So you’ve just invented time travel. Well done, you clever little sausage. Let’s go back and fix human history, then. Before you leave, though, why not pack a suitcase. But what to take, what to take. Well, obviously, shoes, toiletries, clothes, and depending on how you time machine works, how about A FUCKING SPACESUIT! Because if your time machine works like a teleporter, what do you think is gonna happen when you push the “go” button? Let’s say you want to pop just five hours back in time to breakfast. Well, the earth is orbiting the sun at about 67 thousand miles an hour, so you’re not going to materialize at the kitchen table – you’re going to materialize where the kitchen table WILL BE in 5 hours, meaning the earth is now 335 thousand miles behind you. You… doink. All right, so let’s say your time machine isn’t a teleporter, but just- And that’s even ignoring the fact that the earth and sun are also traveling through space together with the entire galaxy, and the galaxy is going at about 1.3 million miles an hour, so you’ll probably end up in interstellar space alone. And DEAD. And alone. And DEAD! Yeah, but really, let’s just say your time machine isn’t- Well I guess you COULD launch yourself in a rocket, fly out to where the earth is GOING to be in exactly 5 hours, (somehow traveling faster than the galaxy – good luck) then turn on your time machine and hope you got the calculations right, so you don’t end up materializing in the ground when it catches up with you. But, really, okay, let’s just say your time machine isn- Yeah, but even then – what, you’re just going to rematerialize in the air, are you? What about the air you’re displacing when you pop out of nothing? How dense is a person? Well, about 985 kilograms per meters cubed. Well, AIR is about 1.2 kilograms per meters cubed. So when you arrive, there’ll be a huge compression of matter as you materialize, causing, at best, a bit of a whoosh noise, and at worst, a cheeky touch of… Oh, heh… Y’know… NUCLEAR FUSION. So, really, let’s assume your time machine isn’t a teleporter, but something friendly, like a closed timelike curve, or a wormhole, or whatever… Great. So. Go wrestle Genghis Khan, piss in Ceasar’s lemonade… Now, down to business. From herein we’ll assume that A) the past can be changed, and B) you’re a sociopath. Let’s see if we can nudge humanity off in a better direction, then, shall we? Step 1: Don’t be dead. Before going back in time, why not make sure you STAY THE FUCK ALIVE? Pack antibiotics, lots and lots of antibiotics – especially doxycycline, if you’re going anywhere near the bubonic plague. If you run out of antibiotics – and under no circumstances do this unless you are, in fact, a stranded time traveller – you can make very improvised penicillin by leaving moldy bread until it goes bluish. Also, if you aren’t getting water from a well, or the rain, or an aqueduct, how ’bout don’t drink that shit ever!? Boil ALL of your water first. Then you’ll need to filter it. Find something bottle-ish, add a layer of charcoal, layer of sand – hooray and a cheer… You just beat diarrhea. Step 2: Get clever. Before you go, read up on the basics of steam power, harmonic oscillators, pendulum clocks, germ theory, modern military strategy, monarchic history, the schematics of the printing press, and ALL the card tricks you can stand, using mnemonic technique to commit stuff to memory. A good one is the person-action-object system. Let’s say you want to remember the dates of… Oh, I dunno, solar eclipses – for no reason in particular… We’ll aim for memorizing about 30 of them, so pick ones in the time and location of whichever era you’re going to. Now, you need to remember the date of the eclipse and the exact time of day. Now come up with at least ten people, ten actions, and ten objects. So let’s say we’re trying to remember the number 326. Well, 3 in the people list is Winston Churchill, 2 in the objects is “wash”, and 6 is a unicorn. So Winston Churchill washing a unicorn. 326 is easy to forget, but good luck getting THAT image out of your head, though. Next, memorize any embarrassing secrets we now know about the monarchy of the time you’re going to, and congratulations – you now have the foresight… of a god. Now, pack some gold, and silk, and nylon, and a laser pen, and an air horn, and some special choccies, because… yeah. Personally, as an English native speaker, I would wander back to 14th century England, because A) it’s before the Enlightenment, and people will be way easier to bullshit, and B) further back, and there isn’t enough metallurgy, and they’ll be speaking Old English. But it’s your time machine – do whatever. Off you fuck, then. Upon arriving, if I were you, I would rig your time machine so you can’t possibly go back before whenever you’ve landed. Otherwise, if you screw up, you might be tempted to go back again, and again, and interfere with yourself, creating a shitstorm of temporal paradoxes. Anyway, welcome to the past – it smells weird, and everyone talks funny. So, step 3, then: Become a living deity. But first, remember that English is a bit of a work in progress, and even just decades back from our own century, and you sound suspicious. Stick to the hundred most common words in modern English, and you’ll hopefully be all right. Still, if you open your mouth in public… You’re boned. Locate someone vaguely trustworthy, but not TOO clever, give them some gold, make sure they understand your instructions. From now on, they speak for you. Next, you need to