I spent some significant time the other day, talking with my wife about the impacts of time travel. I’m not sure how the conversation started anymore, (Isn’t that how most great conversations start?) but we ended up discussing the impact of changing history, and how it would affect the future. Luckily, she is married to a trained theoretical physicist, with advanced degrees in time theory. (Sidebar: I took physics I and II in college.)
To be clear, this is only my opinion, but after considering it thoroughly, I’m convinced that I may have developed a new theory on time travel that will soon be galvanized in text books. Given the impact of this discovered theory, it was clear that I must immediately construct a half-cocked blog post that may be read by dozens of people. (I’m assuming that Science magazine will just plagiarize it from my blog for their next edition.) My intent to document this revolutionary idea in the annals of history with a dedicated blog post was backed by the steadfast support of my wife. “You’re not going to write about this for your blog, are you?”
With that cleared up, here’s my earth-shattering hypothesis in one statement: it’s not the magnitude of the change you make; it’s how long ago you made it. Did that just blow your mind? In advanced physics, we’d write that as mind = blown. I know that the more scientific among you will require a scientific proof. I could provide that to you, but instead here are some colorful examples.
First off, for this to be at all possible, we have to accept that time travel into the past is possible. Now, there are a number of things in physics which say this might not be possible. I think that if we can believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger can travel through time as three different robots, with three different personalities, and then later actually in real life become governor, then time travel is the most reasonable part of that scenario. So, we’re assuming a person can travel back in time. Point proven.
We also must assume that time is linear, for this example. In other words, if you changed something in the past, then it could impact things in the future. There are people who believe that changing the past will create a separate parallel universe, which will exist along side the universe that existed before the person went back in time. These people are wrong.
So, now that we’ve got the ground rules established, here are the two scenarios that prove my theory:
1. You go back 25 years, and invest in Microsoft. (Is that far enough back that they’re still relevant? (Don’t laugh, Apple people – you’re next.)) You make a reasonable investment that would today make you quite wealthy. Unfortunately, by that action you’ve taken the stock off the market, and, therefore, prohibited someone else from buying it. So now the person that would have been rich, will not be rich. Instead they will end up working for living, which means that your Dad couldn’t get the job that person occupied, which means that he couldn’t buy your Mom an engagement ring, which means they didn’t get married, which means you weren’t born. You see the large amount of effects there?
2. Now imagine if you went back to yesterday, and made a massive investment in a small cap stock that went up 20% miraculously, overnight. That would be a much large impact than your modest investment of 25 years ago, but the outcome would be the same. A lot of money would be yours today. What didn’t happen was the time to allow 2nd and 3rd order effects to occur. Sure, you can assume you have somehow changed the future, but that future hasn’t happened yet, so who cares. Unless you’re one of those people that believes that the past, the present, and the future all exists simultaneously. Of course those people are wrong.
So with that, I think I’ve conclusively proven that it’s not the magnitude of the change that you make; it’s how long ago you made it. I’ll gladly accept my Nobel prize at the committee’s earliest convenience.
P.S. Anyone with a movie example that can prove my theory wrong gets an honorable mention in my blog.
P.P.S Don’t even bring Back To The Future into this.
P.P.P.S Especially Back to the Future 3. That movie was terrible.
P.P.P.P.S. This is the most fun I’ve had writing a blog in a while.