Because I still retain a childlike wonder at the world, I daydream enough to keep myself entertained at times. In a post that I wrote almost seven years ago, I wondered how I would handle being the last person on this planet. About two weeks ago, I began wondering about time-travel. Now being a huge fan of science fiction, I’ve explored the possibilities of time-travel more times I can count. This time around though, my daydream didn’t involved a modified DeLorean.
Consider a situation in which you were able to travel back in time. The catch is that you go back in time and you inhabit the body of yourself, in that earlier time. You retain knowledge of yourself and everything from the time you traveled from but you’re stuck in your younger body. Depending on how far you travel back, the situation would range from negligible to downright torture.
Let’s examine the case where you travel back in time three days. Depending on what happened in those three days, things could be interesting or rather uneventful. First, your knowledge of everything that could happen in the next three days really determines how you spend those days. You could use the knowledge of the outcomes of sports games to bet big. If the days happened to land on the a lottery drawing, you could try to win the lottery (assuming going back in time doesn’t change the draw). Or would you be more altruistic? What if you knew a murder or accident would occur in those three days? What if there are several terrible events? Do you try to stop each one? What if you had to choose between several? How do you choose? Of course, if you weren’t paying attention, then your lack of knowledge won’t help you in the past. You’d probably just be annoyed that you’d have to redo three days worth of work again, though possibly doing it faster since you’ve done it before. Once the days caught up, you’d be back to where you were again.
Now the most interesting case is where you go back really far in your life, say back to when you’re 10 years old. It’s my thinking that the benefits of going back that far may not outweigh the drawbacks. First, you could relive your childhood again. Yes, that might be fun depending on your family, or it might absolutely suck if you’re one of those people who didn’t have a good childhood. No matter what, it would mean no more driving, drinking alcohol, nor doing anything an adult could do. You’d be stuck going back to elementary school. School would be absolutely boring. They might put you in a gifted class but even then it’d be a drag.
Nothing would really amuse you anymore. There would be no Internet. Video games would be downright primitive. Movies and TV shows would all seem to be one big re-run for you. You’d hate your clothes because you’d wearing kids clothing and the styles would be horrendous. Your friends would be children now so you’d have a difficult time relating to them. You might naturally gravitate towards older people.
The only benefit would be your fleeting knowledge of the next several decades. That knowledge could be used in several ways. First, you could avoid past mistakes or prevent personal tragedies in your own family. Did you barf on Suzy in grade eight when she kissed you behind the school? You can change that now. Did your dog Wolfie get hit by a car because you forgot to tie him up that one time? Wolfie gets another chance at life.
Second, you can use the knowledge to gain wealth. Admittedly, as a kid, this will be difficult. Depending on far you go back, you’ve got a lot of options. You’d need to convince your parents though why it’s a smart idea to dump your university money, their life savings, and any loose change into small, fledgling companies named Microsoft and Apple.
No matter how much money you made or how many wrongs you righted though, I think it would be terrible to go that far back in time. The biggest problem is that you’d be in danger of changing your life so much you’d essentially have a different life. My life is the way it is because of many things, where I went to school or what job I managed to get. If I didn’t go to a certain school or get that job, I don’t meet a certain people. Because I don’t meet that person, then I don’t get to experience this or that. It all begins to radiate out to the various aspects of your life. By the time you catch up to where you were in time (several decades down the road), your life might be very different (for better or worse).
Well, thank you for indulging me in my daydream. I think we should all get back to work now. If you’re interested in a unique time-travel movie, I suggest you check out Primer, an indie film that has been well-received for its (mostly) accurate depiction of time-travel concepts.