Our protagonist is a completely normal 25-year old who just went on a walk through the city.

What he doesn't know: The morally dubious scientists of Evil, Inc. have decided that he is the perfect test subject for their experiment: Sending someone back in time.

The question now is: how far back can they send him, without people in the targeted time getting suspicious about our protagonist because of differences in culture, appearance, clothing, etc?

- The test subject has to survive two weeks on his own, without being suspected of being a criminal, strange, a time traveller etc. E.g. the police arrest him, the experiment has failed.
- The test subject has only the resources he has with him (portmonee, smartphone, his keys, clothing, some smaller snacks) and the resources he can obtain in the past.

He is told that he has under all circumstances to avoid being arrested, otherwise he will not be brought back! His top goal is to survive these two weeks, and be brought back. So, to reach that goal, he has to obtain food and shelter, not more, not less. I would assume that since he is clever, he would lie low for the time being.

Assume that the method of time travel is not damaging him and that the location he is popping up in the past is un-observed.

Edit to further narrow down the question: He is told to what time he will be transported. He is told under what ramifications he will be brought back. These ramifications are pretty simple: don't get killed, don't get arrested, don't get too much attention from the police/secret service/etc.

To respond to @Raditz's comment: The reason why the experiment is done is not important. That was the reason why I named them Evil, Inc. Maybe they are doing it for the Evulz (Attention: TVTropes-Link, abandon all hope)


closed as primarily opinion-based by SJuan76, kingledion, Xandar The Zenon, Raditz_35, Mołot Sep 5 '18 at 12:30

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ This really depends on what your protagonist is doing in the past. Showing up at his family a day earlier, meeting himself? I personally would argue anything more than say 3-8 hours (depending on how alert he is, time of day and so on) would be problematic since the protagonist will be very confused as a result, making people suspicious. Where does he end up after being send back? Exactly the same spot? (please ignore the non-issue of Earth rotating and stuff like that) $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Sep 5 '18 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ Where does the protagonist live? How is the protagonist (some man with an earring, or a facial tatto, or a prostetic hand like those would stick immediately way more than a "vanilla" individual)? What does the protagonist know (someone who in 1963's USA did not know about the Cuban Missile Crisis would stand out a lot).? $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Sep 5 '18 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ Also, how aware / smart the guy is? Someone seeing JFK on TV the 21/11/1963 and commenting "Oh, he is still alive" would draw lots of attention... $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Sep 5 '18 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 the protagonist is there involuntarily. He will not be in the vicinity of people he knows (Evil, Inc. wants honest results), but in the same country. For the time travel per se, just asume it works. About confusion: He is told about 5 minutes prior that he is sent to the past $\endgroup$ – DarthDonut Sep 5 '18 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ @SJuan76 Asume a western society, he is pretty "standard" from today, with a education similar to US high schools or german "Gymnasium" $\endgroup$ – DarthDonut Sep 5 '18 at 12:10

@o.m. has already listed possible problems occurring with the items your protagonist carries with him, let us for the moment assume that nobody looks at the years on his coins too closely and let me focus on the question regarding culture and behaviour:

Considering the drastic change in culture and perspectives in the second half of the 20th century, going any further than after the end of WWII would have severe consequences for your protagonist (even more so, if he is Europe-originated rather than from the U.S.). The perspectives on democracy, rights of women and minorities, socialism, antisemitism and many more basic pillars of modern Western societies have changed and developed since the 50s along with more liberty to speak your mind and comment on anything you find inappropriate, in particular for the past few year since social media have gained massive popularity. Both facts connected would make him stand out as the 'socialist', 'friend of xxx' (insert your favourite jargon for deranging whatever kind of people currently shunned by society) etc. and get him under suspicion, maybe even police investigation or arrest for social unrest quite quickly.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Besides, the first time he proposes to "google" somebody his cover is blown. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Sep 5 '18 at 12:30
  • Using credit cards, debit cards, etc. will fail if he travels more than a very few years into the past. Even if the account exists, the card is from the future.
  • A random sample of cash will have both recent and old coins/bills. (Spot check: one shiny 2016 coin, one 2011, one 2005, one 2002, one 1999. Two 2015 bills, two 2014, two 2013.) This may or may not be noticed as the money is spent, especially if the design stayed the same. If the bills are noticed, they will be investigated as counterfeits and people wonder how the fake can be so good otherwise, with such an elementary error.
  • When the phone tries to connect to the net (which it does, by default) there should be problems, too. Again people would assume a forged SIM card rather than a time traveler.
    • As mentioned by Cadence, the SIM card is either duplicate or not in use.
    • If the phone connects to the web, it will send timestamps and other metadata in the future. (In your browser, go to Developer Tools. The exact name varies from browser to browser. Look at your network traffic. Check an outgoing request. You will find a line like "User-Agent ... Firefox/61.0" or "User-Agent: ... Edge/17.17134".)
      This data is evaluated by website operators for statistics and user tracking.
  • Snacks will have a best-before date too far in the future. Again odds are that the wrappers will be discarded without anybody ever looking at it. With a few years difference, packaging might have visual differences or brands might not exist yet (Coke Zero or Light?).
  • The protagonist might meet his younger self when he enters "his" flat. Mayhem ensues.

Anything more than a few months, and there is a risk that people would get suspicious (e.g. "fake" money, a "fake" credit card). A subsequent search would turn up plenty of clues if people look at his pockets closely.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a reasoned list of potential issues that the guy might encounter, but I miss the explicit answer to "how far back can they send him, without people in the targeted time getting suspicious about our protagonist because of differences in culture, appereance, clothing, ect?" $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Sep 5 '18 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch, I thought the implicit answer was clear. I'll edit, $\endgroup$ – o.m. Sep 5 '18 at 12:14
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps you could clarify the issue with cell phones? The phone itself shouldn't have any issues (as long as it's compatible with the older network, which it probably is), but I assume you mean that the network will find two phone with the same ID and raise a flag based on that. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Sep 5 '18 at 12:28

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