Were you born in a wrong decade?

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.

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9 Responses to Were you born in a wrong decade?

  1. k00pa FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I think that the current decade is just fine.

    All this technology coming out all the time and there aren’t any major active issues that affect my life. (wars/pollution etc)

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  2. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    If I had to go back in time I would need a full technological support. Something like Safehold series (it’s great, you should totally read it) – AI, electronic encyclopedia, cybernetic body. Being immortal and nearly indestructible and having the entire knowledge of advanced society would make it kinda fun to mess with historical events. You could go about it with subtlety and try to influence development with least amount of interference, or you could dive right in and declare a one man war against the world. It all comes down to immortality if I already undergone full synthetic body treatment then it would be bearable living in the past, but as I am now I wouldn’t last long before getting killed or going insane.

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  3. Kevin Benko UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux says:

    I have some medical problem such that some of the problems have solutions today, but were, somewhat, barbaric if I had been treated 10-20 years earlier, and would have probably killed me. So, since I love my life, I likewise love living in this very decade.

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  4. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Giving birth to me sounds like it was complicated – premature, sideways, umbilical around my neck, emergency c-section… so hooray for modern medicine. Even allowing for that, I’m with you on the general crappiness of the past. I doubt I would much enjoy living in pre-technological times.

    Maybe nudge back a li’l bit, to live through some of the early stages of the tech boom, feels sometimes like I missed out on learning the nerdy things of that era. Conversely, go forward too far and I’d be a little worried about losing that even more – skipping ahead to a time where locked-down Apple-esque appliances are, if not all there is (hopefully the future isn’t so bleak), then shiny enough to distract from needing to know how things really work.

    Don’t want to miss that immortality boat, but I’m enough a product of my time that I can’t see myself coming out of any other era and remaining ‘me’ in the full sense.

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  5. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    I agree. I’m reminded of this quote from Trasmet:

    The future is an inherently good thing, and we move into it one winter at a time. Things get better one winter at a time. So if you’re going to celebrate something, then have a drink on this: the world is, generally and on balance, a better place to live this year than it was last year.

    Of course, I’m a technologist. I was reading [i]Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance[/i] yesterday, where he talks about the people who dislike (often in a fuzzy and indefinite way) modern technology and I can understand why they might have preferred the past. Maybe not anything that far, but sometime during the 40s when men were men and smoked near little children.

    That said, this sentiment comes often related to music and how today’s music is crapped compared to . While I mostly listen to old stuff, I think they’re nuts to want to actually leave during those times. Sure, I would’ve loved to have experienced the New York concert of The Doors, or going to Woodstock ’69, but in our daily lives, never had the people from that time had so much access to their own music as we have now.

    I think the problem is that people compare the everyday monotony to a few glory days in the past, without thinking of the pain of traveling to work uphill both ways.

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ k00pa:

    Oh, we have plenty of wars. We just call them “peace keeping”, “war on terror” or “stabilizing the region” nowadays and we have a sort of agreement we keep them out of the first world countries (aka the rich suburbs of the planet). ;)

    @ Liudvikas:

    Well, I think cybernetic body and superpowers is kinda cheating in terms of this thought experiment. lol

    @ Kevin Benko:

    Wow, very true. There is the other thing – I happen to be a straight white male, so I’d be pretty privileged throughout most of the past, in most of the western world. But if my skin was brown for example, I’d there would be time periods I would want to stay the hell out due to stuff like slavery for example. Even if I happened to be a woman, going back few decades too far in US would effectively strip me of the right to vote or decide for myself. Past kinda blows if you are anything other than straight, white, christian male. :(

    @ Matt`:

    Nah, I doubt this will ever happen. We will always need servers, and cheep hardware to run them on. Also, said locked down appliances can and will be re-purposed. I mean, look how many people root their routers to run custom firmware. Hell, even I installed Linux on my PogoPlug NAS just for kicks. We tinkerers will be fine… At least for the foreseeable future.

    @ IceBrain:

    This is so true. People who complain about shitty music today vs great music of yesteryear forget that shitty pop music has always existed. There was always shit on the radio. The thing about shitty music is that it ages quickly and becomes forgotten almost as quickly as it takes over the charts. Only really great stuff survives the test of time.

    So when you look at the past and see all these great bands from this or that decade, you are essentially looking at the cream of the crop – the most memorable, successful and talented performers from that time period. For each of them there were hundreds shitty pop starlets who faded from our memory.

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  7. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Luke Maciak:
    Cheating? Sometimes it’s fun to wreak havoc with cheats enabled. Besides impending death kinda ruins the whole experience, at least in the present I can pretend we will solve it before old age takes me. Also without something fun to take my mind off things I would go insane in the past, information moving at the speed of 1 horse is too slow for me.

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  8. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Liudvikas:

    I only moves at the speed of 1 horse if you can afford a horse. Go back far enough and the information transfer rate is so slow that it can be measured in lifetimes of monks who copy it by hand onto new volumes. :P

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