The ABC prime time sci-fi series FlashForward deals entertainingly with free will, fatalism, time and the future, even if the starting premise is a tad implausible: the whole world blacks out for 2 minutes 17 seconds, during which people see glimpses of their lives 6 months in the future. Question: will these “flashforwards” (some pleasant, some horrific) necessarily come to pass? Can we change the future? You can see the first 10 episodes online at ABC or Hulu, the second season starts up again March 18 according to ABC.
From the first season:
Newspaper headline following the suicide of someone who saw himself *alive* in his flashforward: “The Future Can Be Changed”.
Two physicists haggle over their responsibility for an experiment that might have caused the blackout:
Simon: Fate is fate, we’re not responsible, Lloyd.
Lloyd: What about free will?
Simon: No such thing.
Lloyd: Oh since when did you become such a hard determinist?
Simon: Simple quantum suicide theory. I will win this hand and every subsequent hand we play, ad infinitum, QED.…
Lloyd: You’ve upended the whole world and you hide behind determinist rhetoric.
Newscasters discussing the blackout: “Let’s get back to the big question: do we have free will… that’s the big question, possibly the central question of human existence for millennia” (fades out)
My take on the FlashForward problem set is here. I predict that because it must cater to folk libertarianism on free will and the metaphysical openness of the future, the show will give short shrift to the “block universe” view of things (accepted by many physicists as a consequence of special relativity), in which all events, past, present and future, are immutably fixed in spacetime. But of course the producers might falsify my prediction. Stay tuned!