Time travel isn’t, of course, a currently available technology – in fact, it may be theoretically impossible to do with any amount of control or predictability. There’s plenty of books out there by theoretical physicists and authors on writing time travel sci fi for the masses, so I’ll leave the science to them (I’m just a meager chemist, after all). I’ll glance over some scientific principles of time travel, but I’m primarily going to think about more social aspects of the theoretical technology.
Traveling In and Out of Control
You’ve built your time machine – but do you know when it will take you?
A time machine within your control can take you whenever you please. By doing the right calculations or plugging in the right settings, you can choose any era or year to land in. A time machine outside of your control takes you to an unspecified time that you can’t determine a priori. If we want to get scientific, the random time machine seems more approachable due to the randomness of quantum physics.
Random time travel can pose several problems, though, some of which could pose cool story complications or ideas:
- If your time travel is random, how can you be sure you won’t just go to the beginning of the universe, or a time period where Earth doesn’t exist?
- Why would anyone want to use one of those things? Is there anything worth taking that risk over?
To Be Fair, The Past Sucks
So you’ve decided to assume technology that can let you off the time travel boat whenever you damn well please, and this includes the past.
Besides potential time paradoxes, you might want to consider that the past actually sucked. Are you nonwhite or not straight-cis-male? Gonna suck even harder. Forget Victorian fashion – I’d rather have indoor plumbing for the poor and rural. Screw ancient Greece, Rome, or Egypt – I’d rather not be captured and turned into a slave tutor (if I were lucky). Not only that, remember reading old books? Even Twain can be hard to decipher into modern English at times, much less Shakespeare. The further you travel, the less likely your language even exists.
If you want to travel back in time, keep in mind how much the past really does suck.
The Far Future is a Crapshoot
We already know the past sucks – but what about the future? Surely upward economic trends will continue, technology will improve, and social niceties will get nicer.
But we can’t know. It’s possible that Earth will suffer from runaway global warming and become uninhabitable. It’s possible that we’ll nuke each other and the Earth will become uninhabitable. It’s possible eradicated diseases will return and everything will be lame and dangerous.
There’s only one good option for time travelers…
Using Your Power to Buy LOTTO Tickets
The people who use their time machines for betting purposes always lose or get made out to be the bad guys on TV and movies. They get told “You’re ruining everything!” or that they’re cheating other people.
But they’re not.
You might kill the gambling industry, especially when it’s apparent you’ll need to make money by selling machines to other gamblers, but that isn’t too bad. The lottery definitely destroys more lives and marriages than it saves thanks to gambling addiction, so you know what? Screw it.
Horse racing? Archaic form of animal and rider abuse. Screw it.
Sports? The NFL is killing its players – I don’t care if it gets ruined. Sports precipitates a rather wide variety of evil in this world, and removing the excitement by inventing time machines doesn’t bother me.
And the thing you’d get in return for making those sweet, sweet gambles? That giant pile of cash? There are powerful people already out there who have plenty more cash than any lottery – or two lotteries – could possibly give you. Getting the money isn’t evil; it’s what you do with it after that could be.
If you ever find yourself with a time machine, take the safe road out. Take a gamble.