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The money quote from the book is:

    > [...] What made it possible for me to exercise
    > freedom of choice also made it impossible for me
    > to know the future. Conversely, now that I know
    > the future, I would never act contrary to that
    > future, including telling others what I know.
I.e. her situation is completely analogous to Paul Atreides in Dune. She can see the future, she can change events, but if she ever did she couldn't see the future anymore. So she throws her daughter under the metaphorical bus to retain her powers.

I think it's a rather bleak story, "woman can see future events, prefers to live out the spoiler version of her life rather than changing anything and being surprised", but whatever, at least it's internally consistent.

What I'm pointing out is that the storyline of the movie makes absolutely no sense, because there she can see the future and is able to change events based on that information, not lose her seeing powers, and seemingly create time loops where people in the future only did certain things because she did them in the present, based on information they gave her in the future because she did that!

The movie tries to evade this problem with a slight of hand. They change the circumstances of her daughter's death to be inevetable, otherwise the audience would be up in arms at the obvious contradiction that she can change the future based on seeing what General Shang is going to do, but somehow can't tell her daughter not to take up climbing as a hobby.




I don't think precognition in Story Of Your Life/Arrival should be seen as a "power" - and certainly not one that Louise can choose to discard. The Heptapod perspective, which Louise gains, is "timeless": there is perfect symmetry between past and present, and therefore no free will (or if there is free will, then it must be a very strange kind of free will from our perspective, since one's choices affect the past just as they affect the future). Louise can no more change the future than you and I can change the past: it simply is.

    > now that I know
    > the future, I would never act contrary to that
    > future, including telling others what I know.
I think this should be read as "I could never act contrary to that future". She knows the future, unlike Paul Atreides who lives in a very different universe and knows only one of many possible futures. That her daughter will die in a climbing accident is as immutable as the fact that I was born where I was born. I struggle to even contemplate what it would mean for me make choices now that affect my past; it is the same for Louise with respect to the future.

The difference between the universe of Story Of Your Life and a generic deterministic universe is that in Story Of Your Life free will is not an illusion; it exists, but it can only be experienced from a certain perspective, which is complementary to the timeless perspective.

Very possibly there is a third perspective in this universe which is also equally valid. We could have a sequel (Departure?) where we meet the aliens do exactly what I struggle to imagine: they can observe only the future, and their choices affect only the past.


What I took away from the book, particularly when she talks with the other linguist who also acquired these abilities is that they simply can't choose to act against what they know the future to be. It's not so much they want to or don't want to, it's that they simply can no longer make that choice to do it or not.


You may be right. My reading of the quote I referenced "I would never act contrary..." is that she's choosing not to act contrary to the visions she sees.

But it could indeed be that the Heptapod language is some sort of brain virus and any information she gets from the future she's helpless carrying out like some automaton. See the sibling thread about a "memetic virus".

In any case, what I'm pointing out in this thread is that I think at there's no way to make sense of the storyline of the movie, since it's internally self-contradictory in how it treats time travel.

I don't have time to dig this up now, but there were some interviews after it came out where it was made clear that this change was purely made to make the movie more appealing to viewers, at the cost of internal consistency.


I think the key is that in the short story everything has to be explicable from both a linear and non-linear perspective, just like you can describe physics both ways. If Louise had called up her daughter and told her not to go rock climbing that would not be explicable from a linear perspective and is thus impossible.


I took a very different interpretation from that quote. I don't think the point of the story is that once she understood Heptapod B she started actually seeing the future, but that her perception of her memories and experiences changed. She is telling the story from the future, after her daughter has died, but she experiences all the events at once as if she is acting them out again.

The statement "I would never act contrary to that future" is, in my reading, equivalent to you or I saying "I couldn't change the past". Her memories aren't grouped into an ordered list of A causing B causing C, but a jumbled collection of events all happening at the same time, and all happening NOW, as she is looking down at her daughter in the morgue.


There's so many parts in that book that make it abundantly clear that it's not being written after the fact from the view of someone who knows Heptopod B, she can actually see the yet-to-happen future.


I think it's a rather bleak story, "woman can see future events, prefers to live out the spoiler version of her life rather than changing anything and being surprised", but whatever, at least it's internally consistent.

In theory Louise could have told her daughter not go climbing because she can see the future and knows her daughter would die but that would probably result in:

1. Mom getting written off as bat shit crazy and ignored.

2. Teens and young adults being teens and young adults tend to shrug off warnings and advice of their parents and she would have died anyway.


    > Mom getting written off as bat shit crazy and ignored.
Yeah let's write off mom, the premier expert in xenolinguistics on the planet when she tells you the aliens taught her to see the future. She doesn't even try.

    > Teens and young adults being teens and young adults
Her daughter dies at 25. She's old enough that Louise could have not only explained this to her, but fully taught her Heptopod B so she could see it for herself.


Not quite. If she prevented her daughter from dying, the result would be a paradox.

In the story, she knows the future, not a hypothetical, if-nothing-changes prediction of the future.


I seem to remember it's slightly implied Louise's desire to protect her daughter from heights (isn't there a scene with a staircase in the story, or did I dream it?) actually pushes her daughter into climbing. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy.


When does she ever change future events? Sure she needed knowledge from the future to make that future happen but that's just a time loop, not altering the foreseen future.




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