A gun, a bullet, a single-use time machine. Which world-historical figure would we have been better off without?


Well, the obvious cop out is that you can’t really expect to know the results of killing anyone in history, particularly the significant figures. There’s too many confounding variables and unknowns.

The obvious answer is Hitler, but we all saw how that worked out. The campy videogame has a point. Without Hitler it’s entirely possible the Soviet forces could march across Europe without so much opposition. And their gulags could have been just as bad as the concentration camps.


It’s all unknowns. And when you’re talking about deaths and atrocities on that scale, it’s hard to play it by ear. You can’t take this things lightly.

Maybe it would be safer to go for some smaller scale atrocity. Kate Bush, for example. But that seems cruel even to me.

I’d actually be tempted to go to the Council of Nicea, and use the one bullet to scare them all, then explain to them some of the things done wrong in their God’s name, and try and convince them that they are responsible for it.

I don’t know how well my reasoning faculties would work. And whether they’d have any hope of beating the course correcting of timelines.

If that’s how things work.

You see, that’s the fundamental problem with time-travel. We don’t know how it really works.

I read a fascinating theory recently that the only possible worlds are one’s without paradoxes. That seems obvious, but it’s that cinematic idea of the time traveller whose gun jams at the crucial moment. It was demonstrated talking about snooker balls. With wormholes only being capable of forming trajectories that would knock themselves into the correct trajectories.

I’m making no sense, but that’s other thing about time travel.

Anyway, I suspect if I went back with those provisions, I’d be too scared to use them. Just as I believe I’m too scared to use a gun today (not that I would ever want to, it’s not really my place to judge these things).

So maybe I’d just go back and try and figure out the limitations of time travel. Make some notes on the practical stuff and leave them on Einstein’s desk. You know, science it out a little.

And if I found that I couldn’t change anything, that it was all fatalistically determined and nothing could be changed ever.

I’d have the gun and bullet to turn on myself.

I don’t know how suicidal I’d feel in reality. But I think that discovering you can make no impact on the world would be pretty disheartening. It’s bad enough now, when I know I am so small I can barely make a dent in anything.

To actually proveably realise you’re utterly ineffectual. That can’t be a pleasant feeling. Not remotely.

I guess we should be glad time works the way it does.

Anything else would take all the fun out of life. The fun is mostly in finding out what happens next, not what happened before.

Second guessing is no fun.


Illustration by Lucy.


About Alex Ava

Joiner of Dots. Player of Games. Unreliable Narrator. Dancing Fool.
This entry was posted in Questions by Justin. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A gun, a bullet, a single-use time machine. Which world-historical figure would we have been better off without?

  1. Pingback: 07/04/2010 | Duck and Rabbit

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