No time at all

Premise: You are given a device that allows you a one way trip into the past, set for 500 years in the past to a specific destination, and told that if you take this trip you could bring about world peace in the present time merely by picking up a coin that is on the ground and putting it in your pocket. When you ask why the trip is one way, you are told that this one act will bring about world peace…and also wipe out your entire existence. This particular “Butterfly Effect” will cause you never to be born.
Would you take that trip and pick up the coin?

Hey, free money! Sure.

Wait a sec. This will wipe out my existence in 2012 but not in 1512, right? 1512 wasn’t the worst of years. I suppose it would depend where the “specific destination” was.

Nah, it’s a trick. By “world peace” the people who gave you time travel meant that the Hapsburg dynasty would conquer first all of Europe and then the rest of the planet, and today Phillip XXXVII would preside over a world Catholic theocracy. No way!

In this scenario the “World Peace” will be of a type that you personally would find acceptable. No “Hitler uniting the world”…unless you would actually prefer that particular scenario.

Also, there will be no paradox involved-what you do will not be undone when you disappear.


Sure I would, because the premise implies that there are supernatural forces at work, which implies that there may be an afterlife, which implies that if I do something nice for the world at the cost of my own existence, I might get a better reward than just going on with my present life. And if not, hey, I still did something nice for the world.

It’s a Pascal’s Wager where one of the outcomes is certain. No brainer.

Theological question: is there an afterlife for people who never existed?:stuck_out_tongue:

Just for the sake of clarification, do we get to keep living 500 years ago, after picking up the coin, or do we instantly cease to exist, or ever have existed, throughout the entire timeline?

A lot of people think there’s some kind of on-deck circle, at least. The OP said you would never be born, so I took that to mean your corporeal existence would be wiped out, but not necessarily your eternal essence.

I’m an atheist, so I don’t think the “soul” is independent of the body, but I don’t really care. How could anyone live with himself, knowing that he turned down a chance to bring peace to the world in exchange for a painless death, whether or not there’s a prelife, afterlife, or spectator’s gallery?

And besides, since time travel is involved, there’s presumably no rush, so if I did feel in need of a reward, I would negotiate for a week or two to eat ice cream and pizza, and spend all my money on spectacular hookers, before I made the trip back. Since I’ll cease to exist, it won’t bother anyone I know.

Can I bring my iPhone with me?

Post #6 makes it pretty clear, if the OP didn’t, that you vanish in the past as well as the present.

Sacrifice myself for world peace, sure why not? I’m not going to cure cancer or anything before I die. Visiting the moon or Mars is out. I’m free.

i’m only 26, so i’d vote no. ask me when i’m in my 60s.

I don’t read it that way–he may have meant “when you disappear from the present”. Meanwhile, there you are in 1512, pocketing some loose change and heading off to the pub for an ale.

Assuming I keep on living in the 16th century, I could make a fortune with my modern knowledge.

What’s to stop jealous kings from killing me? Well, I’m sure I’ll be able to get the knights of Rhodes to support me after I give them HMGs and napalm mines to defeat the Turks.


To me, the more difficult implication is that I’m just just wiping myself out of existence. It seems pretty obvious I must also be eliminating my family and friends and everyone else who currently exists in the world.

So the dilemma is whether it’s moral to destroy an imperfect world in order to create a better one.

No-for some reason I won’t explain, the only one wiped from existence is you.