The most twisted time travel paradox was arguably imagined by Robert Heinlein in his classic short story “All You Zombies”. It is thus often referred as the ‘All You Zombies Paradox’. 2014 Australian science fiction film Predestination is based on this paradox.
Here is a brief explanation of the ‘All You Zombies Paradox’
Cleveland 1945 – A baby is mysteriously dropped off at an orphanage
This baby, now named ‘Jane’ grows up lonely and sad in the orphanage.
Cleveland 1963 – Jane meets a drifter. She is attracted to him, falls in love with him and finally becomes pregnant by him. The drifter soon disappears leaving her alone yet again.
Cleveland 1964 – While delivering the child, the doctors realize that Jane is an inter-sex i.e she has both sets of sex organs. To save her life during this complicated delivery, doctors remove a set of sex organs. Jane is now a man.
To add to her… his woes, his newborn baby girl is also abducted from the hospital.
Over the next few years Jane tries to build a career and finally becomes a drifter who makes a living writing confession stories in magazines. He calls himself Unmarried Mother.
New York 1970 – Jane who now calls himself the Unmarried Mother, stumbles upon a elderly and sympathetic bar tender to whom he tells his sob story. The bartender says that he can help Unmarried Mother take revenge on the drifter who had ruined his life, if in return the Unmarried Mother agrees to join the “Time Travellers Corps”.
Unmarried Mother agrees and the bartender takes him to a “Time Machine”
On the time machine the bartender
a) Drops the Unmarried Mother in 1963 Cleveland where he is strangely attracted to an orphan girl and impregnates her.
b) Goes forward 9 months in 1964 and kidnaps a baby from the hospital.
c) Goes back to 1945 Cleveland and drops the abducted baby in an orphanage.
d) Picks up the Unmarried mother from 1963 and drops him in 1985 to join the “Time Travel Corps”
Now this drifter or the Unmarried Mother works for years with the Time Travel Corps and becomes it’s respected and elderly member. Years later he disguises himself as a bartender and waits back in 1970 to meet the Unmarried mother in a bar.
So, the ‘All You Zombies Paradox’ is :
Who is Jane’s mother, father, grandfather, grand mother, son, daughter, granddaughter, and grandson?
Jane, Unmarried Mother, Bartender? Yes, and they are all the same person. In fact if we draw Jane’s family tree she is the entire family tree herself.
The Time Graph can be seen as below :
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