Upon talking about yesterday’s blog with a co-worker earlier today the discussion took the inevitable turn all conversations about time travel do.
“I would go back to the late 1930’s,” he said proudly oblivious, “and take out Hitler before World War 2 started.”
“I would jump to tomorrow night,” another added, “and find out the winning numbers to the Powerball drawing. Then I would come back and buy a ticket.”
Which one of these scenarios is the most nobel? Before you answer that question, think on it.
Going back into the past and averting WW II is a dignified cause indeed, but, when you follow the chain of events, what would be the consequences? At the time the war broke out the US refrained from joining the confrontation for quite some time. As a nation we could not endure such a strain on a weak economy. We quickly came to the aid of the English when Germany began bombing London, but we did not gear up for battle until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December, 7th, 1941. The next day the United States declared war on Japan. It was only three days later did we declare war on Germany.
Think about that a moment. At that time Japan had a superior navy, in numbers and skill, to any other in the world. Germany was a military juggernaut with massive numbers of tanks and men. America, spurred by great feelings of nationalism, could no longer stay out of the World War. Everyone from youngsters to famous people like Elvis Presley, were signing up for the war effort. Everyone was buying up war bonds to support the cause. The nation’s economic machine switched into high gear and within a year and a half the factories across the States were churning out ships, tanks and planes unlike any industrial nation had done before in the history of the world. As one Japanese Admiral put it, “we have awakened a sleeping giant.”
We all know the results from there. Without World War 2 the United States would have never become a superpower. Not only a superpower, but we would have never gone as far into space as we have. Why do I say this? Follow the line of reasoning. After the war the US brought over Nazi Scientists in Operation Overcast to begin engineering military and scientific rocket systems. At the head of the project was Wernher von Braun, the German Scientist who developed the V-2 rocket that killed so many allies and civilians within the early part of WW2. As a result the Apollo rocket system was born out of the ashes that war.
Scientists called this the butterfly effect. “In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before. The death of Hitler and the nonexistence of the world conflict would have changed the course the United States was put upon. Would the nation be the post war country it became? How would the political and economic landscape have been affected?
The thing is, and everyone of the younger generation of our society should learn from this, every action has a consequence. Today’s youth does not grasp this concept because they live in a world removed from the physicality those of us older grew up with. When we communicated, we were face to face (or ear to ear). We could not post thoughts in virtual space and reach the audience these folks do today. Not having true physical proximity to our audience injects certain bravado into some people’s attitude and the consequences become a mere oversight after all is posted and published.
Let us revisit the co-worker who wanted to win the lottery by finding out the numbers beforehand using our Time Machine. Although his intentions seem much less scrupulous than the murderous employee who wanted to off Hitler, this man wanted to go forward in time leaving set history untainted. The consequences of this suddenly wealthy man’s trip would be far less devastating to our nation. The best part of the whole scenario is the fact that I am this coworkers newest friend.