What would we do if we could travel through time? According to a recent Chicago Public Radio broadcast, many of us would go back in time and kill Hitler. But even more of us want to travel back in time and address our own mistakes.
The Pew Research Center recently found that one out of 10 Americans said they wanted future technologies to develop some way to travel through time. That’s around 30 million Americans -- showing this fantasy technology is desired by more than the Star Trek fans. The ability to time travel ranked high on a list of technologies people wanted to see invented, even tying finding cures for diseases.
When the producers from a public radio show took to the streets to find out exactly why people wanted to time travel they found some pretty interesting stuff.
Most people want to travel to the past rather than the future. We know what we are getting with the past; the future, not so much. Imagine we teleport ourselves to the future and find ourselves in the middle of a zombie apocalypse (think The Walking Dead) or, even worse, we’re the only person on the planet and the we find ourselves looking at the only remaining structure - a monument to President Kardashian.
Going back in time, however, we have the ability to change things, perhaps even in grand ways.
Lots and lots of people said they would kill Hitler. Specifically they said they would “put a bullet in Hitler’s head when he was still a student” or “kill Hitler when he was a baby” or even “kill Hitler’s mother.”
But a resounding number of people surveyed said they wanted to travel to the past to erase their own mistakes rather than change history on a large scale.
Some said they would have not asked their ex-wife out for the first time or they would have provided some advice to their younger selves in the form of “5 things you need to know that will help you with the rest of your life.” People would tell their younger selves winning lottery numbers or to buy Apple stock in 1980.
Some felt with the wisdom of later age they could offer words of advice to their younger self, such as to study harder in school or pick a different career path.
Some people just wanted to go back and re-live a certain time in their life they enjoyed - as in the great cinematic achievement Hot Tub Time Machine.
Going back in time to fix something personal in our own lives sounds enticing but would erasing our mistakes help us find peace for our current selves?
Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps our older counterparts know something some of us have yet to realize - even if we fix one thing in our younger lives, something else would probably go haywire to replace it.
The Pew study found that the majority of people over age 65 had no desire to travel through time. Maybe the older and wiser set realize that changing an event here or there that we regret could have repercussions as it echoes through history.
Or maybe they have already seen enough -- been there and done that with the past and nothing new ever comes along that is truly grand so what’s the point of seeing the future.
We would be hard pressed to find a person walking around today that wouldn’t change something they’ve done, but maybe it would ruin things a bit too. Experiences that we might not call experiences - that we call mistakes - can make us sad and regretful but if we go back and change everything we’ve done that we consider mistakes, then we don’t learn from them. And isn’t that part of the grand scheme of life?
Mistakes. There’s just no getting around them.
And we already time travel every single day in the present dimension with no machine. Maybe that’s how we fix the past - by fixing the present.