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  • Kid Chaos

    Couldn’t you just say that in the first place? Why the runaround? Freaking know-it-all telepaths…

    • masterofbones

      Tests. Seeing if she is in a proper state of mind to interact with her friend.

      She failed.

  • Insanenoodlyguy

    I think this chain of events makes sense in his head, but god dammit Pat the rest of us not so much!

    • Adrienne Herbst

      “Why kill Hitler? Why not prevent this wrong from happening, or this one? Why do anything at all?” I don’t think there’s anything particulary deep going on here; Patrick is 19 years old and he’s just discovered nihilism. If this were a more satire-styled comic he would probably be just about to start quoting Nietzche via Rust Cohle.

      • Gus

        Why’s it got to be nihilism? I think the right lesson is don’t go back in time and change anything. I’m not sure that’s what Patrick is getting at, but if it is, the reason not to go back and change anything isn’t nihilism, it’s that you can’t predict the effects of any change you make multiplied out over the years. Even if you’re Patrick.

      • masterofbones

        If Patrick wanted to be a philosopher, he would download the greatest philosophical minds available. I seriously doubt that he’s trying to go at philosophy on his own, and I seriously doubt that the guy focused on making a big difference is a nihilist.

        What I see is a guy who is tired of an old answer that wouldn’t actually solve anything, and isn’t even the biggest tragedy of that time period. It shows a lack of creativity.

        If the library of Alexandria had not been burned, vast quantities of learning would not have been destroyed. Civilization would have developed faster and stronger, with fewer dark ages in between. A far better change than “a different morally bankrupt person saves Germany via horrible methods”

        • Ian Osmond

          Yeah, well, “kill Hitler” is a PERSONALLY satisfying answer, given how much of my family was killed by him.

  • Sabriel

    You don’t have to go back in time to fight slavery. It’s still happening today.

  • How would you go about ending slavery any earlier than it was, historically? The western dissolution of slavery was the work of four generations in over a dozen polities, and ranged from moral suasion to bribery to bloody civil war, depending on the situation. Slavery had its roots deep in human nature and technological-economic structures which were only really addressable in the post-industrial modern context. I’m not in general a fan of “impersonal forces of history” historiography, but “ending slavery” is one of those things which, insofar as it was effected by “Great Man” causation, was, indeed, done.

    Would you raise up two or three Wilberforces? Build up an American, a Brazilian Wilberforce? The combined moral suasion of the Hamiltons and Franklins and so forth emancipated the North, but the technological-economic-social centrality of Southern slavery did not offer many nonviolent angles of attack. Give John Brown AK-47s? He’d still be boxed in at Harper’s Ferry, because character is destiny, and Brown was a tragic hero looking for a stage, not a successful revolutionary in embryo.

    The only real opportunity I can see to make a change would be to somehow “fix” the Haitian catastrophe, make of that bloody roiling disaster something cleaner, and less threatening, and reassuring. But no-one even today can make anything of Haiti, with all of our cultural, political, and economic advantages. What could you bring back to 1791 that might have kept it from becoming the bloody-handed monster that haunted every slave-holder’s nightly terrors?

    I can’t help but think that a time-traveller trying to “fix” slavery would end up just pulling a “kill Hitler” and go after Jefferson at the cusp where he went from being an advocate of freedom to that proto-industrialist slave-lord who bought King Cotton a demesne beyond the Mississippi.

    • Jon

      Being an immortal, invulnerable, unstoppable flying brick superhero might help.

      • Classtoise

        Alison can’t fly 😛

        And immortal is arguable. She’s definitely aged.

    • …if you have time travel, why are you trying to “fix” slavery after it’s already entrenched and millions have already lost their lives?

      If the goal is to stop the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, stop what caused it. Go back to 1491 with vaccines. Spread them far and wide through the Americas. Meet Columbus when he arrived in the Bahamas. Using a knowledge of history and telepathy (because, hey, this is Patrick), put the fear of God in all the Europeans. These are not people to be slaughtered. These are not people to be enslaved. The indigenous populations of the Americas are not nearly wiped out by disease and are able to provide better resistance against European colonialism. A few similar trips to various points in Africa to protect against the horrors of colonialism there and now three continents full of people will not be murdered and enslaved. Shall we get into the act with Asia as well and especially the Indian subcontinent? Groovy.

