What I'm Watching: Heptapods on Earth

Feb 27 2017 Published by under What I'm Watching

Over the weekend, we watched Arrival, an Oscar-nominated film. The movie was beautiful and made me think, but perhaps not in the way intended.


These aliens show up in 12 locations on earth. Ultimately we find out that they have arrived to teach us their language. As humans learn their articulation, our brains change so that we can appreciate time in a non-linear fashion, the way these heptapods do. Turns out, the aliens have arrived to give us their language because they will need humanity's help in 3000 years. We need to be prepared.

As the linguistics professor, Louise Banks, learns to speak with the aliens, she begins to experience things from her future life, including the birth and death of a child. Her relationship with the child's father deteriorates when she reveals that their daughter will die of cancer, and he leaves. Even knowing that all of this is ahead, she chooses to live this life.

But why?

Clearly non-linear time perception allows the heptapods to go to a timepoint and give us humans the tools to make us useful 3000 years from now. So nonlinear time perception allows at least some interference in outcomes, otherwise they wouldn't bother. Are there rules for such things? Or are all the outcomes written and it doesn't matter what we do?

So why doesn't Dr. Banks try to change some outcomes? Not the big stuff - having the child - but telling the father that his daughter will get cancer and die in a few years when she knows what that will trigger? Perhaps she could visit a time in the future when her daughter's disease could be cured? They make clear in the movie that at least a couple of people are running about through time, telling each other critical things.

Of course, I then had to ask myself if I would change my life, even the bad stuff. There are many things that I could have lived without, but what would I have done differently? I don't have to know, because, for me, time is strictly linear.

At the end of the movie, that's the biggest problem: it's very difficult to imagine time as anything but a linear construct of past - now - future. And that's OK, until the heptapods land for real.

One response so far

  • wally says:

    Coincidentally, I watched that over the weekend too. If I had awareness of the future, I would have worked way harder before Nov 8, 2016. 🙂

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