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Time Traveling Lately?

After watching NBC’s forgettable new show Journeyman, I started thinking about the premise and what I would do if I were suddenly thrust into the past.  Besides working to solve the obligatory problems of people so I could return to the present sometimes, would I do anything else?  Here are a few thoughts I had, some funny, some not so funny.

But what would you do?  Assume you couldn’t control your time travel but always went into the past in the country you are currently living in.

My first thought was to give my prior self stock tips.  I figure getting random messages written on slips of paper in my own handwriting with personal details would get me to realize that I was being given some real info, and I’d act on it.  Buy Microsoft, buy CISCO, get out before the bubble burst, etc.  OK, now I’m wealthy.

My next thought was to share with my younger self ideas that became big in the future.  I could share the algorithm from Google back when Altavista was still the rage.  Maybe create YouTube or MySpace or something like that.  OK, now I’m mega-rich.

Then my thoughts turned darker.  I’d like to make sure I got out of the market before key events – such as 9/11.  Given that I’m mega-rich, could I hire a security force to take out the hijackers before the event?  Could I warn of the dangers of tsunami in the Indian Ocean?  Should I tip the New York Times to the lack of evidence regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

If I could do things like that – would I, and should I?  Would I be morally obligated to do so?  Where would I stop?   And when the timeline diverged, what paradoxes might I have created?  My head hurts thinking about it.

It is at this point that I realized the curse that such an ability might actually be.

6 Comments on Time Traveling Lately?

  1. In the words of the 3 geeks from season 6 of Buffy, my list would be:

    Hypnotize Buffy

    Control The Weather

    Miniaturize Fort Knox

    Conjure Fake I.D.s

    Shrink Ray



    The Gorilla Thing

  2. A great novel that explores this kind of situation is REPLAY by Ken Grimwood. Definitely worth reading!

  3. I second the Replay recommendation.

  4. Have you seen Primer Yet?

  5. Bob Hawkins // September 15, 2007 at 12:14 am //

    A few Super Bowl outcomes to build up a stake. Then stock tips. OK so far.

    If you keep getting out of the market just before disasters, people will think you had something to do with the disasters. Then you’ll be mega-rich and dead of pitchfork punctures and torch burns. Don’t do anything that people will notice and you can’t explain. Besides, you know the markets come back. Stay in and take credit for propping them up.

    The Google algorithm etc.? Forget it. The stock tips get you the profits without all the tedious administration and other stuff they teach in business school. This is an unnecessary step. Warren Buffett is as rich as any of those guys. (And how do we know he isn’t a time traveler?)

    Tipping the NYTimes about WMDs would disappoint you. WMDs became the issue after the fact. Before the fact, they were only one of many issues. The Times would want to know about the other issues, and you’d have to say “Well, yeah, there are mass graves, and the ecological destruction of the marshes, and civil service rapists, and…” and the NYTimes wouldn’t find you useful.

    As you’ve noticed, time travel gets less wonderful the more you think about it. I suspect that Alfred Bester’s “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed” gets the closest to the truth.

  6. Oooh…”The Men Who Murdered Mohammed”…another story I’d recommend! πŸ˜€

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