Yesterday while reading LiveJournal I’ve spotted a short post from one of Russian friends, relaying a short conversation with a US teenager about a time machine. And more specifically, if you ever had a chance to use a time machine and see any moment, where would you go?
His answer was “of course the future, to see what new technologies will be available”, which obviously seemed odd to the Russian guy.
“What about the past? — No. — Even though there’s a chance to see [a list of some events] with your own eyes? — There’s nothing interesting there”.
And when the guy insisted on going into the past (specifically, if the teenager was forced to take a trip back in time) the answer was “I’d go 30 minutes back”. Which is perfect. If you want to force past on someone, it may as well be a very recent (and relatively relevant) past.
Which made me thinking, what is it that makes some people who are not professional historians or archeologists or anthropologists want to go back in time to see a certain event. It’s understandable why people would want to see the future — curiosity about something that will happen, chance of see how things will unfold. Heck, perhaps a chance to earn some money by cleverly reacting to what will be the prevailing technology so many years in the future.
The past, on the other hand, is generally a fading moment that, while potentially being relevant to the current events, is unmovable and belongs to the history books. Where you can pretty much read about it already, so wasting all that energy and a chance to use a time machine for a trip into past seems to be illogical. Beyond the feeling of satisfaction of knowing the truth (who really killed JFK, what happened at Roswell and stuff like that) non-professionals wouldn’t even be able to relay that information back with a chance of making a difference. Worse, if the message will be “but the history book got it wrong”, the “traveler’s” account will be bashed and discredited. Pundits will discuss “hidden agenda” and historians will brand traveler as diletante.
Of course, some people probably have something in their family past that they may theoretically be somewhat interested to see (did aunt really went out with that looser from the highschool, or is her memory faulty), but that also would not be at the top of the list, especially not for someone in highschool.
So, I agree with that teenager’s answer. If I had a chance of seeing any moment of time, I’d choose Earth’s future, not past. Will it be a wonderful utopia? Do we get invaded by hostile aliens? Will mega-corporations rule the Earth? Will Apple has finally released the iPhone for Verizon and Sprint? WiMax failed in the face of LTE? Everyone got moved to IP6 by 2012, right? Zero point energy?
So many possibilities, and so many chances for wonderful things. Now all we need is a time machine. The one where you can peek at the future, and go back to tell about it.