It’s a Continuum

“It’s a continuum” – it’s a family tradition (joke?) to try and see everything in that light – politics, emotions, sexuality, gender identity, intelligence, talent- whatever the topic, we can always sum it up with that saying.

Continuum is also a television show, a sci-fi time-travel series that got me quite hooked recently thanks to Netflix. Despite its weaknesses, the show is compelling to me for a few reasons, the main one being that it deals even-handedly with all of the complexity and ambiguity that comes from the recent technological developments and issues around big data, total surveillance, control of information, police militarization and corporate greed. Good guys and bad guys are not so easily distinguished – one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, the road to hell is paved and so on. The show’s problems do tend to overwhelm it at times. For example, the women tend to cry a lot. Even though they’re as violent and kickass and fearless as the men, still they cry, in nearly every episode. Someone thought this was appropriate, but it’s tiresome. Another problem is that so much is happening, there are so many stories, that most of them go inoperative for long stretches, as if the terrorists go on vacation, or the interlopers from the guture (the “freelancers”) move in and out of utter incompetence whenever it suits the plot. Also, there is a shitload of gunfire and the bad guys miss nearly 99 percent of the time. Come to think if it, nearly everyone misses most of the time. Tiresome. There are the usual endless karate fight scenes where everyone’s arms and legs get broken but they bounce right up again. Bah.

Still, I’m a sucker for time travel even though I understand quite fully that it is the most completely absurd idea in the history of science fiction, because there is no such thing as “time” as a thing-in-itself. The world is not a recording. There is no playback, no rewind, no fast forward. Time is simply our perception of the infinitely complex occurrences of changes happening to everything constantly. There are no discrete moments, and there are no slices. There can be no such thing as “time travel”, but it’s a fun story, full of what-ifs and mind games. Like some of the best science fiction notions, it is at once a vehicle for imaginative work and a revelation of our collective incapacity to truly imagine our own actual reality. With all of our science and brainpower we have as little possibility of perceiving the universe as it really is as any other creature that ever existed, because the very tools we have are defined by their limitations – the brain and its sensory apparatus serve limited purposes and no others. The human brain enjoys thinking of itself as the greatest thing that ever happened, but I’d bet anything that a butterfly brain has the same idea.

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