      While slavery has a deep and broad history, the early modern form of chattel slavery and the genocides of colonialism have their roots in the “Age of Discovery” and specific advantages Europeans happened to have at the exact right moment. A telepathic time traveler wouldn’t be particularly hard-pressed to remove those advantages.

      • This sort of thing is why I group time-travel with Skynet AI, grey goo, and zombie rage viruses as, collectively, really bad superscience ambitions. The unintended consequences of giving the Aztecs in particular the capacity to sustain their domination makes the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up.

        • Mechwarrior

          They were certainly no saints, but are you really going to claim that the Conquistadors improved things?

          • As awful as the auto-de-fe was, it was not a cook-out. You cannot say the same about the sacrificial fires of Texcoco or Tenochtitlan.

          • Mechwarrior

            The only difference was that the Conquistadors tended to not eat their victims afterword. You certainly can’t claim that they were somehow less prone to killing people. They made sports out of the different ways in which they could execute or mutilate natives for entertainment, many of which made the idea of being sacrificed on one of the pyramids look downright pleasant by comparison.

          • S.I. Rosenbaum

            The Conquistadors “improved” things in the Americas in exactly the sense that Americans “improved” things in Iraq.

      • BTW, look at the troubled polio eradication campaign for just how easy it is to implement vaccination in hostile or indifferent populations. How would you practically implement vaccination in the New World, circa 1491, in the face of four or five Incan/Aztec/etc dominations, dozens of language families and a thousand scattered caciquates?

        The great immunization and disease eradication campaigns of the Twentieth Century relied on a massive, utterly self-confident and highly authoritarian High-Modernist technocracy, the gains of which we are currently having difficulty maintaining in these latter, faithless days, especially where it comes to malaria and polio.

        Also, the importance of epidemiology in supporting the European conquest of the New World can be overstated, at least in isolation. Look at the syphilis epidemics of the sixteenth century that laid waste to European populations. The fact was that disease spread on both sides of the Atlantic, but the cultures of the New World were peculiarly vulnerable in a way that the European cultures were not. The Europeans themselves brought malaria into the Caribbean, and found that they could not maintain themselves in their new prizes in the face of yellow fever, malaria, and other African diseases. Afro-Caribbean culture is the fruit of an accident of history and epidemiology, not a plot of omniscient, evil European puppet-masters.

      • S.I. Rosenbaum

        Orson Scott Card has an entire novel on these lines, though being OSC I’m not terribly impressed with the solutions he came up with (ie, inoculate the Americas with Christianity rather than vaccines, Oh OSC)

    • Jack Lostthenames Warren

      From what I’ve read, at the time of the Constitutional Convention, slavery wasn’t nearly as entrenched in the southern economy as it would be with the rise of the Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions. Theoretically, if you were able to convince a couple of congressmen that slavery was more trouble than it was worth, you could strike a powerful blow to oppression in America . Not only would American slavery be (mostly) dead, but labor unions would be able to better unite without the major problem of racism within their ranks.

      So, like, Patrick has something of a point? Still kind of a douche.

  • Adrienne Herbst

    Ugh,but also, lol. “I don’t identify as a person” all-powerful telepathic hivemind he may be, but Patrick is still acting like a douchebag undergraduate boy who’s getting high and having ~deep philosophical conversations~ about the pros and cons of going back in time to eliminate Hitler. I’m sure he’s coming closer than most to actually being able to put that thought experiment into practice, but as far as the emotional beats on this page go, it might as well be a comic about Alison the first year social work major being frustrated by her philosophy/engineering double major boyfriend using sophomoric arguments about the course of human history to rationalize being a dick and refusing to help her get something done to help a friend who’s in a bad way.

    • motorfirebox

      Well… depends on who you side with. Or side with more, I guess.

    • S.I. Rosenbaum

      Adrienne I got halfway thru this comment without glancing at the name at the top and then I went “this is Adrienne isn’t it”

    • Elena Pereira

      By Patrick’s view NO ONE is good enough, and therein lies the problem. It’s one thing to say “no one is good enough” and accept that humanity is inherently flawed while we try to overcome those flaws. Patrick’s view, however, is that no one is good enough and that because of that, humans are immoral and can’t be trusted. There’s no solution to it but getting rid of humanity or rewriting our genetics (which is ambiguously moral), but from the way Patrick is acting I feel as though his solution is going into the past to create an “enlightened” dictatorship. Imagine living under someone who can know your every move and if you even THINK bad thoughts will probably gut you.

