This is yet another unfinished piece. I've been thinking of some of these ideas on and off for some years, and some of it may make it into the fiction I'm writing.
If I had not a regular time machine, but some magical one, would I do with it?
I say magical because I imagine completing fairly vague and complex goals not achievable as myself simply going back and performing whatever action.
What could I accomplish? What would I do?
A lot of what I think about has to do with our species and its existence going forward.
Right now, we're fucked.
Problems in prosperity ∞
There are a few major problems facing human prosperity.
- The apathy and inaction of the populace. This gives psychopaths power.
- The ignorance and segregation of the population. This allows nonsense like bad parenting and religion.
The view of people as separate from nature, and of civilization as separate from the environment.
Monotheism vs Pantheism ∞
If I had few restrictions, I could perform vague actions such as putting down early monotheism and working to keep it down. It is at the heart of the segregation of people. Monotheism's notion that there is only one god immediately sets every such belief against every other monotheistic or other belief.
Societies which have/had many worshipped entities have people who are more accepting of others, including those which don't worship anything. Those who don't worship anything allows another sort of thought which leads to things like science. That helps fight ignorance.
Other ripples caused by the removal of monotheism would be massive changes in the culture of the Middle East. Who knows what effects would be caused. Early Islam was cool, and took a lot of effort to examine the world and the universe. They did nothing with that knowledge, since it was just a curiosity, but it's largely thanks to Islam that we were able to survive the darkness that Christianity brought upon us.
Islam had a fanatic need to acquire, copy and translate books. After Christianity settled down enough, the west was able to import the Arabic versions and re-translate them back. The knowledge ended up surviving Christian book-burnings. It's thanks to Islam's resistance to the Crusades that gave science a leg up with hundreds of years of knowledge. It's unfortunately incomplete, and humanity would be better off if Christianity (or Islam, or Judaism) had never existed at all.
Inaction and civic duty ∞
The precursors to the Romans, the ancient Greeks, had great notions about the duties of a citizen within the politics of their society.
That society might survive longer with the stop-gap measure of removing monotheism, but I don't think that this would stop the downfall of Roman civilization. Christianity's role is debatable, and there is strong support for corruption being the major problem. Addressing corruption might be possible if society leading up to that point had less ignorance. This is too vague and indirect though.
Certainly the Mongol horde would have been an issue regardless of this tweak in basic beliefs. It's also arguable if the Mongol were a bad thing in the long run.
Something else would need to be done to aid humanity with corruption. Some of the late 1800s and early 1900s political and economic writings from the British greatly altered the course of countries. Perhaps if society was allowed to progress without the tampering of xenophobic monotheists, writings such as those would have greater and more lasting effect on such things as democracy and the free market, neither of which exist today. I don't know that civic duty would be aided though.
Psychopaths in power ∞
Psychopathy isn't just the "unsuccessful psychopath" axe-murderer stuff, but includes a range of abnormal personality traits. Some people with the affliction are "successful psychopaths" and end up in positions well-suited to them. Those positions include important political and business positions.
Seeing psychopathy as a disorder which needs to be purged from humanity shows a fundamental misunderstanding of our nature. Variety of all sorts, even these extremes, are extremely important. Suppressing traits, even if it were possible, closes off entire branches of thinking and action.
It is more that a healthy culture should be able to stave off the negative effects of perceived-extremes. Variety should be encouraged, and minority thought should be given voice. Essential changes to society come from minority opinion. All new ideas start as a minority opinion.
Putting it another way, if one were to think of autism as being "bad", the notion of removing it from humanity might also remove "functional autism" which can have value we do not currently comprehend. Or perhaps even more subtly-put, autism is a spectrum within which many -- probably all -- people fall into. It may be one of the keys to what we call "genius". Remove it, and humanity is well and truly fucked.
None of the above addresses the problem of China.
China is an amalgam of cultures under one iron fist. It's been that way since the Han took things over. Before then, it was various warring nations. Among other things, this has been the root of the stagnation of their written language. See Chinese for my language-learning notes. I haven't really written on this stagnation topic though.
