Time Traveler’s Backpack

Let’s say you are a time traveler – possibly the first one in history. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to travel back to the future and come back with valuable intel. Yeah, this is the old, old topic with a twist. You are not going back to Medieval Europe, or the wild west. You are going forward into the unknown.

Why not go back in time? For the purposes of this discussion, let’s say it is impossible. The machine will let you to move into any point in time up to the day when it was first created. Travel into the past beyond that point is not possible. So you will be able to go into the future, and back but you can never visit ancient Rome or try to kill Hitler during WWII.

Since the scientists who built the time machine are a bit concerned about creating a paradox they set the machine to make a leap into a very distant future. Paradoxes of course wouldn’t affect our timeline. But if they do exist, then you traveling into future and back, and then reporting on it would surely invalidate that future. So the machine is set to take you 10 thousand years into the future.

Jumping that far means it is unlikely you will learn anything dangerous. For example, you probably won’t be able to buy Grays Sports Almanac, smuggle it back to the past and use it to attain fabulous wealth. Why? Because likely no one will remember or care about our sports statistics that far into the future. For comparison, about ten thousand years ago our ancestors were beginning to learn how to farm and domesticate animals.

The people of the future are likely to know as little about as, as we know about the early nomadic tribes of 10,000 BC. An average person you might meet in the future won’t know our language, customs or technology. In fact, it is uncertain if you meet any people at all.

Chances are your destination will be a barren rock, a Fallout style post-apocalyptic wasteland, a luscious uninhabitable jungle that overgrew civilized world or a septic server farm serviced by robotic drones (after all of humanity moved their minds into a virtual online world).

The time machine of course has some emergency fallback mechanism. If, for example Earth no longer exists due to a supernova event, interstellar collision, an antimatter experiment gone awry, or due to an experiment designed to determine the precise mass of the Higgs boson particle it will abort the trip and take you back home in one piece (well, that’s the plan at least).

The machine itself is a cylindrical capsule about the size of a coffin. It’s not a Tardis – it is exactly the same size on the inside as it is on the outside. This means you can’t bring anyone back with you, though you can take back some valuable artifacts. Let’s assume there is a weight limit as well – say 250 pounds, or something around that figure.

Basically, you are allowed to take a backpack of personal belongings and tools with you. The science team will equip you with an environment suit and a respirator that will protect you from radiation, toxic atmosphere, excess heat or freezing temperatures. You know – just in case the world has ended and you decide to take a stroll in a toxic wasteland looking for artifacts.

The choice of other gear is up to you? The only other restrictions is that it must be able to fit in your backpack (or in the time machine), must be under the weight limit and must be legally available for purchase in the country from which you will be traveling. This means that the suitcase nuke is definitely not an option.

Keep in mind that you will likely encounter a civilization that is unlike anything we can imagine. Perhaps you will interact with super-intelligent race of immortal beings who reside in nanotechnology augmented bodies. Perhaps you will talk with servitor drones who maintain data servers that host virtualized minds of all human beings. Perhaps you will encounter an utopia paradise, or dystopic nightmare. Or perhaps you will meet nomads and farmers, Eloi and Mrolocks. That or an intelligent race of cockroaches.

Any electronic devices you take may be of limited use, since you may not be able to find a power source to recharge them. This may or may not matter, depending on how long will you stay in the future. Your primary mission is general recon. You are to scout the area, find out if humans still exist and if yes, try to make contact with them. You are to find out about their technology, culture, traditions and etc… If human civilization no longer exists, you need to find out what happened.

Secondary mission is finding this clock to see if it’s still ticking.

So, what would go into your backpack? How would you prepare for such a trip? Post your thoughts in the comments. Also, you may use the comments to speculate on how Earth 12009 AD would be like.

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7 Responses to Time Traveler’s Backpack

  1. I can’t think of anything useful for my backpack. It’s a tough question to answer. My first thought would be a camera, if I wasn’t already provided one.

    As for arriving 10,000 years in the future, it might not be unlikely that you would enter atop a stage with a huge, cheering crowd to greet you. If, during that 10,000 years, people learned of your historic trip it could turn into an event with the world’s eyes on you, even if that world had time travel as a common technology. It would be like being able to witness Apollo 11 first hand.

    People might bet on you actually showing up or not. Futuristic pundits might argue about if anyone should be telling you anything, out of fear of paradoxes, or they might even propose preventing you from returning to the past. Becuase of your limited space, they might argue over what you would bring back with you. Widows begging you to carry a warning message of their spouse’s doom back with you.

    Maybe time travel is illegal in the future and they are waiting there to arrest you when you arrive.

    Has anyone written any science fiction on this specific scenario yet?