      • Monochrome

        This follows back to how he viewed the use of powerful regeneration to save thousands of lives to be an ultimately pointless action. Simply, he doesn’t count each person’s life as being priceless. Seeing into people’s heads has made it so he probably, at some level, puts a value on each person he meets. He won’t help here because he sees one person choosing to hunt down people he likely already views as scum to not be worth the effort, or possibly even worth stopping.

  • Well, that would… kill a couple boatloads of Portuguese entrepreneurs, certainly. But the Atlantic component of the slave trade is a) about a third of the whole trade and b) the modern flowering of something that had been in full swing in the Dar-el-Salaam for seven centuries previous to the Portuguese invasion of the Islamic littoral around the Indian Ocean. The early-modern Westernization of the slave trade was basically just a matter of Europeans seizing the entrepots from the Muslims who established the institutions and cultural supports while their ancestors were still daubing themselves with woad and burying their criminals face-down in bogs.

    People have an idea about the Atlantic slave trade which is representative of the Angolan anarchy and nothing else, really.

  • masterofbones

    That wouldn’t stop the africans from enslaving their own, which they were already doing. It might be enough to keep it smaller scale though. If you then helped african technology to develop to approximately that of europe, you might be able to get the two to regard each other as equals(seeing as the tech disparity was one of the major reasons that africans were viewed with such contempt. And as tech develops, slaves become less useful, and so tend to get phased out.

    So not quite so easy as “divert european slavers”, but I could see there being some potential solution.

    • Shino

      Transatlantic slave trade =/= african indentured servitude. When people say “Stop slavery” they usually don’t think of Greco-Roman slavery in ancient times, do they.

      What COULD be done, however, is informing Africans what actually happens to sold slaves – they assumed fate of slaves sold to Europeans was about the same as they had in Africa, when in fact it was much worse.

  • Some guy

    You can’t actually prevent slavery from ever having happened. It’s like trying to meet the person that discovered Fire, or the Wheel.

    One tribe was always bigger than some other tribe, and as soon as there was menial labor to be performed, they stopped slaughtering the other tribes wholesale and put them to work. This happened everywhere, and still happens in ‘uncivilized’ areas. Some ‘civilized’ places, too.

  • Jason Smith

    I think you’re right, sort of. I think he’s making a Mary Kim = Hitler analogy. He’s seeding the idea that Mary Kim is the “face” of a problem and thus the “easy” answer when there are larger, more difficult problems to address.

    • Ryan

      If anyone could circumvent Godwin’s Law, it would be Patrick. He’s comparing Mary to Hitler to explain why she’s not what Alison should be focusing on.

      • Ryan .

        “Also, how likely is it that he set up this whole time travel scientist-abduction shindig purely as a rhetorical device for this discussion with Alison?” Even better, he did not kidnap them for timetravel, but he only said so for the purposes of argument.

      • ampg

        How would he know what she wanted to ask until she got to his office, though?

        • Ryan

          Because he knows her well and watches the news. Patrick doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who uses his power as a crutch and ignores all other sources of information.

          Side note: It’s not clear if Patrick can read minds during a phone conversation. I’m guessing not, as per the discussion a few weeks ago about TK’s “pushing through cameras”. If he can’t, then that must make phone conversations kind of uncomfortable for him, and he must favor face-to-face meetings.

    • Kid Chaos

      Playing the Nazi Card? Really? Patrick, you just lost the GAME!

  • Classtoise

    I really think “Kill Hitler” was basically a “Shut up, stop dodging the question” response. That’s why he pressed her. Because he wanted to keep dodging the question.

  • Classtoise

    Who votes she just hurls Patrick out a window?

    His first appearance I thought “Wow, this is truly an ex-supervillain who has tried to make restitution for his evil ways”

    Now? More like “Wow, this is truly an ex-supervillain who is just pissy he had to stop playing Lex Luthor and grow up, so he’s gonna lord any intellectual win he has over his nemesis like it means anything.”

    • Rich McGee

      Agreed. I don’t think he’s gone from supervillain to reformer at all. His refusal to track Moonshadow will no doubt be reasonable sounding, but the plain fact of the matter is that having an easily-manipulated invisible assassin with no apparent ties to him whatsoever is a handy tool for a villainous mastermind.