When the Roman empire fell, late Europe became many nations which stayed largely separate for a very long time. No one power was able to completely dominate the rest as has happened in China.
Europe had language reforms when cultures mixed, when cultures became fashionable, or when there was an uprising and change of government or governance. This stopped a long time ago in China. Technically there was a language reform in 1949 when the Communist Party took power, but something tells me that language isn't at the heart of the problems I'd like to address with my magical time machine.
If I were looking at the Roman empire as a good thing because it had many cultures and kingdoms all existing peacefully, I could look at China as a bad thing because it forced one culture upon a massive region which used to be separated kingdoms.
But I don't think that the separate kingdoms under one government issue is the problem. There's something else. I actually see China in a very strangely-positive light, one which I might write on in the future.
At any rate, I haven't addressed the view of people as separate from nature.
China is as bad as, or perhaps even worse than, early Europe's complete disregard of nature. The only persons on earth who have a healthy view of nature are the "natives" of various places. The primitive "other" cultures. There is an element of culture shared by completely different civilizations. That element views nature in a hostile manner. It plows fields, builds houses, roads and fences. This feature has made these civilizations extremely successful.. in the short run. In all cases, this view exhausts resources and destroys itself.
As I've written on before, we're now at the point when there's one global culture with all points on earth operating in this manner, and instead of a civilization in a region killing itself off, all of the globe will be exhausted in the death-throes of the global civilization. Humanity in its entirety may die out, and nature may never rebuild itself.
This is the problem I want to address.
Stricter constraints ∞
If I had to fairly tightly constrain actions, and I wanted to address these issues in the long-run, I would probably examine the western hemisphere -- North America, South America and associated geography at a time when it was largely undiscovered by Europe.
I say largely undiscovered since the Vikings made some attempts.
Humans in North America were fragmented tribes. There was no part of North America, save for some extraordinarily hostile places, which did not have humans. There are some lies still floating around regarding areas which did not have Natives, but some research shows that those areas had an open bounty on the murder of natives, and looting was also not considered a crime. Entire peoples were destroyed, and their archaeological remains dug up and sold off. Critical information is often missing, and researchers have had a hard time piecing together where some pieces or entire collections came from.
Humans in South America had some significant civilization which rose and fall, extinguishing itself as it destroyed its resources. Seriously guys, human sacrifice for land fertility? Nobody thought that plants took material from the land to grow? Oh well, these were the guys who played soccer with human heads.
A simple idea ∞
One idea might be as simple as planting an idea in the cultures. "The white man are coming, and they are mice". First Nations in North America understood the dangers of mice, and would burn a blanket if they saw a mouse run over one.
Mice are disease-bearers, and will eat everything without pause. They will have children who will eat without pause. I've seen an entire barn which used to be filled with grain filled instead with mice. Filled to the point that one could scoop through ten mice thick layer of them.
Understanding the truth of this, and having first nations not deceived by the lies of settlers, might have them fend off Europeans for a significant time.
I suspect this wouldn't help South America, who did go to open war with the Spanish but lost.
This also wouldn't help once the first nations caught the Smallpox the Europeans brought. Whether the white man participated in viral genocide or not is debatable, but they had the tools and the intent.
Even if the americas immediately murdered every white man before they could set up a camp, this would only delay colonization until technology gave clear superiority. Horses versus tanks, bows versus machine guns, canoes versus battleships is a little one-sided.
Setting up a utopia ∞
Really, the only possibility would be to create a fairly-unified first nations who continued their respect for nature while pursuing higher technology in a sustainable manner.
If the first nations had limited cities, with limited resource exploitation, but continued to live nomadic and sustainable lives, perhaps the best of both worlds could be attained.
The challenge would be to develop the very high technologies while leap-frogging over the terrible ones. If the terrible early technologies were mandatory stepping stones for the sustainable ones, then there could be a problem.
The corruption of technology may only turn first nations into another version of the plague of the white man. They could step down from sustainable living and develop cities, farming, etc.
I'm about out of steam on this piece.