How cool would it be if you could travel back in time?
I don't mean massive, wholesale, time tourism with all the 'Treading on an ant in 4,600,462 BC wipes out the entire human race and replaces them with intelligent custard' scenarios that have been the staple of science fiction stories since 1895.
But your own, personal thing... Maybe a complicated chalk drawing that you can scribble on your basement floor, or a ring you can twist. or a pie you can eat. But something that flings you, and whatever goods and chattels are about your person, backwards in time with stunning alacrity.
What would you do?
OK, we'll get the easy stuff out of the way first... Hands up all those people who said 'Kill Hitler when he was a child' or Pol-Pot or Bin-Laden or any one of the countless despots that have blighted our glistening little world over the past few thousand years.
Would you? would you really? What would be the repercussions of those actions? I agree that all those people committed terrible acts in the name of religion, or nationalism, or their own self-delusion. But if you think of the bigger picture (and I'm not trying to be flippant) The taking up of arms against these people added something to the general good. made the world a better place. Did it make it better than it would have been if they hadn't existed? I don't know, but I guess you could test that if you could travel in time - If it turned out worse, you could go back and stop yourself doing it...
Although that gets messy after a while with causality loops and Grandfather paradoxes being flung all over the place.
Would you ring in a bomb threat and get them to clear the World Trade Center on September 11th? - You'd save 2,606 people, presuming that they took you seriously of course - I understand that terrorists have to give a secret code word to let the security services know that it's real nowadays... Wonder who they apply to to get that?
You can imagine the phone call...
*Phone Rings* 'Hello CIA Headquarters'
'Hello, I am a terrorist, I wish to get hold of a validated I am about to commit an act of terrorism in your Sovereign Territory password please'
'Yes sir, please wait whilst I transfer you to the No I don't know why we don't just trace the call and have you shot in the head password delivery department'
*Greensleeves is played on the Stylophone*
'Hello, Giving passwords to terrorists to prove that they're real terrorists department'
'Yes, hello, I would like a password please.'
'No problem sir, Will this be for a bombing, a chemical attack or mass abduction and subsequent torture and murder of innocent children?'
'Do I have to decide now?'
'No, sir of course not, that would go against your human rights. Can I take your name?'
'Not a problem, address?'
'Fine, I will need the name of the organisation that you represent.'
'I'm an independent.'
'Ah... I'm afraid this line is only for members of one of the accepted terrorist groups, al-Qaeda, Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei, Taliban or perhaps the Supreme Military Majlis ul-Shura of the United Mujahideen Forces of the Caucasus for instance?'
'Ah, the last one... Yes, them.. Definitely!'
'You don't seem very sure...'
'No, my cell is definitely aligned with them, I distinctly remember, there was a memo last Thursday.'
'Well, if you say so.... The next password on the list for the SMMuSUMFC is... Erm... Courgette.'
'Yes, just ring the number you first called, before the event, give us the codeword and any details that you think we might need.'
'How much before should I call?'
'Oh, there's no hard and fast rule - Whatever you think's fair.'
'Right, thanks, bye!'
'OK, good luck!' *click*
Hoo... Digressed a bit there didn't I? - Anyway, where were we - Oh yeah... You'd just saved all those people, very good, well done, pats on the back all round.
But where do you stop?
Do you go back and try to stop them launching the Titanic and save another 1,500 lives?
Would you clear out the school at Aberfan before the 40,000 cubic meters of slurried spoil heap buried all 116 children (and 28) adults alive on the morning before half-term?
Would you steer the Exxon Valdez away from the reef and save hundreds of thousands of assorted animals?
Would you cultivate a blight-resistant strain of potato and take them to 18th Century Ireland - Another million or so saved there?
Would you go back to Dumfries in 1831 and vaccinate everyone against cholera?
Would you knit all the dinosaurs anti-asteroid crash-helmets?
Would you true believers out there stop them crucifying Iesu Christi?
Would you read the evening paper and go back and save every child that had been knocked over by a car that day?
You'd drive yourself mad, trying to right every injustice in the world - And it wouldn't make a difference... OK, it would make a difference to the people you've saved as Loren Eiseley might argue, especially if they had something of the starfish about them.
I think the world needs some injustice, without it right thinking people would have nothing to rise up against.
I think the world needs some pain, pain teaches you lessons about how to be more careful.
Could you live in a world where nothing bad ever happened? Where would be the challenge? What would you strive for? How would you grow?
Although saying that, I don't know why I'm bothering, most of us would just go back to buy a lottery ticket with the right numbers on, win £25 million then go back 319 years to 1694, deposit it in the fledgling Bank of England and then jump straight back and collect their £204,430,510,542,395.34 (Approximately, without taking inflation into account) balance.
Or as I like to call it, completely destroying the global banking system.
We're not ready for time-travel - Not ready for all the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimeyness of it. We'd tinker and tamper and pull away at loose bits of the very fabric of space-time until the whole thing unraveled into a big pile of super-strings on the floor of the void and you'd be sat there on your own with just an old car wheel, a supermarket trolley and a gently smoking hat to prove that the multiverse ever existed at all.
That's why I've decided to re-bury this device I found in the garden so I'm not tempted to meddle again...
I tried some stuff that didn't work, see most of the items above in fact. But I did a lot more that did - You wouldn't believe what originally happened in Virginia on October 28th 1943... But I stopped it, you should all be very grateful. I will quite happily accept donations about that. It would have been catastrophic...
Hang on... I've got an idea... Maybe one last time... See you all soon...