      • Insanenoodlyguy

        I really got to doubt this one. I think Pat can be taken at face value here. He doesn’t have Moonshadow in his pocket or any affiliation with her whatsoever: He just doesn’t find this something worth caring about. His time and energy could be much better spent, in his opinion, and friend or not, Allison’s being silly about this and since the metaphor isn’t sinking in, it’s time to be blunt. I’m not so sure Allisons doctor isn’t more actively involved, but if Pat heard her statements (and Allison might well recall it during this conversation so he very will could end up doing so) he’d probably agree with it.

        As to his alignment (though I’m seeing him as more Lawful Neutral then Lawful Evil), I don’t think it’s ever changed. Just his tactics.

  • Classtoise

    “Alison, please. You know playing me like an accordion would not solve the matter at hand.”
    “Couldn’t hurt.”
    “Actually it would be quite painf-now that’s just uncalled for.”

    • Mechwarrior

      “My head wouldn’t fit there.”

  • Classtoise

    And for the record, Patrick, stopping the burning of the Library of Alexandria would do precisely dick. THEY didn’t know what kind of knowledge would need saving (no empire ever envisions their own end), and who’s to say that this unstoppable woman from the heavens, clearly an Olympian Goddess, would not be asked to join them and conquer? No? Alright, fine then, we’ll burn the Library down ourselves in the night when you sleep. Oh, no! Goddess! Someone ELSE burned down the library quick let’s go conquer them with your unstoppable power.

    Or, alternatively, they listen. They don’t try and use their Blessing from Olympus to subjugate and attack others. But the second Alison leaves, it gets burned down because every other nation with an army worth a damn hears that there’s something worth protecting in that library and goes to ransack and pillage it.

    “But what if she sticks around?” Then she either let’s it burn (She’s only one woman. Strong as she is, the kind of power it’d take to turn a whole army away would do far more harm than good) or she screws up the whole of history by somehow single-handedly fighting and defeating countless invaders, thus setting up Alexandria, Egypt as the default most powerful nation in the world by striking down all invaders.

    Hitler is a threat with a face. It is not an entire civilization. It is not an unjust law that treats others as less than human. It is a man with an army who tried to take over everything. He is a man who can be stopped. Killing him does not mean having to fight off every other nation who now tries to conquer Germany.

    At worst (and it’s still a sticky subject, honestly), it means someone ELSE blames the Jews because the second Hitler tried to “warn” Germany about it, he was killed. Assuming Alison just punches him into a fine pink jelly rather than making it look accidental.

    • Random832

      So instead of protecting it, stop the fire and then steal all the books (and if you can’t bring them with you to the future, bury them in Antarctica).

  • Ryan

    The “Kill Hitler” response is most definitely based on ease. Time travel might not work perfectly. You might only be able to go back in time for ten seconds before you snap back to the present, or some weird limitation like that. In terms of the maximum amount of good you could theoretically accomplish in 10 seconds at any point in history, “kill Hitler” is a pretty good one.

    The other problem with going farther back in time is that the farther back you go, the more uncertain the outcome is. Justified or not, the most common trope regarding time travel is that it never makes things better, only worse. But I believe that this belief about time travel is rooted in the absurd philosophical optimism that we in the “best of all possible worlds” (such that any possible change would be for the worse), which is an attempt to explain why God would allow evil to exist. I don’t remember if Patrick has explicitly said he doesn’t believe in God, but I would be astonished if he did, so certainly he sees no reason to abide by a philosophy whose only purpose is to apologize for God’s inability to prevent evil. So he would have every reason to believe that one could improve the present by fixing the past.

    • Insanenoodlyguy

      I dunno about that. Kill Hitler, or for that matter, any change ever, could have massive unforeseen consequences. Butterfly effect is a very scary idea, and the bigger the change, the more the chance you’ve got a tornado that you can’t control. It doesn’t even matter at what point in the timeline you kill Hitler, killing somebody who had such a big impact on the world would be huge. Assuming time travel works like it does in Back to the Future (after all, if you just make an alternate timeline, all that really means is there’s a new world where you changed something but all that’s changed in your old world is that you are no longer there), you go into a future decades later that might be completely unrecognizable. And not necessarily better. It might not even be directly related to WWII, like say, computers are still at the level of tech we had in the early 1990s which means all the culture shaped here by the internet has taken place completely differently.

