. Yet in the 1998 faxes to Art Bell he said, "Y2K is a disaster. Many people freeze to death trying to get to warmer weather. The gov. tries to keep power by instituting marshall [sic] law..." [21]

In the online story, Titor stated that a part of his mission was to prevent the coming world war by changing history. Yet during an IRC chat in October 2000, a month before he began posting, Titor was asked if the future could be changed from his predictions, and answered "It's too late... I just wish things didn't have to happen the way they will."[22] This stated mission also contradicts his other posts explaining that the multiverse theory is correct (see above), which would make changing history pointless in the context of his own timeline.

Inquiry on the story[edit]

An Italian TV program (Voyager – Ai confini della conoscenza) aired an investigation of the John Titor story on May 19, 2008.[23] Mike Lynch, the private detective hired to investigate, found that there were no registry traces, even far in the past, of any John Titor or Titor family. In addition, he discovered that there was a company that was called the John Titor Foundation. The John Titor Foundation is a for-profit Florida LLC that was formed September 16, 2003. It had no office, and it only had a rented post box with the address PMB 237, 7862 W IRLO BRONSON HWY, KISSIMMEE FL 34747; no tapes, recordings, or evidence of Titor were found; and only Larry Haber, the CEO of the John Titor Foundation and an entertainment lawyer in Celebration, Florida, confirmed his existence. Lynch's conclusion is that John Titor may be John Rick Haber, a computer expert who is Larry Haber's brother.

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Scott, Alwyn (26 Sep 2007). The nonlinear universe: chaos, emergence, life. Springer. p. 121. ISBN 978-3-540-34152-9. 
  2. ^ Karl Simanonok (2003-05-19). "John Titor Validity Test Based on Prediction of Civil War by 2004-2005". Johntitor.strategicbrains.com. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  3. ^ "John Titor, Recap". Coasttocoastam.com. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  4. ^ One of these forum posts exists in its original form, given by the link below; original webcrawler links are also given below
  5. ^ "John Titor – Time Traveler". Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  6. ^ johntitor.strategicbrains.com
  7. ^ John Titor, 2/2/01 10:09
  8. ^ a b John Titor, 2/27/01 17:25
  9. ^ a b John Titor, 2/1/01 8:36
  10. ^ John Titor, 11/7/00 21:23
  11. ^ John Titor, 2/8/01 9:40
  12. ^ A Black Hole Ate My Planet, mentions one widely reported article in The Sunday Times
  13. ^ "John Titor: Hoax". 2004-06-26. Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  14. ^ "Time traveller most likely to be spotted in Rochester, IBM 5100 Engineer Bob Dubke on hidden features". Rochester Magazine. Archived from the original on 2005-12-10. Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  15. ^ "News about the 5100 Computer". 2005. Retrieved March 15, 2007. 
  16. ^ John Titor, 12/30/00 13:37
  17. ^ "The IBM Family of APL Systems, IBM Systems Journal" (PDF). 1991. Retrieved March 15, 2007. 
  18. ^ "John Titor's Story". Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  19. ^ TAN, What to ask next time, #14894
  20. ^ "Tackling John Titor, Time Traveller". 2003-11-25. Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  21. ^ "John Titor faxes to Art Bell", The Anomalies Network, 29 October 2007, retrieved from archive of 23 July 2011
  22. ^ anomalies.net
  23. ^ "Rai.it – Voyager – Ai confini della conoscenza". Voyager. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  24. ^ "Method of gravity distortion and time displacement". Freepatentsonline.com. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  25. ^ "takumipgsky" (2011-04-13). "[Spoil]Steins;Gate ep02". Exteen.com. Retrieved 2011-08-30.  (Thai)
  26. ^ "More on CHIKARA iPPV Show Closing Angle and Background Leading Up To It". PWInsider.com. 2013-06-03. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 

External links[edit]