Would you rather go back in time or visit the future?
Submitted by Auds.
What a conundrum. I've always been fascinated by the social and political histories that center on the change from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries. That time period saw the full power of the industrial age with the advent of the car as the primary form of transportation as well as the roots of the information age with the opening of the trans-oceanic telegraph lines. It was the beginning of modern American politics; it was the end of feudal Japan and the start of the geo-political mess that would lead to two world wars and many of today's socio-political problems in the middle east. It was when Jules Verne was writing his stories about traveling around the world and fantastic submarines captained by madmen, while H.G. Wells told us about invisible men and invading Martians, and Edgar Rice Burroughs introduced us to Tarzan, the Ape Man.
Traveling to that time, to those places would be fantastic, in the original sense – living a fantasy. What I wouldn't give to be able to see those accounts unfold in front of my eyes; to see the sights and smells, knowing what would be to come…
But there's the trick. I would know what was coming. I would know what these events were leading up to. The knowledge that the assasination of a duke would throw the entire Western hemisphere into a ferocious and terrible war, a war so big it was almost unimaginable that it would be, that it could be, eclipsed a decade and a half later by an even greater war – that knowledge would taint everything one could see with the too sharp lens of understanding. There would be no need to try to make sense of it all; there would be no need to analyze.
I would go to the future. I want to know what this is all leading to. I want to see what great revolutions in industry, science, religion, society, lay just around the corner. I want to have an understanding of why life is happening the way it is; why wars are being fought in obscure corners of the planet for reasons that have not been made clear in our time. Why science is pushing so far forward that we have not had time to imagine, much less prepare for, the consequences. Why the larger and more informed a society grows, the less likely it seems to be able to act as a unified whole.
I don't want to wonder, I don't want to speculate or guess. I want to know.