      • Ryan

        Of course it will have a large effect. But that doesn’t automatically imply that the result will be a world worse than the one you started out with.

        • Insanenoodlyguy

          No, but plenty of people go the other direction, that things will be better.

  • ampg

    Right – that’s why “kill Hitler” is the go-to; it’s not about the greater evil as much as it is about the ability to effect real change through time travel.

  • David

    First, we need to see if he even can time travel.

    Until then, all this arguing and debating is a moo point. Like a cow’s opinion…it just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.

    That being said. I believe that, if it happens, time travel in SFP will follow the LOST rules for time travel. “Whatever happened, happened”

    • ampg

      “It’s like a cow’s opinion. It just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.”

  • motorfirebox

    As others have said, I think the “Kill Hitler” discussion is a lead-up to why Patrick isn’t going to help Alison find Moonshadow. Patrick doesn’t think putting Moonshadow in jail is a good use of Alison’s efforts.

  • MrSing

    Children wish too undo their mistakes. Adults learn from them.
    To go back into time and undo something is to set back what we’ve learned.
    If it weren’t for Hitler, would we have ever learned how deep we can sink when we don’t ask questions. We would still believe that science could never be immoral or abused. World War 2 was our wake up call. To take that away from us would leave us open to the same or an even greater evil.
    It’s the same with slavery. If some authority figure from the future had come back in time and prevented it from happening, would we ever understand why it was evil? We would have outlawed it, but not out of understanding grown from generations of dealing with it, but just because we were told it was bad.
    The burning of the Library of Alexandria made us mourn for the loss of so much knowledge, but if it had never happened would we be motivated to protect our knowledge like we do now?
    I’m not saying that our world is perfect, or that we shouldn’t regret the mistakes of the past. But shoud learn from them, not shove them under some temporal carpet.
    Also going back in time and changing it in itself causes so many paradoxes it ain’t even funny.

    • Subbak

      By the same token, why would you try today to prevent anything horrible ever from happening, when it could be a lesson to future generations? Clearly that logic does not work.
      It is plausible that in a universe where you just kill Hitler you don’t actually accomplish much in the long term, but I reject your assertion that changing anything bad that happened in the past will make the present/future worse.

      • MrSing

        I’m saying that we should use the lessons of the past to prevent mistakes in the future.
        We are going to make mistakes anyway. And we are going to regret them. And we are going to learn from them to prevent ourselves from making them in the future.
        Wishing away past mistakes is the thing I have a problem with.
        If you make a mistake on purpose you obviously haven’t learned anything. it’s about making mistakes and later realising that you should prevent the same thing from happening in the future.

      • Insanenoodlyguy

        It will make it different though. And the ethical implications could be staggering.

        Lets even assume a “good” outcome from this! Hitler killed before his rise to power. Germany is more conservative then it is now but Nazi’s never came to power, holocaust never happened. WWII never happened.

        Now I’ll even say we avoid any of the big bad alternate outcomes, like say, the Cold War escalates in this world and Russia and the United States start a very different World War II, and it’s fought with nukes.

        Just the act of not having WWII means that people have lived who would have died. People have died who would have lived (medical advancements happened in WWII on both sides that are still used by everybody today). Or maybe those people just turn out different: War changes people who’s lives it touches. Suddenly, people who never would have met in the original timeline meet, and vice versa. Now add a few generations between then and now, and look at all the important people of the new history, and somebody from this universe will be saying “Who?” a lot.

        Now lets think about what this means. Entirely different generations of people are created. Some folks will still meet up like they did in the original timeline, but do those people meet the same people to have their children? As time marches on, the differences will only increase. Different celebrities. Different Presidents and Prime Ministers and Kings and Queens. People who never existed before.