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  2. Lironah UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I agree on the camera thing. A small one, with video. A couple hundred memory cards and spare batteries. A GPS would probably be useless, but perhaps some astronomy stuff so you can take all kinds of measurements about the stars. A compass (you’ll have to determine whether the poles have flipped, of course), and notebooks and pens to write it all down.

    Pocket knife and all that wilderness stuff, including a canteen. Hmm…I don’t think my tent will quite fit next to that telescope. My super-compressible cold-weather sleeping bag will though. The last thing would be a bunch of MRE’s, so that you can eat them, but also so that you have that much space in your bag to smuggle some interesting devices home with you. Or maybe a bunch of books to trade for said doohickeys.

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  3. Rob UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I can’t go. I exceed the weight limit all by myself. ;)

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @ Chris Wellons:

    Huh… Interesting idea. I actually didn’t even think about something like that. Very intriguing.

    It could be possible that the people of the future would actually erect some sort of a historical replica zone around your arrival point where everything would be painstakingly reconstructed to look like 20th century architecture. Everyone admitted to the area would be required to wear an in-period clothing and leave any and all gadgets at the door.

    I wonder how well could they replicate our clothing and architectural style that far in the future. Chances are you would arrive there and see people dressed like a cast of a cheesy action movie. You would be welcome by a crack team of scientists: time travel specialists, historians and etc… Their leader would be dressed in a black trench-coat and sunglasses with an obligatory gun holster underneath his armpit. His aide would be wearing ripped up jeans, a wife beater trying to smoke a cigarette (obviously not enjoying it) and holding a sawed of shotgun replica on his shoulder. There would also be a girl in a skimpy, short red dress with an open back limping on impossibly high heals and a thuged out black guy with no shirt, lots of gold chains, and an obligatory durag.

    I like this scenario more and more. :)

    @ Rob:

    Well, the weight limit is not set in stone. Let’s say the machine can lift you + another 50-100 pounds.

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  5. Zel FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I can only see two scenarios :

    – your trip was successful in that you brought back a meaningful piece of technology from the future. Your name will most likely be written in history books and Chris’s suggestion becomes very likely. Lots of people will be there for your arrival, to congratulate you or to arrest you, but they’ll be there. Maybe you can take some (working, and solar powered!) electronic device to entertain your public and to give as a gift for eager archeologists, but you don’t need anything in particular. You’ll just have to search your memorial for info on the piece of equipment that changed the world that you brought back, and do that.

    – you didn’t bring back anything valuable, so everyone will have forgotten about you after a few millenia. Best take some survival equipment then, like food & water for a few days, or some radio beacon to find your way back to the time machine before it leaves.

    Better take some of this survival stuff just to be on the safe side ;)

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  6. I say bring things to trade. Like books. 10,000 year old books are probably very valuable.

    Bring some kind of proof that you actually are from the past. if you run into a civilization and you end up committing a capital crime, you want them to know that there is no way you would have known what to do.

    Definitely some water and MREs, just to be on the safe side.

    I think a better question is what would you bring back? If you had room for one huge technological innovation, what would you choose to bring back and show the world?


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  7. Ben UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I know this is an old article but maybe someone will read my comment and ponder.

    If they did know you were coming, probably they would just sit you down and ask you everything you know. Think what our historians would do if they got the oppertunity to interview someone from even 1000 years ago.

    My first thought on equipment was torch. No one ever says torch but as an experienced camper multiple torches are ALWAYS neccessary. Spare batteries. Knives, (smaller blades are useful when you have to do something “relatively” intricate (like removing the tag from a new t-shirt without cutting yourself) and bigger knives (with skullcrusher-style pommels) are great all-rounders for feathering wood (kindling) doubling up as hammers (using the pommel), breaking open jammed boxes or locks/door handles etc. Knives break and blunt so don’t rely on one tool. An axe of some kind would also be really useful for exploration of ruins too, even a really big knife won’t get you through a fire door and who knows what sort of debris would be in your way. A machete would be more useful in the jungle, but if I had to carry that AND an axe i’d just pick on or the other. Definately take rope in case you have to climb anywhere. Lots of lighters. Lots of ciggarettes (if you’re a smoker).

    If the world is in ruin, your primary concern would be water. So I’d suggest one took the minumum amount of food for the expected number of days + 2 more days worth for emergencies. Something small you could trade which could be anything from a history book through laptops to glass beads and load up the rest of your weight allowance with H2O.

    A camera, some pens and a notepad or too would likely be invaluable should you actually find something of interest. And maybe a porn mag. For some reason acheologists are fascinated by naked murals from greece and Rome. If there are people, but little civilisation, the porn mag could probably still be traded for a sharp stick from one of the local tribes.

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