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In H. P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927), a character is resurrected approximately 150 years after his death and (being an accomplished and intelligent wizard), decides that before he restarts his magical research, he will go on a quest to educate himself on recent historical, political, scientific, etc. changes in order to not be the proverbial "fish out of water" in the 20th century. Even with all of the 20th century books he absorbs at his destination time, he is still perceived as significantly socially different in a negative way (his handwriting looks like it belongs in a museum, he makes "odd" gestures, and he has huge gaping holes in his knowledge of recent pop culture phenomena), which draws the kind of attention to him that he very much wants to avoid.

What resources could be used by a person who knows that they will be moving forward approximately 150 years in time (the manner is open, whether physical resurrection, cryonic sleep, jumping right into a time-space anomaly, etc.) to prepare themselves cognitively to absorb the new learning they will find on the other side and become a functioning member of that society with the least amount of post-time-travel effort or time?

Assume that time travel only works one way, so grabbing a future textbook or newspaper is out of the question, but there is some opportunity to prepare for future learning by learning things beforehand. Assume, like Lovecraft's character, any future time-travelers have at least several years to prepare, so "get a PhD in biology", "get trained as a master automobile mechanic", or "study Zen Buddhism meditation practices for five to ten years at a monastery" are not out of the question. Are there academic subjects, practical skills, etc. that are likely to be highly useful in "learning how to learn" things in the future? One thought I had was that learning multiple languages and/or gaining a grounding in academic linguistics might give someone the ability to "hit the ground running" and learn the languages/dialects of the future more quickly. Are there any other things that a future time-traveler could study?

Assume a roughly 20th or early 21st century departure time as the latest time our traveler could finish their pre-travel education, but things that were available and could have been learned from educational providers centuries ago (even if the average person then did not) are a plus.

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  • $\begingroup$ It looks like you're asking about the actions of an individual in a situation rather than about the world set around them. Such questions are off topic for this site. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Apr 13 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings thanks, I've edited the question $\endgroup$ – Robert Columbia Apr 13 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ Interestingly, could be that at the time he died there was no concept of interconnected world culture, so the resurrected person might even think that it's enough to say that he is from distant country with different culture. I bet nobody anticipated that knowledge could be shared on few milliseconds across the globe. $\endgroup$ – Askar Kalykov Apr 15 at 19:22

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Primary: Sign Language, Braille, Abnormal Psychology, Acting

The best thing to do to avoid suspicion is to stand out like a sore thumb.

They could pretend to have been previously handicapped in some way.

No one would blame a deaf man for not knowing pop songs and pop culture references.

No one would blame a blind man for not knowing about the latest movies and how to use a smartphone.

No one would blame a schizophrenic person for not accepting that we put colonies on Mars decades ago.

Acting is the skill that will let them pull these off, and they have a few years to prepare their special identity.

They should learn and immerse themselves in the role they pick; eg.if it is blindness, they should live blindfolded and experience the use of braille. Although they should not expect braille, sign languages, etc, to remain the same in 150 years, the immersion allows them to have an impeccable performance.

Bachelor of Applied Science Degree

Another useful skillset: skills in working with technology. By educating themselves on programming and using/making hardware, especially the basics, the foundational skills the person develops will still serve them well in 150 years.

Even if the technology itself changes wildly, the principles behind solving problems, and working with developing on systems will not. With these skills, the person will have less trouble understanding the basic working principles of any new technology in the future, and will be able to figure out how to use the basic technology much more easily.

To get the basic skills, it should be enough to spend a few years to get an Electrical/Software/Computer Engineering degree and working a job /internship or two as a software/electrical engineer.

and if the world had gone full apocalyptic in 150 years, they would be able to use the basics to make a talking volleyball as a companion, and perhaps repair a power generator or two.

Insurance: Hacking and Cash

But those alone won't let a supposedly dead, full grown person from a 100+ years ago not raise flags on the records when they show up looking very much alive.

They will need to either obtain some hacking skills, or, much more easily (and much more reliably, considering the changes in computer security and design in 150 years), enough jewelry or valuables to pay off the local government or cartel of a shady country for some new identity papers, no questions asked.

The jewelry/valuables should be well-made, rare, and have some sort of historical value. If it is kept in pristine condition for 150 years, chances are that collectors will pay large amounts to obtain them, and this will come very much in use for paying for things in the future.

One other thing to do in this situation is to invest (gamble) a small portion of their wealth in a small amount, but large variety of different untraceable cryptocurrencies (no stocks, those are much more conspicuous). Given enough time, one or two of them may survive and grow to be worth astronomical amounts compared to how much they are worth at their inception.

After some consideration, and from thoughts mentioned by the comments, the probability of a cryptocurrency surviving is quite small, and due to 150 years being a long time, changes to security could make it very hard for the person to safely withdraw and use the currency without divulging their identity. The return is not worth the potential risk, so jewelry and collectibles would still be more reliable.

Fingerprint Modification, Hair Implants, and Someone Else's Eyeballs

If they end up waking so far in the future, bio-metrics may be prevalent to the security of the new world. If records of them already exist in the present time, they will need some replacement fingerprints, hair implants, and eyeballs to potentially fool fingerprint scanners, DNA scans, and iris scans.

Carrying Out The Plan

With whatever body condition they pick, they can step out into the new world. Firstly, they will 'dig up' a century+ old 'familial inheritance', and sell some for a reasonable price to the nearest shady pawn shop.

They will then need to pick up a set of identity papers and records for their new identity, along with identities listing out their disability. As @cmaster has mentioned, cryptochips or an equivalent, which may be inserted at birth, may also be present as a form of identity verification in the future. In this case, they will have to ask for an implant of a fake chip while they pick up their papers.

Then they will visit a hospital, and 'correct' their disability with their 'newfound' wealth.

As @Philipp has mentioned, some may be suspicious as to why they would take so long to correct their handicap, in a world so advanced. I have doubts as to whether 150 years is enough to solve the question of poverty, so they can probably claim that they were too poor to afford treatment. If, however, the world has somehow implemented universal healthcare, in every country, they can use their acting skills to fib. Maybe they were kidnapped by a gang as a child and never got fair treatment. Maybe they were living on that one island that never learned. Maybe they wanted to remain blind because reasons, but the person they love has been diagnosed with a fatal condition, and they got the surgery to see them one last time. A good actor/conman can always figure something out.

If any of their behavior seems to be strange in the future, they can say that they have been rehabilitating from whatever condition they had in the past. To rehabilitate themselves from the Cultural Shock they will inevitably experience, they can then use their funds and identity documents to attend the future equivalent of a College or University.

It is also recommended that they pick up the latest copy of a fashion magazine, and do some window shopping to fit in with the fashion trends of the century.


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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Apr 17 at 16:46
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Religious Studies

It's not a joke. Basically, no matter what happens, you're going to be thrust into a situation that you don't know how to deal with if you get chucked into a future 150 years from now and you want it so that you can shift the situation into one you do know how to deal with, and furthermore you also want to be able to learn how to deal with the future, and you'll need friends and resources to do that.

Religion, well at least certain religions, have remained unchanged for at least thousands of years. There's very little evidence to suggest that they'll be changed in a mere 150 years. Thus your character should devote himself to the studies of whatever religion he happens to be affiliated with, and when he arrives in the year 2170, he'll have a useful skill set to join back up with his religious friends and count on them to help him acclimate to the rest.

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    $\begingroup$ Most religions change quite a lot, even in a mere 150 years. $\endgroup$ – D.J. Klomp Apr 13 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ What (major) religion on Earth has "remained unchanged for at least thousands of years"? It's not Islam -- it is not nearly old enough. It's not mainstream Christianity -- it's almost but not quite old enough, and anyway both western Catholicism and eastern Orthodoxy have experienced significant doctrinal evolution in the last thousand years. It's not the Jewish religion -- medieval and modern Rabbinic Judaism is quite different from the Second Temple Judaism of the antiquity. It's not Buddhism -- both main forms, Theravada and Mahayana, are only about 1,500 years old. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 13 at 21:37
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    $\begingroup$ @MarvintheParanoidAndroid: There is little resemblance between medieval and modern Rabbinic Judaism and the Temple Judaism of the antiquity. For a simple example, Temple Judaism has priests and sacrifices; Rabbinic Judaism has neither priests nor sacrifices. That's one massive difference. For another example, Temple Judaism had nothing even remotely resembling the Talmud and the extremely complicated system of rules and regulations which give Rabbinic Judaism its distinctive color. The entire very elaborate system of halakha is post-classical. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 13 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ @boxcartenant: Fifth century is quite a bit too early. As in, nothing beyond the Council of Chalcedon? There were three universally recognized ecumenical councils in the sixth, seventh and eighth century. For example, the doctrine on the pre-existence of souls maintained by Origen was only declared heretical at the Second Council of Constantinople in the sixth century. Not to mention the rather important influence of Thomas of Aquino on Catholicism, and of Gregory Palamas on Orthodoxy -- and both lived well in the Middle Ages. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 13 at 23:47
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    $\begingroup$ @boxcartenant No, just no. Modern interpretations, traditions, and customs are entirely different. He might be able to fool someone unfamiliar with Christianity but in a church he'd be totally obviously out of touch. For example, he'd know what the bible says about the creation but he'd have no chance of discussing creationism in modern context. What people actually talk about and how is context sensitive. Someone from the 19th century might be able to pass as merely weirdly conservative. Just think about the actual discussions people have not the dogma. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Apr 14 at 11:28
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Learn Speed reading

Your character is at a clear disadvantage here. Whatever he learns would be only of a limited use in the future, and as you stated in the objective, he will need to be able to learn as much new information as possible in a short amount of time.

So the learning techniques, such as the ones improving perception and memorization would be of great importance.

Still, if the future would be more technologically advanced than we expect (for example, there will be Matrix-like neural links), speed reading would turn out to be only as good as a superb equestrian skill transferred from 1800s to our early 2000s.

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    $\begingroup$ I believe that there is a good chance that reading might well be obsolete in 150 years. This assumes that technology keeps on changing at roughly its current rate. $\endgroup$ – JonStonecash Apr 13 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ I'd say it's extremely unlikely bordering on impossible that reading ever becomes obsolete. Low tech is not a downside, it's easily transferred to an incredible variety of media and relies only on a built in interface the vast majority of humans come equipped with. $\endgroup$ – Turksarama Apr 14 at 2:23
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    $\begingroup$ If there are Matrix-like neural links, the question is moot. He can just download any info or skill he needs. $\endgroup$ – Ryan_L Apr 14 at 3:24
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    $\begingroup$ The wiki article says this: ‘There is very little scientific evidence regarding speed reading.’ $\endgroup$ – Fivesideddice Apr 14 at 6:15
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Travel the world

Future shock is a form of culture shock. The best way to prepare for culture shock is to experience it. It shakes loose your notions of what is "obvious" and "everybody does that".

Avoid the tourist infested places. People there adapt to the tourists rather than the other way around.

If possible, learn the local language. You can't really understand the local culture otherwise.

Then do it again somewhere else.

After two or three foreign cultures, return home and try to see your own culture with foreign eyes.

Spend enough time on a nude beach to become comfortable with it. There is a reasonable chance the future will be clothing-optional. There is also a chance this will be wasted effort, but spending time on the beach isn't much effort anyway.

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  • $\begingroup$ It might be an effort on your eyes, haha. I suppose you could close them, but then it loses meaning. $\endgroup$ – Enthus3d Apr 16 at 22:23
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There are some good answers here, but I'd like to take a different approach.

150 years is a long time in terms of technology standards. It also a very long time in terms of cultural standards. It is a short time in linguistic, geological and genetic terms.

Since we have no how technology will change in 150 (even the most successful predictions of technology of our day were always coupled with wildly incorrect notions), investing large amounts of time in science fiction probably isn't going to help. To compare, look at science fiction in the late 19th century (~ 150 yrs ago) vs. the world today, it doesn't help that much even looking at science fiction in the 60s, 70s or 80s. We have unimagined connectivity via the internet and the ubiquity of fast computers while no flying cars, no butler robots and no spaceships.

Since predicting the future of technology and its sociological impact is so difficult, I think a huge time investment in this domain won't help and may even cause issues if the reality is vastly different than expectation.

Since as mentioned 150 years is a very short time scale in linguistic, geological and genetic sense, huge time investment into predicting the outcomes of these won't help much either. New languages can be learned predicting how a language will evolve isn't possible without knowledge of other things like historical events. Consider the major languages of the world today, I can't speak for non-European languages but I find that literature and newspaper articles in many European languages to be just as comprehensible from the 1800s as it is today and I suspect the same is mostly true for other widely spoken non-european languages as well. Geologically speaking 150 years is moot so all the major features that are here today should be here in 150 years, and if they aren't there are probably bigger problems to contend with than standing out in a crowd. Genetically, unless a technological singularity occurs we will be genetically identical, and if a singularity does occur than you'll stand out no matter what you do.

This essentially leaves cultural standards and again the changes those will take are rather unpredictable. However, I believe that cultural changes will be the biggest challenge in adapting quickly. Since there are ways to work on this I think this is the area to focus on. By travelling, living among and adapting to many different culture a person would be able to hone in on being flexible. Learning to rapidly pick up on social cues as well as being forced to have a more open mind with regard to cultural mores and norms will probably be the most important skill for rapidly integrating into the world of tomorrow.

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The most important thing for them to lean is...

Delegation.

The best way for someone to prepare to settle into a new culture is for someone from the culture to prepare them a "quick-start guide". Rather than just learning excessive skills which may prove outdated and redundant, the character should arrange for a small team (funded by an annuity or trust fund) taking "the long way around" to prepare a short report of important cultural, political or social events each month - just snippets / headlines, and a list of "significant" books, plays, movies or games that should be experienced in at least an abbreviated form for cultural purposes and references.

Once your traveller arrives, they then have a rough summary of things they would be expected to possess at least a passing knowledge of had they lived through time normally.

If this were to average about 4 sides of A4 per month, then these notes would wind up about 5 times as long as "War and Peace" / the combined "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "The Hobbit". (Or 70% longer than Worm), and would take about a month of constant reading to plow through.

Catching up a synopsis of the "culturally significant" media, if we estimate distilling it down to about 3 hours of content per month missed (or 6 minutes per day), would take an additional year and a half. Your traveller won't be a pop-culture master by that point, but they won't be a complete neophyte. They will also have developed opinions and interests to explore further.

Also, make sure that the summaries are regularly curated to remove "redundant" cultural references. For someone arriving in 2020, the Spice Girls is probably still worth having heard of, while Babylon Zoo would be a bit of a waste of time.

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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't this be like reading histories when you arrive? Although cultural stuff isn't always as well documented, and I doubt people have written history books with this intended audience. $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Apr 14 at 12:34
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HISTORY & LITERATURE:
First, I agree, you should invest a lot in a diverse portfolio that is likely to leave you with assets in the future. But if you don't want to seem odd in the future, make a policy of - well - consciously being odd in the future. Get skills that are timeless - learn history and literature. There are always people who will seem out of place, and if you let people know up front you're an ancient history or english professor obsessed with reenactments, your knowledge won't (hopefully) be out of date and strange mannerisms will just seem charming. "well, of COURSE he wears a cravat - he's in CHARACTER!" You can pretend to be ignorant of social customs while you actually learn them.

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He should read a lot of science fiction, especially stories specifically about future social changes, and stories about characters who are fish out of water in their societies, and he should read the works of futurists predicting what future societies might be like.

If someone knows that their physical body will travel to the future, they can set up a fund to be invested for decades and centuries, and to be at the disposal of someone who had specified physical characteristics such as their fingerprints, completed genome, retina scans, and iris patterns, and then apply for those funds when they arrive in the future.

If they have control over where they will appear in the future, they can buy a house where they want to appear in the future, and create a foundation to maintain that house for them and their fictional descendants. they give the house to their foundation along with enough money for the foundation to pay the mortgage and taxes. And the property will be locked up and only the foundation members and the fictional members of his family will have the keys and/or codes to enter the house.

So he can arrange to travel one year into the future at a time, spend a week in the house presumably having used the keys and codes to get in, and study recent events and cultural changes via television and computers for a day or a week or something (and maybe order more fashionable clothing to be delivered) and then go back into suspended animation or his time machine or whatever to travel another year forward in time. That way when he reaches his final destination in time he will be reasonably caught up with changing accents and vocabulary and pop culture.

with such a method he should be able to keep track of predictions by futurists and see how changing events change those predictions and thus find get a better and better idea of what society in his chose future year will be like and how to fit in to that society.

Or, if he has enough money invested wisely enough for a long enough time, he can establish a new identity as an eccentric reclusive millionaire, billionaire, or trillionaire, or quadrillionaire (assuming that the future society still has money and that his assets have not been confiscated).

For example, if invested money grows at a rate of 10 percent per year, it will take 7.2 years to double in amount, and after 72 years it will have doubled ten times and now be 1,024 times it original value. So after 72 years each dollar will be 1,024 dollars, after 144 years each dollar will be 1,048,576 dollars, after 216 years each dollar will be 1,073,741,824 dollars, after 288 years each dollar would be about 1,000,000,000,000 dollars and so on.

Of course with inflation the rate of growth will be much slower. At a growth rate of 5 percent per year after inflation, it will take about 14.4 years for the amount to double, for example, so the time to increase by a specific amount will be twice as long as in the previous example.

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  • $\begingroup$ good luck getting an investment growth of even 5%... 2% is pretty normal these days. (present crises' excepted of course) $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Apr 14 at 9:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Ruadhan any diverse long-term stock investment gets returns like that. In the long run, even if you get the worst possible timing - e.g. if you'd invested in a whole-market ETF during the peak of the 2000 dot-com bubble before the crash; and cashed out right now after the pandemic crash, you would still have doubled your money in 20 years which is close to 5% growth; and if you're a bit luckier than the worse case e.g. investing in 1990 and cashing out now, then that's something like an 8x increase over 30 years. There are bad decades, but every 50-year span has great growth. $\endgroup$ – Peteris Apr 14 at 22:45
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Set up a foundation and trust

  1. Find yourself a reputable financial advisory institution with a long history. A firm that has been family-managed for multiple generations would be best, as this is going to have a stable tradition.
    • if you have a good, trustworthy friend in the financial/legal profession, tap him for help/advice).
  2. Assuming you're already rich enough to have financial independence, use their services to set up a financial trust
    • Set strict rules for investment so that the money is as safe as you can make it, while also making it financially worthwhile for the firm to maintain it indefinitely. Make sure the rules are clear that, when you come back, you will be able to provide adequate proof of your identity for this trust to be ceded to you or otherwise support you adequately.
  3. Again, assuming you have the funds or can persuade others to do it, set up a charitable foundation
    • Dedicate this foundation to helping people suffering from memory issues or identity issues, especially those that make them forget large parts of the past or feeling that they belong in another time. Make it part of the charter of this organization to collect pop culture information in easily digested form to help people with memory issues or related problems 'get up to speed' on current events.
    • If you put the right people in charge, this foundation should be self-perpetuating, and you can make sure to insert criteria into the founding charter (or founding family tradition) that will advantage you in particular once you come back.
    • If you're lucky, depending on how you want to structure your world building, the time travel bureau may be interested in clandestinely supporting this foundation, as well, for mutual benefit.

(Optional) Make a bet

  • Bury (or otherwise ensure the safekeeping of) a number of time capsules.
    • These time capsules will contain modern day items which you can obtain relatively cheaply that you are pretty sure should fetch a premium as collectors items when you return. Bury them in conditions that will ensure they will be in peak condition when you return so as to be of as high value to collectors as possible. Obviously, this is a gamble, as no one knows what collectors will end up valuing, but you can definitely make an educated guess on this.
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Learn to cook.

The taciturn sous chef. A useful person to have at your side. And he knows some retro prep tricks that are all the rage in the city! Where did he learn them? Maybe his grandmother? You think he might be Mennonite or something; he has a funny way of putting words together. But his instinct for those old school ingredients!

In the future people might not drive, or speak to each other, or need to wash, or want to read, or go to church, or have sex. But there is a certainty: people are going to eat. And if they are going to eat they need food, and some one to make that food. Your guy can be that guy, and people will be happy to pay him to work.

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My immediate, probably unhelpful, response is to say that it would be impossible for a person to predict what changes would occur over 150 years, and therefore impossible to know how to prepare for those changes.

Perhaps it's worth thinking about then from another angle, if sticking out like a sore thumb is going to be inevitable, then they should lean into this and work on sticking out like a sore thumb in a way that distracts from the possibility that they might be a time traveller. For instance, if they could learn to perfect some kind of foreign accent, they could excuse any of their unfamiliarity with recent pop culture by reason that that film or song or hologram or whatever wasn't popular in their home country.

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Learn as many languages as you can, from different language families and type. For example, learn at least one tonal language such as Mandarin.

There is no way to know which language or languages will be the basis of communication in 150 years. If you are lucky, it will be a language you know, and you only have to deal with 150 years of shift in meanings of words etc. If you are multi-lingual any glitches will be explained away as the result of learning whichever language you are speaking as an adult.

Even if none of the languages you know is directly useful, language learning practice will help you learn another language, and the more languages you know the better your chances of there being automatic translation systems between the languages you need and one of the languages you know.

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Cultural anthropology

You should major on cultural anthropology and do lots of fieldwork. This would let you directly practise skills needed to observe and understand foreign cultures and have a rich methodology you can study to back it up.

And as another answer pointed out "future shock is a form of culture shock" so it would also help you deal with mental issues you might experience.

You'd also learn how to be out-of-place in a foreign culture without annoying the natives which might be important skill to have.

There is also possible future employment in thoroughly understanding and being able to explain obscure late 20th - early 21th century cultures.

Acting

Probably not worth actually formally studying but some amateur theatre and courses in specific forms of acting would have value. Acting is basically about passing as someone different from who you are without seeming out of place. Some forms of theatre achieve this by following accepted theatrical forms and some by direction but if you focus on less formal and directed forms and put effort to it, it will serve you well.

You'll learn to pay attention to how people act and speak, to understand why they do so, and adapt it to your own mannerisms and speech. You'd also learn to rapidly adopt dialects and expressions.

Fortune telling is an interesting and maybe more effective variant of this. Cold reading would be highly valuable skill to have. You'd learn to talk in manner that suggest that you know what you are talking about when you do not. Or more specifically and very importantly, how to speak without it being obvious you are avoiding exposing your ignorance about things you really should know. You could do this as a hobby.

Being able to convincingly act as a person few centuries back and being a medium in touch with the spirits of centuries past are also both ways to make a living that might still exist. And both would justify occasionally acting like a person from the past without it being out of place.

Linguistics

Study of languages and how they change over time would help you to recognize and learn the inevitable changes to language. Hearing that the words are different is nice, recognizing what the change is and how it likely changes other words is better. Basics is enough and can be justified by your study of cultural anthropology.

And having basic understanding of multiple languages of different language groups has obvious value. Even if they still speak English it might be one with added Chinese elements in it.

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Social skills

Learning any hard skills is a total shot in the dark. You have no idea how the world will change over the course of 150 years. You can't predict what technological advances there will be and how they will affect society. You can't even know that there will be advances. It is just as well possible that you find yourself in a post-apocalyptic world where technology and society have regressed and where you face completely unexpected threats and challenges.

But there is one thing which never changed much throughout history: Human nature.

  • Getting people to perceive you in the way you want to be perceived.
  • Assessing people's true intentions and predicting their actions.

  • Communicating efficiently, even through language barriers.

  • Telling convincing lies and noticing when people lie to you.

  • Finding people's buttons and knowing how to push them.
  • Negotiating mutually beneficial agreements and making sure the other party sticks to them.

As long as there are humans, those skills will benefit you.


By the way, one TV show you might want to study for your project is Doctor Who. It is a show which constantly switches between very different futuristic and historic scenarios which all work very differently. The characters usually start out completely unprepared for the scenario of the week. Take notes which skills benefit the protagonist in every scenario they find themselves in.

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