I hear people say this all the time: “I was born in the wrong time period”. I have to say I can’t relate to that sentiment. Unlike most people I know who seem to long after the “good old times” that likely have never existed, I feel like I was born to the exactly correct time period. Actually, I might have been born too early for that matter since I always have this fear I will totally miss the boat onto the immortality train by a few years. But since future is one big unknown, there is really no way to say whether or not I would be happier there. Besides, we already talked about preparing for a trip into far future once. So let’s talk about taking one way trip into the past.
Given a choice to live in any time period, which one would you pick? What is your favorite historical decade that you would like to make your permanent residence? Would you pick something in the last century? Would go go all the way to the middle ages? Ancient Rome? What is your dream era?
For me this is not even a matter of choice. The past more or less sucks, and I don’t think I could possibly go further down the time line than maybe 10-20 years. During the Hurricane Sandy I had a little taste of how it would be to live in a world without electricity and it almost drove me mad. Despite I had access to the internet for 8 hours a day at work, not having any power at home for about a week made me want to hang myself with my useless laptop power cord. I can’t imagine living in pre-internet era now. Granted, I grew up without internet and I was fine, but that was a long time ago and I didn’t know what I was missing.
I would be a pretty lousy time traveler too. All my work experience and most of my general skills and interests revolve around technology and modern living. Most of the stuff I’m into either requires electricity (programming, tinkering, experimenting with technology, video games) or is a rather recent invention (SF, Fantasy, pen and paper RPG, tabletop gaming, etc..). Not to mention I’m rather fond of the luxuries of modern life – I like my hot showers, my antibiotics, my clean filtered water, my refrigerators and my Keurig Coffee Maker that can brew me a cup of joe in seconds. Take all of that away from me and I would be pretty miserable. If I went back to middle ages, I would probably die fairly quickly from some infectious disease, or skewered with a sword for being bad at being an obedient peasant. Because, yeah – there is an overwhelmingly high probability that if you moved back in time you would end up being a random peasant. Most people who say they would want to live in the middle ages probably imagine they would be rubbing elbows with the lords and the ladies, but that’s not very realistic, isn’t it?
Not to mention the fact that I would much rather be a nobody in 2013 than a king in the middle ages. Why? Think about it – you might be rich and powerful, but you still have to live in a dank, cold castle, personal hygiene is a foreign concept to everyone at your court, dentistry involves a dude with pliers, the state of the art medicine involves leaches, bloodletting and prayer and everything around you is slow, stupid and non-interactive. I’d much rather be poor and powerless, but be able to carry a tiny computing device in my pocket that give me access to all of human knowledge and also funny pictures of cats.
If I had to go back, I would probably only move a decade or two and then used my knowledge of how the computing industry is going to develop over the next few years to put myself in a position to, say work with Larry Page and Sergey Brin on the early Google prototype or something like that. I really wouldn’t be interested living any further in the past. How about you?
Note that we are talking about permanent displacement in time – a one way trip if you will. There is no going back, or changing your mind. Would you do it? Which time period would you pick?
Of course if you were moved back in time by force, chances are you would eventually adjust and learn to live in that time period. Hell, there is a good probability you could even assimilate so well, as to forget and/or reject your true origin writing it off as a hallucination or a weird psychotic episode. So even if you regretted it at first, you would eventually find a way to live and be happy where you are.
But, my point stands – I think if you are living in one of the industrious, modern, developed first world countries right now, you have it way better than any of your ancestors did. The present is pretty awesome and I wouldn’t choose any other time period over it. The “good old times” that people reminisce about never really existed – those are just rose colored memories with all the dirt and grime filtered out by the passage of time.