What would you do if you could visit the future and change it?

Here’s the rules: You have a time machine. You can’t use it to visit the past, defined as any time earlier than your starting point. You can visit the future – but the future remains indeterminate. You will visit a possible future – in this case, the future that likeliest would happen if you never came back from the trip. But you can come back, and you can use whatever you learn about the future to make changes.

Forget about looking up winning lottery numbers. Once you come back to the present (defined as your starting point), the universe resets from zero. Anything subject to random chance remains so. Old newspapers might say the winning Florida lottery for July 5, 2006, is 1-7-8-11-14-52 (which it was); but if you start from July 4 and return, that number remains no likelier to come up than any other.

OTOH, WRT outcomes depending on other factors than, or in addition to, random chance – e.g., horse races or stock market fluctuations – your knowledge of the future might help you place bets more accurately. But there are no guarantees.

Suppose you visit future dates at five-year intervals. (You won’t meet yourself at any of these stops, because this is a possible future where you mysteriously vanished back in 2006.) At each stop, you head for a library and research the history of the past five years. If you come across anything really astonishingly horrible, like the 9/11 attacks or the Holocaust, you might feel obliged to do something to prevent it. OTOH, that also means that many people living in the “possible” future you visit will never be born, owing to the “butterfly effect” – change something small and their parents might never meet; and to make any desirable difference in the future, you’ll have to change something big.

What would you do?

Also, if you do decide to change the future, how exactly do you go about it? E.g., if you started from 2000, you might prevent the 9/11 attacks with a detailed tip to the FBI. But they will want to know where you got the information. How can you convince them you’re not a crackpot, unless you show them your time machine and demonstrate it? Very soon the government has your time machine . . .

Oh, and there is no danger any of this will threaten any logical-causal paradoxes, because the physics of time travel [waves hands].

The logical and moral thing to do is to exert every conceivable effort to prevent such things as 9/11, or issue a warning before the 2004 tsunami, or what have you. It’s absurd to worry about the “Butterfly effect” going forward, since no matter what you choose to do, you would have affected the future anyway. The likelihood of your newly influenced actions having an unintended bad effect is no greater than the likelihood that your previous choices would have had a bad effect.

Indeed, the entire premise is silly; we ARE going to visit the future. In fact, I’m visiting it right now. Your scenario simply gives me more foresight.

I don’t think that chance has much to do with anything, certainly not stock market fluctuations. Lotto numbers and other “random” variations would only be different if the parameters were changed because of the time travel. What appears to be chance is simply a lack of control and precision of measurement.

If there is no problem of logical paradox, the idea of jump-starting ‘good’ technologies would be my main objective.

  • Find out if fusion power is feasable, and if it is, give some pointers to modern scientists.
  • Bring back details that would assist in curing cancer or other diseases.
  • If more efficient batteries are available, develop them.
  • If FTL travel or even just communication is developed, bring back notes.

Even if only short jumps were possible, by doing so repeatedly you could look ahead after you implement each ‘upgrade’.

Not required by the rules, I only suggested jumping in five-year intervals for safety’s sake. E.g., if you jump straight to the year 3000, you might asphyxiate the moment you arrive! (Because of that little accident that happened in 2850.) Or get eaten by Morlocks or something. But if you go to 2011, then 2016, then you notice things are starting to look a little . . . weird in 2021, you might be able to take some appropriate precautions before you move on to 2026. And that way you can directly observe, at least from surface appearances, the general course of future history rather than just getting it from a history book published in 2106. I mean, history probably never looks quite the same in retrospect as it did to the people who lived through it.

I guess I could observe the progress of global warming – but if I find out, say, that the Gulf Stream will stop in 2029 and Western Europe attains a Siberian climate within twenty years, I don’t know what the heck I’d be able to do about it back in '06.

You could very, very strongly urge any European friends you have to emigrate – that’s something.

I’m surprised this thread has got so few responses. An earlier thread I started, on what you would do if you could visit the past, but without changing it – just visit it to see things and buy things and meet people – went on for two pages. But I think the question I’ve posed in this one is much more interesting and challenging. For one thing, it has moral dimensions, which the other (by design) lacks almost entirely.

I don’t know why you people are always worrying about Morlocks! I’m the one who creates the damn things, for gossakes, and their spawning pens are guaranteed effective as long as no one exits from a time machine within two hundred yards of the gate!

Just make me god-king of earth, and I will guarantee that never happens. :smiley: