The Scenario

Earth everyone on earth learns that they are in a simulation, and your everyday Joe Shmo suddenly learns that he can control the flow of time. He can advance himself forward or backward in the simulation, allowing him to manipulate the world as he wishes.

The Problem

So, Joe decides to test his powers. He goes back in time and breaks a window in his apartment. But, when he returns to the present, the window is unbroken. Everything Joe does directly in the past, by his own hand, is undone when he leaves that timeline. So, if Joe shoots someone, they won't be dead in the future. He can't kill his grandfather to delete himself. The timeline when he enters the world ends when he leaves and everything there continues as if he never intervened.

The Question

What is the most reliable, repeatable, and easiest way to kill people indirectly?


Joe is not very remarkable. He's not buff, he doesn't have contacts with the mob, nothing out of the ordinary.

Joe isn't worried about what else happens to people, just that his target is dead. Casualties happen.

Joe and his target live in the Simulated New York City, or another city of about the same properties.

Only actions Joe can directly control are undone. Ramming into someone won't work, but blowing up the building the person is in will. He could control the car, but he couldn't control the falling rubble.

  • $\begingroup$ Doesn't make any sense. How does time travel matter in the question? His changes are reverted so you are back to trying to kill him in regular time. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Apr 17, 2015 at 14:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What does it take for something he changed to persist? After all; he cannot control the falling rubble, but he did cause the explosion. You'd expect the explosion to be undone, which would also make the falling rubble part not happen. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Apr 17, 2015 at 14:53
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The problem is your model of time is deterministic. He literally can't leave the timeline he's on, so changes to the simulation in the past have no bearing on his future. Somethings got to give here. $\endgroup$
    – user8827
    Apr 17, 2015 at 15:05
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Yep, where's the point of "indirection"? If he shoots a gun, it's the bullet that kills, propelled by gas, created by the propellant, lit by the primer, detonated by hammer strike, released by the trigger... - how far removed would the cause of death need to be? $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Apr 17, 2015 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ Much as I've been able to answer this question, it needs clarification. For one, when are you needing this done? In the past specifically, or at any point in time? And how far ahead can you affect something if you cannot 'directly' impact an event? There are rules that need to be outlined before we can offer valid answers. $\endgroup$
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 17, 2015 at 16:05

3 Answers 3


He should Groundhog Day it.

Joe should pick his target, return to the past, and follow that target carefully, learning his movement patterns precisely so that he knows exactly when and where this individual will be places. Since Joe has presumably as much time as he needs to learn what this target's plans are, he can gather as much information as he likes.

With this information of this person's patterns, Joe will be able to find the time when this person is most vulnerable during the day, and least surrounded by individuals.

From there, Joe can return to the present, approach this individual at that exact time, and use any method he desires to carry out his heinous deed.

You mention that Joe can travel forward in time, which seems useful in that you haven't put any restrictions on what Joe's powers can do in regard to that.

The first obvious way he could use this power is simply to go forward in time far enough that his target is already dead, though that'd be a bit extreme.

Joe could instead do the same thing he could do with his past-going powers - only instead of learning the target's habits, Joe can find out exactly where this person will be at a future date, as far ahead as he likes, and then return to his own time and wait for an opportune time without witnesses and when his target is most vulnerable to perform his terrible deed.

Ultimately, without the ability to directly impact events that he has already seen, Joe is left with only one weapon - knowledge. Knowledge of what has happened and what is going to happen, both of which he can use to the desired effect.

Or, Joe could give up his life of crime and make millions in the stock market.

If I were Joe, I'd go with that plan.

  • $\begingroup$ True. Make millions in the stock market (or play lottery, less suspect) and then pay a killer to do the job for you. $\endgroup$
    – Eric Ly
    Apr 17, 2015 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ @DeadEye No, just make lots of money. No need to complicate it with crime. $\endgroup$
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 17, 2015 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ Well, the true goal was to kill someone, not just make money (; But if you just want to exploit your power, just making a lot of money is enough, I agree. $\endgroup$
    – Eric Ly
    Apr 17, 2015 at 15:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DeadEye I know. I'm saying that Joe here has his priorties mixed up. ;p $\endgroup$
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 17, 2015 at 15:50

Do it the Terminator way with a twist.

Go back in time win the lottery, then pay his father half a million to marry somebody else then another half million until the date of his enemy's birth is past. Staying in the past until he can verify that his enemy was never born.

If you really want to hedge your bets do the same deal with his mother. Then give them money to buy plane tickets to a tropical island of their choice, as long as they end up on opposite ends of the earth.

Or pay his grandfather and grandmother or great grandfather and great grandmother to marry somebody else.


It all depends on how many 'degrees of separation' you want between an action and the death. As SF. said in the comments, a bullet is not directly released by a human action, it's moved by gas from the propellant etc.

Blowing up a building - would the building be repaired because it was a direct action or would it not because the explosives did it?

Running the target over - the car did it, not Bob. Does that get reversed?

What if Bob made some wind tunnel and lured his target to the edge of a cliff and blew him off the edge? What if he got someone else to press the button to turn the machine on?

Essentially, it's about what does it: obviously strangling the target doesn't work, but how removed does Bob have to be before his actions don't get reversed?

  • $\begingroup$ Bob? It's Joe Shmo. $\endgroup$
    – user14789
    Mar 10, 2016 at 3:36

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