        And new people means those old people never were. You have potentially destroyed every family that exists today. Lets be very conservative and assume half the world still is mostly the same. That still means a number in the billions of people who now never were! You have committed a murder of omission and oblivion far larger then one person. You destroyed populations. Possibly entire cultures. The sheer magnitude of the number of people you prevented from existing eclipses anything ever, and only grows with each passing moment. Are you ready for a world where you return to find your parents weren’t even born? Your mother never was and her parents had a son instead, there is a man with your fathers name and family but he looks very different, having been conceived 3 days later with a different sperm compared to your timeline. Your toddler cousin who hugged you goodbye when you had dinner with your sister-in-law before you left to kill Hitler? Well she exists but has no children unless you count that sad miscarriage from her automobile accident when William Bormann (who, ironically enough is the great grandson of Paula Hitler) collided with her at an intersection. I could go on, but basically Time Travel is a terrifying thing only very scary would consider if they really thought about it.

    • Francisco

      I would add:

      It was the First World War that taught us that war was bad. Beforehand, it was seen as a glorious endeavour. One of the lessons that we learnt in the Second World War is that war may be the least worse option (but some politicians are too quick to revert to it these days). It was also the 2nd World War that taught us that genocide is a crime that is worthy of considering in its own right.

  • Subbak

    I don’t think it’s really fair to call it a test. She’s not in this frame of mind, and up until 5 minutes ago she would have been right to consider this a stupid question (and even now, Patrick did tell her the scientists still think it’s impossible).
    And stupid questions get stupid answers. If you want to test someone, you have to phrase your question so that they at least get a chance to recognize it for a legitimate question.

    • masterofbones

      Unless he was testing her frame of mind before helping her find a potentially highly unstable friend.

  • Subbak

    Oooh, oooh, I’ve got the solution. Play a 2001: A Space Odyssey by justleaving random slight tech improvement lying around. Very subtle things, speeding up technology by maybe a few years each instance. Kind of like in Aasimov’s “End of Eternity”, except the goal is too accelerate technological development (which will prevent deaths and suffering in the long term) instead of preventing immediate wars and suffering.

    Actually, when you think of all the scientific discoveries made by accdient (i.e. how the experiment that prompted the discovery of a law was unrelated to the law), maybe someone’s already playing at this in our universe.

  • Yes Patrick, we all know you’re the smartest kid in the classroom and Allison failed your little test. Get on with it! I understand that he’s probably just using this as a lead up to why he won’t help her, but really man?

  • bta

    Slavery shows that going back in time would only lead Allison to face the same problems that led her to quit superheroing: She’d be one person in one place, when the injustices she want to prevent are society-wide phenomenons. Unless her time machine allows multiple Allisons to work together all over the world. Better hope her superpower includes immortality.

    Hell, why stop at slavery in the Americas? What about all the massacres, the social inequalities, the famines, the plagues, the disasters, the common criminality and abuse? Should you go back to the cavemen, pick an arbitrary generation of humans for you to help and go down the line with your time machine and your immortality? Or decide you want to help every living being to have ever existed, protect them from sicknesses, accidents and predators (and keep the predator species from ever appearing, while you’re at it)?

    If you follow Patrick’s logic, then nothing is ever good enough – there’s no exploit or master plan that will allow you to remove all of the evils in the history of the world.

    Unless you’re an antinatalist. Blowing up the Earth during the Precambrian would do nicely in preventing all that suffering.

    • Insanenoodlyguy

      That’s a bit drastic. Rather, let Allison go to a certain asteroid and break it apart before it does certain damage to earth. One of two things will happen
      Dinosaurs get their shot at running the planet, or
      Humans persist but now we totally get Dinosaur pets in the new timeline. Everything would be better if we had dinosaurs!

  • EveryZig

    >Kill Hitler
    There is also the question of whether killing Hitler would be sufficient to kill extremism in Germany during that time period, or even to kill the Nazi party in particular.

    >Time travel in general
    There is another risk to time travel beyond the very recent past: Suppose you actually successfully change things without just entering a loop with no practical difference or creating an alternate universe. Congratulations, you just straight up unmade, retroactively terminated the existence of, everyone you ever knew and everyone else on the planet who now will never have been born since you changed their ancestors’ circumstances. Hope it was worth it.
    (Note that in the story I read that brought that issue up, it actually was worth it due to humanity having long-term screwed itself over and being on a path to extinction without using time travel, but those are extenuating circumstances.)

