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Good uses for a time machine

Buy Apple stock in the late 1990s, or win a bunch of money Back to the Future-style

Put it down, McFly.
Put it down, McFly.

Dear Hipster:

One thing this crappy year has got me thinking about is time travel. If time travel were indeed possible, we could go back in time and quarantine patient zero before the coronavirus pandemic, or skip straight ahead to the good parts in the future. Of course, that would be just the beginning of what you might accomplish with a functional time machine! What would be some good uses for a time machine?

— Cody

Although I’m quite sure pontifications on the vices and virtues of time travel have occupied greater minds than mine, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have a few thoughts on the issue. If I’m being really honest, it’s probably a lot more than a few thoughts. Ok, you want the whole truth? I could probably babble nonstop for a week about all the asinine uses I could dream up for a time machine, and I’d only be scratching the surface of the potential coolness that could arise from the ability to travel through time.

Fortunately for you, I’m a keen student of pop culture, from which I have gleaned a set of very rough guidelines on the usage of any time machine. I should also clarify these guidelines have nothing to do with the physics of actual time travel. There are rulesets for that, but these aren’t them.

One. No trying to change the past, present, or future. This isn’t even about paradoxes, it’s more that there are an infinite number of better uses for a time machine than trying to prevent a breakup with a high-school girlfriend. In a single weekend, a person with a time machine could attend Woodstock, and still be able to regret attending both Woodstock ’94 and Woodstock ’99. With all the cool stuff that has ever happened or ever will happen open to exploration, the use of a time machine for mucking about with reality seems like a frivolous waste.

Two: No using the time machine for get-rich quick schemes. This is not a moral concern. It’s a highly practical one. Everybody thinks they’d use the time machine to buy Apple stock in the late 1990s, or win a bunch of money Back to the Future-style by gambling on sporting events in the past. Wrong. You want to know what happens to people who try stuff like that? The SEC happens, that’s what; or maybe a bookie gets wise to obvious cheating and has a few kneecaps strategically broken.

Three. No becoming a false messiah by wowing people with apocalypse tales. That’s weak.

Four. Never go all the way native. You don’t get to be a racist all of a sudden because you travel to 1938 and everyone else is doing it. As an emissary of your present time, you must always model only the best behaviors of today.

Five. Always tip well. You never know when you’ll need a bartender to smuggle you out of the timeline.

And, finally, the most important rule of all —

Six. Always accept any challenge in the form of a dance-off, karaoke contest, or other competition based on spontaneous amateur performance art. Not only are time travelers heavily favored to win these events, victory in such a contest makes one irresistible to chicks or dudes from the past or future, which is always a key plot point in your personal time traveling saga.

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Put it down, McFly.
Put it down, McFly.

Dear Hipster:

One thing this crappy year has got me thinking about is time travel. If time travel were indeed possible, we could go back in time and quarantine patient zero before the coronavirus pandemic, or skip straight ahead to the good parts in the future. Of course, that would be just the beginning of what you might accomplish with a functional time machine! What would be some good uses for a time machine?

— Cody

Although I’m quite sure pontifications on the vices and virtues of time travel have occupied greater minds than mine, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have a few thoughts on the issue. If I’m being really honest, it’s probably a lot more than a few thoughts. Ok, you want the whole truth? I could probably babble nonstop for a week about all the asinine uses I could dream up for a time machine, and I’d only be scratching the surface of the potential coolness that could arise from the ability to travel through time.

Fortunately for you, I’m a keen student of pop culture, from which I have gleaned a set of very rough guidelines on the usage of any time machine. I should also clarify these guidelines have nothing to do with the physics of actual time travel. There are rulesets for that, but these aren’t them.

One. No trying to change the past, present, or future. This isn’t even about paradoxes, it’s more that there are an infinite number of better uses for a time machine than trying to prevent a breakup with a high-school girlfriend. In a single weekend, a person with a time machine could attend Woodstock, and still be able to regret attending both Woodstock ’94 and Woodstock ’99. With all the cool stuff that has ever happened or ever will happen open to exploration, the use of a time machine for mucking about with reality seems like a frivolous waste.

Two: No using the time machine for get-rich quick schemes. This is not a moral concern. It’s a highly practical one. Everybody thinks they’d use the time machine to buy Apple stock in the late 1990s, or win a bunch of money Back to the Future-style by gambling on sporting events in the past. Wrong. You want to know what happens to people who try stuff like that? The SEC happens, that’s what; or maybe a bookie gets wise to obvious cheating and has a few kneecaps strategically broken.

Three. No becoming a false messiah by wowing people with apocalypse tales. That’s weak.

Four. Never go all the way native. You don’t get to be a racist all of a sudden because you travel to 1938 and everyone else is doing it. As an emissary of your present time, you must always model only the best behaviors of today.

Five. Always tip well. You never know when you’ll need a bartender to smuggle you out of the timeline.

And, finally, the most important rule of all —

Six. Always accept any challenge in the form of a dance-off, karaoke contest, or other competition based on spontaneous amateur performance art. Not only are time travelers heavily favored to win these events, victory in such a contest makes one irresistible to chicks or dudes from the past or future, which is always a key plot point in your personal time traveling saga.

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That’s darn interesting from a pop pseudo-anthropology standpoint.
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