Sunday, January 11

#2 - time machine


A great uncle of yours recently passed away. He was independently wealthy and nobody you know can manage to tell you what exactly he did with his time. Though most of your extended family considered him a little crazy, the two of you always got along well.

In his will, your uncle leaves you the remnants of one of his "science projects", delivered to you in a large crate. Upon inspection, you find a time machine inside.

It is a single-passenger device capable of transporting you to any time or place (the user sets the date and location). Besides your own person, the machine has enough room to accommodate two medium-sized duffel bags. Also in the crate is a sort of manual left by your uncle. It contains general usage instructions, assurances that the device is fully safe and operational, and a few caveats about the machine. They are as follows:

1) While in another time period, you will not have the ability to alter significant historical events.

2) On a related note, your uncle also advises you not to travel to any time in which there is a high likelihood of encountering yourself. He cites space-time continuum concerns.

3) The machine's battery is solar powered, but needs a full year to recharge after jumping. In essence, if you choose to time travel, you are committing to at least a year in that time.

4) To return to the present day, you simply press a large red button on the dashboard once seated in the machine. This will not take you back to the day you originally left. Rather, your return date will be determined by the date of your departure plus the length of time you spent in the past or future. For instance, if you leave in January of 2009 to spend two years studying under Socrates, you will return in January of 2011. There is no way for you to regain the two "lost" years in the present day. While you cannot grasp all of the theory behind it, your uncle includes a great deal of math in this section of the manual explaining why this is.

Based on this information, what do you do with the time machine?

Please note, travel to distant times and/or places would present cultural challenges that would likely require preparation in advance of the trip. In the example above, showing up in ancient Greece as an English speaker in blue jeans might very well lead to a fruitless (or possibly even dangerous) year.

12 comments:

Stephanie said...

Use the machine: Yes, sounds like fun.
Length of time: at least one year, not sure if I would do longer
Time period: Not sure yet -- will post later this week.

Question:
1. What is the cost, or how will it be handled when you leave for the year? Will other people know? Is that okay? Do you have to tell people or do you just disappear? What about your job? Are there no consequences for the time travel except for the loss of time? I guess this might play a role in my decision of staying longer than a year.
2. Could you stay in that place as long as your human life would allow? And then you would die there? How would that work out? Then you would technically never have been born?

Okay, I think that's it for tonight :)

Stephanie said...

OOps ... one more.

Is it possible that 2 ppl go to the same place at the same time using different machines? Like if Joyce gets one from her uncle and somehow I miraculously do too, could we both go to the same place and time (if we so chose to do so)?

Maybe our uncles were in business together?

Joyce said...

Oo, I want to know the answers to steph's questions.

I'll most likely revisit this question later this week, but I thought of a few uses:

1) Tracing my lineage -- jumping back in time after observing how each generation lived/functioned
2) Visiting ancient Rome circa Paul to figure out the context of his writings. Also visit ancient Israel circa Jesus to understand the context completely. I would be the most informed biblical scholar!! bwhaaha. just kidding. but no really, it would be really helpful in answering some of my questions.

Both of these uses requires a lot of prep. I can't speak Aramaic, Greek, and I can barely speak Mandarin. Plus, it would probably be weird for people to see an Asian American female in ancient Israel. Too bad we can't just secretly observe.

I wouldn't use the machine for super long lengths of time. I'm sure I would witness some really painful things, especially in my family. I'm sort of imagining my family to be like the ones in old school Chinese soap operas. If that was really how they behaved, then ouch.

Joyce said...

Maybe I would go back in time and attend college at another school. Or, I could re-attend college, make different choices, and create a vortex in time??

Sheila said...

I would go back to the 1960's in America to see what motivated people to get so socially/politically active... There are so many reasons and excuses today for why people are so complacent despite knowing atrocities here and around the world.. I'd like to figure out how I could take the passion of the 60's back to the '00s or '10s!

But realistically, I probably wouldn't do anything. I don't know if I would honestly leave behind everything that's here and now for a whole year... Even for such an opportunity. And while I'd become an important figure in the now if I time-traveled, I always like to think I could make a historical difference in the here and now if I were to stay here. And to forgo the possibility of making a real difference (by not changing history) would be a sacrifice...

Matt said...

Stephanie, in response to your questions...

I guess in general when I post these each week, the assumption is that besides the specifics presented, the rest of the world-at-large is exactly the same as it is today.

So, applied to this question...

Yours in the only machine.

People you know would presumably notice your absence for as long as you were gone. Your response may include how you would prepare for or deal with this.

You can spend as long as you wish in another time. If you elected to spend the rest of your lifetime in another era, you would still be born in the "present day" and at some point (apparently) disappear from that time when you hopped into the machine. Simply living out your life in a different time would not affect your birth in the 20th century. It'd be like Doc Brown deciding to spend the rest of his days in the wild west.

mikeygee said...

I would visit the future... about 100 years. Long enough to avoid annihilating my existence by meeting my future self but short enough such that English is not a dead tongue.

I'd prepare by buying a house and establishing a "trust" or something like that to keep the house up-to-date (minus the locks I guess...).

I'd bring my trusty KJV bible (if it lasted the last 300 years, why not 100 more???). This way I'll have an "in" with the Christians who would hopefully blame my "traditional" and "archaic" tendencies on an extreme tendency in my family to resist change (that's what I'll tell them anyways).

In my time-travel duffel bags, I'd put into them things that are bound to be "collector's items" by history buffs. That way, I can sell 'em and make enough money to survive for at least a year. That's if we still have capitalism. I'm banking on the elimination of money in the next 100 years.

There are a lot of risks to this - what if it turns out 100 years from now it's the middle off a nuclear WWIII??? Or what if cyborgs have taken over?? Maybe global warming won't be solved and I end up beneath the now melted polar ice-caps (does the time machine float???).

But I think the gains would be many if the worst didn't happen -
1) Study the stock market history so I can get rich when I return. This seems like it will shatter the time-line much less (and is less immoral) than stealing a piece of technology and passing it off as my own when I return to present day.

2) Study the past 100 years that I skipped in case somehow I can make a difference. This begs the question - if I learned who the next 'Hitler' like person is, would I assassinate him/her when I return?

3) Cars that fly.

But mainly, I'd like to see the future just cuz I think it would be way cool to know where all of this is going. And NO, it's not in hopes of meeting aliens or going on spaceships.

But actually, I take it all back. I think no one should time travel because the germs we bring in the past would wipe everyone out. And the germs I'd experience in the future would kill me. And if it didn't kill me, it'd kill a lot of people when I return. Darn you bacteria and your ability to mutate.

Pietro said...

I think I'd risk the future and the mutating bacteria. Hopefully they'll have all the antidotes on storage by then. I don't think there is any real way I could experience it without allowing the memories I gain there to impact my life when I return to 'the present.' Even if I don't directly memorize the stock market trends or teams that win sporting events, I still will have some sense of foreboding to know what is to come.
Technological differences from the present will be the hardest to avoid. I might even bring some back with me in my medium sized duffle bags. I wouldn’t reverse engineer and ‘invent’ them too early, but maybe just keep them to make my own life easier. Maybe something that could monitor my health more effectively than anything available today.
This would pose the question of how I would be able to purchase, let alone survive in the future. To maximize my flexibility in the future, I’d probably create a stock portfolio for myself in the future so I won’t need to worry about money. (Now’s probably the best time to invest long term anyway since the economy went down the tubes.)
I think I’d start by spending a lot of time at the library… or Wikipedia if they’ve become obsolete to learn about all the events that I skipped over. And I’d pick to go somewhere like Canada, it’s more likely to still be around after WW III than the U.S. and since I’ve lived there I know it’s pretty much the same. Plus, if I am still alive, I will most likely not run into myself in Canada. After living there for a year I have no intentions of going back for a while. …and I can always travel back to the US for vacation. I’d only go about 50 years into the future so I can have some semblance of orientation but still experience some of the answers to today’s tricky questions.
If I used anything back in the present that I gained in the future, it would be my experiences. When I returned to the present I might take a stab at writing fiction novels about a world of the future with enough of my own imaginative twists on it that I would never get mistaken for being like Nostradamus or something.

julia said...

Realistically, i would sell secretly it for a couple million dollars. Then I would invest almost all of it, pay for my parents to retire, start freelancing and illustrating full time, and own and manage an entire asian plaza that contains a ramen noodle shop, kbbq restaurant, asian bakery, sushi restaurant, pirated dvd shop, bookstore, and asian grocery store.

If i couldn't sell it for some reason, I would probably take Joyce's approach of going back for more education. Or just more time, period. Not enough time to do everything that needs to be done!!!

Andrew said...

I'm rather behind the curve in replying to this one, but here are my thoughts:

1. Given that we can't change significant historic events that means there's no moral imperative to use the time machine gift in order to make the world a better place.

2. By the same token, if it's possible to visit a version of the future, then I conclude that we also can't significantly alter the 'present' to make the future a better place - as the present is just another point along the time line.

So what do I do?

I guess I first spend some time learning ancient Aramaic, then go and spend a few years hanging out with Jesus and the apostles - and then ask Him what I should do with the time machine. Maybe he'll send me back into pre-Christian times to preach the good news. :-)

Matt said...

I was curious to see if anyone would bring up the “selling the machine” angle.

Kudos to Mike and Pete for the thoughtful analysis of time travel to the future. For whatever reason, I hadn’t really considered it beforehand for my own answer.

I’d want to use the machine, it would be too unique of an experience to pass up. I’d probably start with a more controlled trial, somewhere in America in the 1900s. A lot happened that would be interesting to witness, even in the first half of the century (roaring 20s or Great Depression). And it would be easy enough to research things extensively before I left so that I could fit in reasonably well (a luxury that would be unavailable if I went forward in time). I suppose I’d just make sure things were in order here and disappear for a year, finding a job somehow when I arrived in the past. I could see it being a rocky transition, but a healthy and challenging one. I would really like to see how much different everyday life was for people who lived not that long ago. It’d almost be like a retreat in some ways (which is probably what I’d tell friends and family I was doing).

Not sure what I’d do when I returned. It would be easy for the machine to be exploited if the wrong people found out about it. Maybe I could write a “fictional” account of a 21st century man in the early 20th century based on what I had seen.

I find the ideas of visiting Paul or Jesus really interesting too. I wonder if communication with Paul would be easier because you could bring him his own letters written in English. And with Jesus, it seems very possible that you would meet and he would be very aware of your identity and particular situation. What would he say to a time traveler who had journeyed to talk with him?

Ry said...

I'm not sure if I would use it at all, given that I can't afford to be gone that long and still have a place to live when I return, but all other things being equal, and keeping the problem of the language barrier in mind, I have one word: dinosaurs.