dress up in all that silk and nylon. Nylon won’t be invented until 1935, and silk is still rare in Europe at the time. People will love that shit! Now introduce modern music. The rhythms are so alien that people will immediately flock to it. ♫ My milkshake brings all the lads to the courtyard, ♫ ♫ They’re like, “It’s better than yours”, ♫ ♫ Jehovah, it’s better than yours, ♫ ♫ I can teach you – better check with the priest… ♫ Grand. Next, go out in the streets, and get your spokesperson to announce the next solar eclipse, which you’ve memorized. People are gonna freak out a bit, so let off your air horn a few times, flash your laser pen about a bit – make a song and dance of it, yeah? When the solar eclipse happens, immediately announce the next one, and claim it’s you doing it. If people say: “Hey! You didn’t do that!” just say: “Y… Yes I did!” Teach your followers basic hygiene, teach them modern battle strategy, teach them the foundations of royal rule, and how flimsy it is. People might talk funny in the past, but power still relies on more or less the same foundations as today, namely weapons and money. The monarchy WILL send an army, and they WILL attempt to make you dead. You can’t win against that, however clever you are. So instead… Incite revolution. Most of the monarchs at the time retain their power by the threat of violence, and the promise that God put them there by divine right. Invent Gutenberg’s printing press decades before Gutenberg, begin churning out pamphlet after pamphlet laying out the embarrassing secrets of the current king. Step up antibiotic production, cure people of basic ailments, move you and your followers to a remote patch of the countryside, declare it independent, give it a flashy name. Perform miracles every now and then – card tricks will go down really well, probably: people haven’t seen them before in Europe. Have your followers track down the finest engineers of the day – I would recommend Filippo Brunelleschi and Guido da Vigevano. Begin constructing basic steam engines, use them to pump clean water up from the ground for all your mates and followers. Have an elaborate underground temple built for you. Disappear inside with your time machine, only let your spokesperson come out and give orders. Leave behind extremely specific instructions about how to begin the Industrial Revolution early, and grow your army, and maintain your future empire, and design good irrigation. Finally, have a very basic periscope constructed, and stick it out the top of your temple. So let’s travel a few decades into the future and see how everything is going. Slowly accelerate the passage of time. Day and night will begin to pass visibly in front of you, until the sun appears a single golden line across the twilight sky. The seasons fleeting by in seconds. The fevered commotion of insects no more than a blur. Then the flurry of passersby outside, of generations waxing and waning, of great structures built in your name, the fingerprints of science and philosophy born long before its time, the drumbeat of industry coming alive. The development of modern medicine, of
scientific materialism, of the mastery of nature, of the acknowledgment of the right of all humans to exist in a state of international equanimity. The dawn of an age where millions need not die of disease, of hardship, of war. You steer humanity now. There have been leaders and thinkers and sages throughout history, but none of them had your advantages. Now you can refashion history in the image of dignity, and kindness, and universal concern for every human alive. And all of it presided over by you: half human, half deity. Moral, just, indomitable, indefatigable. How noble in reason. How infinite in faculty. In apprehension how like a god! Well, I mean… Not a god, technically, because people can still revolt against you, and you can’t do anything about it. So let’s try a few changes in tactic. To protect your master plan, direct technology towards absolute surveillance of the population, towards a perfect political science, towards total hegemony. If you want to help humanity, you’ll need to live a long time, so order your scientists to research a
cure for aging. Drop by to collect the rewards of the new sciences and become immortal. Enhance yourself with electronic augmentation. The problem with humanity – too much freedom and leisure time. Remove both. Ban books, ban mass communication. Rule undisputed, technology in your left hand, power in your right, dropping in occasionally to make alterations or dispense great justice and retribution – in the name of peace. Shepherd humans up to the local planets, establish colonies, then spread out to the stars. Create a galactic empire ruled with imperious malice, lest humanity revert back to its bad habits. There’ll be no love, except the love of you. There’ll be no art, no literature, no science. Total domination. Unimaginable power. Unlimited rice pudding. Who could stand in your way now? Who would fucking dare?! As monarch of the galaxy. As pilot of history. As God Emperor of time… Darling, I’m just putting the kettle on, do you want someth- Oh for fuck s- what does that say on the door, mom? “25 metres swimming certificate for-” No, the… The other one. “Don’t come in – recording”. Right. So?.. Well sorry, I just wanted to know if you wanted a cup of- Ugh, it’s too late – I’ve lost my whole… megalomania… shtick. *Sigh* Just… Earl Grey and… no… no sugar. And can you- *Sigh* Can you bring the special biscuits in, please?..