    • EveryZig

      The more I think about time travel the more incomprehensibly horrible it is. A functional* time machine is not only a doomsday device but one of the worst ones possible. The chance of any specific person being born out of the vast range of slightly different people who could have been is astronomically low, so if you change the conditions before their birth even slightly then statistically they are gone and not coming back. Most doomsday devices are limited to harming the people who are currently alive, but a time machine can annihilate everyone alive, and the previous generation, and the generation before that, and the generation before that, and so on for everyone who was born after the ripple effects from the time traveler’s actions would have reached them. A standard doomsday device simply destroys the world while a time machine effectively destroys it multiple times in order to create a new world.

      *Able to change the past without just falling into a loop or making an alternate universe

  • MrSing

    Well, they should care. Any knowledge or history gone lost is a tragedy.
    Those ancient statues that ISIS recently destroyed weren’t part of my culture or history, I still felt appalled at seeing those idiots destroy something so priceless and unreplacable.

  • Arthur Frayn

    Patrick doesn’t want to stop slavery or save the Library of Alexandria (which was possibly destroyed several times). He wants to find out who caused the great world-storm and attendant superpowers, and whether it’s the same people responsible for killing the potential world changers. It’s unclear whether he just wants to gather information or whether he’s willing to change the past. He might think that’s a Bad Idea. He might simply want more information so he can change the course of the present. In any case, to him Mary is small potatoes.

  • Mindsword

    If I had the power to travel through time I probably wouldn’t… I see too many paradox endings going badly.

    Hypothetically though, what would I change? I’d probably either go back and stop one of my stupid mistakes or go see if Tesla had an actual plan for free energy (or was just nuts). Or maybe try and save Turing.

  • Mindsword

    Indeed. I second the recommendation.

    Touch, the other book by the author, is equally good.

  • Helen

    Today I learned that the SFP audience includes a lot of people who know more than I do about history. It’s been educational, folks!

  • Khlovia

    That was an excellent rendition of exactly how people think, and why all telepaths would probably be driven insane.

    • Christian Deveney

      Or be the biggest trolls to ever live

  • Mechwarrior

    Don’t introduce smallpox specifically. Introduce a different virus, like cowpox, that’s closely related enough to smallpox that the same antibodies will work on it, but doesn’t cause a lethal infection. The natives now have an annoying but harmless disease that they’re exposed to that inoculates them

    against the lethal disease.

  • Kid Chaos

    Can we skip the slavery thing and also forget about time travel? We still have a serial killer to stop, right here and now.

  • Darkoneko Hellsing

    Kill Hitler, eh.
    Any Command & Conquer player knows it’s not a great idea XD

  • Kid Chaos

    Curses! Foiled again!

  • Johan

    I don’t know Patrick I like this icebreaker, I think she can make it work 🙂
    Personally I’m an egoistic a-hole when it comes to time travel : I would give my past self the winning numbers of the lottery. And I’ll prevent my brother’s motorcycle accident. But that’s it.

  • Who are we sending back, Hari Seldon? Azimov’s fantasy of psychohistory is a product of the same high modernist delusions of scientism which produced the racialism and progressive-imperialism of Wihelmine Europe. Fantasies of the wizard in the white lab-coat, fantasies of the master-manipulator with the spectacles, tweed jacket and note-pad teasing out the secrets of the inner soul at the side of the parlor-couch.

    History isn’t a vast juggernaut to be steered, or even a speeding car to be sent off the road by a determined wasp tormenting a distracted driver into the ditch. It’s mankind in brownian motion, inspired by particular needs, culture, and aspirations each in their own course. If a single uber-madchen can’t prevent a terrorist from incinerating a surgical team right in front of her, in a present she knows and sort of understands, how would she kill an idea in that foreign country, the past?

    • Henry Cannon

      Yeah, even leaving aside the time travel we don’t have the ability to manipulate an unsuspecting past. And we wouldn’t send back one person. We’d have to send back a team. And probably perform surveillance on everyone, since we actually don’t have enough information, and it would be obselete the moment we started interferring. So we’d also need a supercomputer, and many, many do-overs.

  • Markus

    Are we just ignoring the fact that North Africa basically invented chattel slavery?

  • Shino

    But… isn’t that exactly what Patrick is talking about? This is not thinking of morality, it’s thinking of what’s easier.

  • Julian Morrison

    My answer: nuke Rome, some time around 300 BC. The Jews aren’t expelled from Israel, Christianity fizzles as a local cult if it happens at all, the system of empire that led to the system of kings never happens, the Westphalian nation state isn’t invented, slavery exists but race doesn’t get invented, so it’s probably easier to abolish. Around the world, cultures and religions are not obliterated by missionaries. It would be a very different, somewhat better world in a lot of ways.

