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This was another one of those questions posed to get your brain working. I am actually going to do this is in two posts. The second post will ask about what would you do and how would you prepare to go back in time? This is just fun stuff to think about and it keeps the brain sharp.
This is the classic time machine from the movie of the same name. It is always good to have a little visual.
I write science fiction so I ponder this question quite a bit. The first question is; do you plan to return to your own time? If the answer is yes then you were probably crazy to go in the first place. In my opinion, we have our own personal timeline. Even as we are going back in time, we would be moving forward on our own timeline. The process of moving back in time would actually involve dislodging oneself from their present reality and inserting oneself in the timeline of a new reality.
The way I see it, when you leave your time, moving forward or backward, you have left that time for good. You cannot return. Each time you move in time, you move to a new reality. There is nothing you can do to affect the timeline you have left. No matter where in history you are, in that reality, the future hasn’t been written yet. The future in your new reality may be very similar but it is not the future that you left. It would likely be similar enough for you to predict major events, at least for a while. The only affect you will have on the people of your original reality is for them to deal with your sudden disappearance.
The new timeline, or reality, that you enter may start out identical to the one you left but it won’t stay that way. It would be impossible to even be aware of all of the ways that you could change the timeline. Just taking up space that wasn’t supposed to be taken up could be enough to change history. If you are standing on a corner and a person even has to slow down to go around you, they may lose the timing that would have had them bump into their true love. As a result, Einstein isn’t born or Hitler isn’t born or Microsoft isn’t created. A traveler could not be careful enough to be sure that his or her new reality would remain identical the old reality. However, I believe that he or she could not do anything to change their own life. Even if they stopped their parents from meeting and they were never born in this reality, it wouldn’t matter, because they were born, and their personal timeline started, in another reality.
A person would be free to move through their new reality without fear of personal damage, but they could never go home again. What is your opinion on the subject?