The People I’d Meet
September 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
Talking to my friend about time travel, he said that he would not use a time machine. He noted that if the machine only moved forward or backward in the time dimension, it is quite likely, due to the movement of the earth, that when the time machine went forward or backward in time, it would end up in outer space. I acknowledged this concern and decided that, for a time machine to be useful, one’s position in each of the four dimensions must be specifiable. Frankly, the ramifications of a device that allows you to go anywhere in the universe instantaneously are fantastic enough even without the ability to manipulate your place in time.
If the time machine were capable of exploration into the past, I would like very much to meet and converse with historical figures. I could have lunch with Nietzsche or learn mathematics from Euler himself! I am assuming a future in which there exists a machine that can go anywhere in time and space would also have developed a portable real time speech translator. At any rate, I would greatly enjoy meeting fascinating historical figures face to face. I would carefully refrain from giving them any ideas from the future and from changing the past significantly. It seems a common answer to what one would do if they could travel into the past is to become wealthy by exploiting the market or become famous by plagiarizing a revolutionary idea that had not yet been proposed. One might bring pepper or silk into the past and obtain quite a fortune or an estate. However, even a modest standard of living in the future would probably be more comfortable than most living arrangements in the distant past. Additionally, if one can simply go into the past and obtain a large sum of money, many other people would presumably do it, and the benefit would be nullified. As for plagiarizing a revolutionary idea, the fame associated with the proposal of this idea would be a remarkably hollow fame because the individual would know he did not truly birth the idea. Also, the quality of the idea that the plagiarizer proposes will almost certainly be less than if it were proposed by its natural parent.
If the time machine were capable of exploration into the future, I would probably abstain from bringing ideas from the future back to the present. Nevertheless, I would be fascinated to see if a certain system of government or lifestyle eventually attained prevalence on earth and remained prevalent for a long period of time. It is said that one of the values of history is that it reminds us not to remake the mistakes of our forefathers. How fascinating it would be to learn of the not yet made mistakes of our own and future generations! It would be quite a predicament to decide which future dangers should be reported to the present because who is to say that the knowledge and avoidance of certain dangers may not lead to even worse developments!
Therefore, I think if I had a time machine, I would travel through time as an observer and try not to alter history in any dramatic way.