  • KatherineMW

    The time travel question, to me, Is not about which tragedy or atrocity is worst. It’s about which ones could be averted by a single time traveller – and slavery, or even the transatlantic slave trade more specifically, couldn’t.

    Though my idea would ge to go a little further back than Allison. Trip Gavrillo Princip, or detain him for anything from sveral minutes to a couple hours, and maybe World War One doesn’t happen. We think of that war as something almost inevitable, caused by the whole mess of European alliances, but there were a lot of small coincidences that facilitated it, such as various monarchs and leaders being on vacation at the oment and thus not in a position to communicate with each other. Europe had already resolved several a few Balkan crises in the early 20th century. A slightly different chain of events, and the war could be avoided entirely. Without it, you’ve got no WWII and also no Russian Revolution. Perhaps no Chinese Revolution, as it was facilitated by the Maoist resistance against Japan, and Japan’s invasionof China was partly facilitated by the Entnte powers giving them the Shandong Peninsula of China in the 1919 negotiations. Maybe no Great Depression either, depending on how the wheels of history turn.

    On the other hand, the world wars wrre a major force leading to decolonization by weakening both the military and economic power of Europen powers and their philosophical/ moral claims to be more culturally ‘advanced. Withou them, there’s no telling how long the colonial empires would have lasted.

    At any rate, it’s a far more interesting alternate history scenario to me than the more commonly- written ones acout the US Civil War and WWII.

  • TheGonzoMD .

    Honestly, I’d say I’d want to do something like fire a rocket launcher at Bismark or maybe sink the Mayflower as it sits in port. But it’s simply a fact that abusing time travel to change history would just fuck things up.

    I’d probably do something like save some extinct species or something, or maybe a dog breed.

    I mean, look at this guy. This is just a nice looking dog.


  • D. Schwartz

    A couple salient points that may be addressed in the future :

    1) Killing Hitler would have stopped the events we know but considering that ultra-nationalist fascist politicians were gaining ground in that era (Franco, Mussolini, Salazar to name a few) conflict would still have occurred and something like the holocaust may have still occurred since killing that man doesn’t address the underlying issues behind the Holocaust. The bigotry against the European Jews can be seen in the Scrolls of the Elders of Zion and the Dryfus affair and this all predates Hitler’s rise to power.

    2) As for the Library of Alexandria. Believing that it’s loss degraded human advancement is a lovely but fanciful view not based on reality. In short while there was information lost most scholars do not believe all of it was special or different and would have advanced humanity if saved. Rather is was a notable collection of information that had copies elsewhere and would have changed little if saved. For more on this I suggest reading Tim O’Niel’s answer here: http://qr.ae/d7t8r

  • Dean

    Killing Hitler would be tricky. According to Wolfenstein 3D, he was a giant robot with miniguns.

    • Insanenoodlyguy

      Having fought off Time Travelers trying to kill him since he was 5, Hitler is a master of armed and unarmed combat always ready for a fight.

  • Insanenoodlyguy

    I can’t remember the short story’s name for the life of me but it proposes answer 3: One of the Time Police’s big jobs is killing all the people who go back to kill Hitler. Another one is the JFK assaination (that one’s stretched the face-time fabric so much that time can’t quite keep straight just how many shooters there were or where they are :P)

  • MrSing

    Abe Lincoln confirmed to be more powerful than Alison.

  • Zac Caslar

    So Patrick’s basically saying, “you’re taking the wrong approach”?

    I mostly get the Hitler analogue.

    Hitler was the manifested edge of literally millennium of hatred for Jews. I don’t think it’s as simple as “it had to happen,” but I can buy the argument that his death wouldn’t have negated the larger issue. Maybe it would have ablated itself as modernity progressed, but ok -no real proof of that.

    Same deal with the slave trade. The root problem wasn’t the circumstances, it was the lack of concern about the concept itself. Damn near everybody kept slaves. About the same number of people didn’t care either.

    So Moonshadow’s a terrible reaction to an endemic social problem, but Patrick’s saying “leave it be; she’ll burn herself out and get killed by another super or a deadlier person eventually”?

    Quote Christopher Hitchens, “History is more of a tragedy than it is a morality tale.”