At the end of Arrival,

Louise has completely understood the "Universal" language. As a result of which, she can view all her life laid out in front of her. Time is no longer linear for her, and she can experience the future as well as the present time, and past too.

Costello tells Louise that they are going to need Humans' help in about 3000 years, and that's why they want to give a "gift" (weapon?) to them, to enable them to do that.

Louise won't be alive at that time, and we learn she has indeed written a book to help everyone learn the universal (aliens') language. But if everyone learns the language, then no one can see the future. Louise knows what will happen to her daughter, and even with the knowledge she chooses to give birth to her. From the events in the movie, we can assume Ian wouldn't have gone down the path he did, if he could see the future. But then neither could Louise. Her future depends on Ian's actions.

And this is just two of them. So did Aliens really intend for all the human beings to have this gift/weapon? How could it possibly work?

Having pods land in different areas of world implies they did intend that but I cant fathom a world where everyone can see the future. That reminds me of Yoda's line "Always changing is the future".

  • Going by the looks of it, If Ian did know about the future, it would mean he still went ahead with it. Would that not mean the future is inevitable? Just a thought. Also, the simple answer to the question is Yes. The Aliens did want us to learn the language and help them in the future. But if you look more closely at it, the movie also focuses on how Humans are stupid and how we cannot work together as a team. We see various countries breaking out of the international team and also the American team itself had different methods within them for operating. So it wouldn't work.
    – AtulBhatS
    Feb 20, 2017 at 8:07
  • Why would the future be impossible to see if everyone knows the language? Things would surely be different, but there is no reason to assume the future would become impossible to perceive.
    – matt_black
    Feb 20, 2017 at 13:50
  • If everyone can see the future, then everyone will see what they are going to do. With the knowledge they might decide to do something different(we know that because Louise chooses to give birth to Hannah, she could easily have not done so), and what they decide might prompt someone else involved to do something different. With people always changing their action, it would be impossible to see any one future for anyone.
    – uptoNoGood
    Feb 23, 2017 at 4:56
  • 3
    @uptoNoGood In universe I don't think that holds. It might be a strong philosophical objection to time travel or forecasting in the real world, but the movie world of Arrival doesn't accept it. In fact the movie seems to imply that Louise could make a different choice given that she knows the future for her child, but doesn't. Maybe people see the future but always choose it anyway.
    – matt_black
    Feb 23, 2017 at 10:09
  • @matt_black yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
    – uptoNoGood
    Feb 28, 2017 at 11:31

3 Answers 3


It would work just as they intended it to. For human beings to anticipate future events and work towards preventing them, if need be, or working even harder to achieve them.

I'm not sure why you believe Ian wouldn't have gone down the path he did. The only thing we hear him say he'd change is speaking his mind more.

  • 1
    Because we know Ian divorces her when she tells him what's gonna happen and didnt look at Hannah 'the same way'.
    – uptoNoGood
    Feb 20, 2017 at 7:12

I think you're misreading what the gift actually is.

The way in which the information is given, by giving it to 12 different superpowers; strongly suggests that the aliens are coaxing humans to unite rather than divide themselves.

The foresight is also not the main part of the gift, it is a consequence. The main focus of the gift is understanding the cyclic nature of things.

The gift ensures that humanity will have a different future (compared to when they didn't have the gift), and in 3000 years humanity will have achieved something that is of use to the aliens.
This is like watering a sapling. I water the sapling today, so that I may have apples from the (future) tree.

If everyone can see the future, then everyone will see what they are going to do. With the knowledge they might decide to do something different, and what they decide might prompt someone else involved to do something different.

The point of the gift is not to divine the future. Today, such a skill would be invaluable, because you would be omniscient compared to everyone else. But when everyone can do it, it's no longer a valuable skill. So you are right that it devalues the ability of foresight.

But the point of having foresight is not being able to tell the truth, but rather understanding the consequences of your actions.

It is never explicitly addressed in the movie explicitly, but there are strong suggestions that humanity is flawed, and does not understand that they are flawed (and why their decisions lead to bad consequences). One example of this is the trigger-happy nature of some nations, and the nationalistic attitude they employ to shut out other nations.

But with the gift of foresight, humans are able to understand that a decision they make today may lead to an unwanted (and possibly unexpected) consequence in the future.

For example, anyone who wants to either start or stop a global war can now understand the consequences of their decision before they make it, and thus ensure that they pick the best available option.

When everyone always makes the best decision that they can make, humanity will obviously flourish as a consequence. No one wants to kill. Everyone wants to survive, and they sometimes see killing as a necessary evil to ensure their own survival. But with foresight, they can learn to understand that violent self-preservation does not always achieve the best outcome in the long run.

By giving humans foresight, humans are now given the tools to make truly informed decisions rather than short-sighted decisions that are either misguided or intentionally sacrifice the long term for the short term. This directly causes humanity to advance in a way that it otherwise wouldn't. And this advancement is what the aliens need for the humans to reach their required potential 3000 years from now.


Louise knows what will happen to her daughter, and even with the knowledge she chooses to give birth to her.

She have no choice on the matter. You can only see what had/have/will happen. You can't see probabilities or maybes.

It might be possible to change the future (personally I think it's not when you've seen it, the observer is also actor), but by doing so, you change also the memories you had of this future.

If Louise choose to not have kid, then she would have never seen her kid dying, so she will have no reason not having a kid, so she will have a kid. Bam ! Grandfathered !
If you're lucky, you are the only one dying from a brain aneurysm. If not, the all universe crash and you need someone to reboot it.

The 'choice' of having a child is only seen from an observer outside the universe (us, in front of the screen).

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