We humans are fond of asking hypothetical questions. Sometimes these come in the form of torturous, disgusting ultimatums: would you rather make out with a drugged warthog for half an hour or live in a sewer for a week? Or in the form of potential superpowers: would you rather have the ability to fly or read minds? See through walls or be invisible? The list goes on and on…but now, for you sci-fi fringe fans out there, we’ve got a good one for you: If, granted unfettered access, power, provisions, and safety, would you rather have the ability to time travel or explore the universe?
1) Yes, we understand that by traveling through the space you are inherently traveling through time–don’t get stuck up on the semantics.
2) In both cases, you are restricted to a normal human lifespan…unless of course you merge with the AI overlords or charm the alien gods at the heart of a distant galaxy.
3) If you pick time travel, you will be Earth-bound. This means if you travel to the future and die in an asteroid apocalypse, well, you’re screwed. It also means you may be able to live in virtual environments in which travels through space are perfectly simulated.
4) If you pick space travel, you get to bring a couple friends. But you CAN’T return to Earth–ever! And if you fly straight into a black hole you’re, well, screwed. Also assume you will have the right exoskeleton/spacesuit necessary to withstand another planet’s atmospheric and gravitational peculiarities.
5) If you pick space travel you can assume light speed travel and wormholes to other galaxies, though these wormholes will be hard to find. In other words, you will spend a lot of time flying through the emptiness of space but will see thousands of cosmic treasures and visit thousands of planets…and if you find the wormholes you might well be able to galaxy-crawl across the universe.
6) In the case of time travel, assume you will be able to observe the past and future and interact marginally with the people and objects there. Assume the integrity of the space-time continuum prevents you from paradox inducement. No, if you time travel to the future when humans all live off-world–guess what, you can’t go…how about them apples?
Alright, so time travel vs space travel. Let’s weigh the pros of each….
Few people could deny that witnessing the entire history of Earth firsthand would be one of the most incredible things ever. And, yes, while the past is a barbaric, more difficult place, imagine having at your disposal the knowledge of the future and the resulting wealth and accessories you would be able to utilize.
Nor could one deny how tantalizing a prospect it is to imagine seeing the distant future. Let’s imagine a hypothetical morning itinerary: you wake up at dawn and watch the sun rise over the best views Pangea had to offer; breakfast in 19th century France, then a boundless morning jog over Mount Everest via an altitude/terrain-defying exoskeleton procured from the future; quick mid-morning nap in a future sensory deprivation/virtual reality machine; lunch over-looking Monet’s lily pads….
~Three words: Roman orgy feast
~Hang out with robots in the future
~Sample the very best of advanced virtual reality later this century–travel through simulated space in the comfort of your own dream-space…
~Attend a Gatsby-like roaring 20s gala
~Get an exoskeleton from the future and dominate the Olympics
~Make a fortune off the stock market and live like royalty in any time period you want
~Discover the truth behind history’s greatest mysteries: Jesus, the Great Pyramids, 80s dance clubs…
~Overhead view of epic medieval battles
~Gather some facts from the future and then come back and blow minds with your psychic abilities
But remember, you could also die in the plague, or be burned as a witch (especially with your inherent arrogant powers of prophecy and your futuristic tools), or be imprisoned for life for heresy.
You have selected option 2: exploring the universe. You will be afforded the very best starship, plucked right from the minds of Einstein, Carl Sagan, and Stephen Hawking. This ship will act as a kind of mentor/supercomputer, guiding you among the stars with as much precision as possible. You have a couple friends with you and together you will explore the cosmos for as long as your bodies can hold up.
~Ice fishing on Europa
~Scope a Supernova explosion…from a safe distance
~Watch a Magnetar, dying star heavier than the sun, collapse into a lump of matter just a dozen miles in diameter
~Visit 164,250 planets (90 years, hitting 5 planets a day; bear in mind that’s including a bunch of crazy sunsets)
~Traveling at light speed, for God’s sake
~Traveling through a wormhole–think Jodie Foster in Contact
~Meeting and joining an advanced alien race
~Populating other Earth-like planets with your spawn (remember, you brought friends); leave a kind of Bible buried somewhere so that future generations will worship you as a God
~Swan diving into a black hole
But remember, you could also be smashed and killed by meteor, or eaten by the aforementioned aliens, or simply freak out and kill your passengers and then go mad from loneliness and die screaming in the emptiness of space.
Alright, which is it going to be: time travel or space travel? Before you make your decision, take a look at a slightly more in depth comparison above…