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Okay, so we found exotic matter and can power our Alcubierre drive. It turns out though, such devices allow travel to the past. The Novikov self-consistency principle holds.

My question is, in this scenario, what would be happen with business and commerce? We have colonized a couple hundred solar systems at this point, and we have terraforming. The exotic matter was just discovered, but FTL travel quickly becomes as cheap as, say, air travel is today.

Note that you can't just hope in a time machine and go back in time. Time travel is constrained to the way FTL actually works.

My question is, how does this effect the economy?

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closed as too broad by JBH, Gryphon - Reinstate Monica, elemtilas, L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Feb 14 at 3:20

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ You mention comparing this to air travel. How? Is a trip to a nearby solar system like a two hour flight? And as expensive? What are the limits to the technology? How small can it be? Can people transport small parcels over relatively short distances? Like the post office getting a parcel from another system, and then using a small FTL drone to drop it at someone's door/back garden? Can people use it over short distances? $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode Jun 29 '16 at 13:44
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It the Novikov self-consistency principle holds, the time-travel itself won't effect the economy much at all.

What will affect the economy is the FTL travel. Tourism on an unprecedented scale. Jumping all over the place to see new sites etc. I could see outpost hotels being established near strange stellar phenomena with a great view. Food and air would be the most important things, and tech that helps you survive.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you mean affect, and why wouldn't it? You can bring goods and money exacly where and when needed. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jun 30 '16 at 17:44
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If the question is : "Note that you can't just hope (sic) in a time machine and go back in time. Time travel is constrained to the way FTL actually works.

My question is, how does this effect the economy?"

Then the answer is simple. It's the cost of destroying Alcubierre FTL spacecraft and the loss of life of passengers and crew. Because travel to the past https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcubierre_drive#Causality_violation_and_semiclassical_instability demonstrates that attempting to use an Alcubierre FTL vessel as a time machine will destroy it and its warp bubble will be destabilised. Quantum effects will make it impossible to accomplish backwards time travel. The economic impact will be in disaster cost.

This makes me wonder if this is a trick question. Surely the OP read the Wikipedia page about the consequences of causality violation for Alcubierre FTL vessels?

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you missed the OPs question - rephrased, I think, How would FTL travel affect the economy? I think the point of the bit about time travel is that it is impossible, so don't use that as your answer. $\endgroup$ – Steve Mangiameli Jun 29 '16 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ @SteveMangiameli Thanks for trying to keep me on the straight and narrow. But I carefully read the OP's question before answering. Which is: "Note that you can't just hope (sic) in a time machine and go back in time. Time travel is constrained to the way FTL actually works." $\endgroup$ – a4android Jun 30 '16 at 5:19
  • $\begingroup$ No offense intended. If the OP is about going back in time, then your answer is spot on. But if, "Time travel is constrained to the way the FTL actually works", is merely in reference to the way time is contracted and expanded or "pinched" via the Alcubierre Drive, then the OP is not intending to navigate time backwards, but rather "jumping" forward in time by design. Maybe the OP can clarify this point. $\endgroup$ – Steve Mangiameli Jun 30 '16 at 13:52
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The effect on the economy would be determined by several factors.

  • Is there a minimum distance FTL can be utilized? Are we talking feet, miles, light years?
  • What is the smallest FTL drive available? Is this a pocket, backpack, vehicle, warehouse, star ship application?
  • Can FTL be used on Earth or is it limited to space travel? Of course, answering the first few questions may very well answer this one.
  • How difficult to obtain or how expensive is the exotic matter?
  • Who controls the technology? The answer to this question will determine what or whose economy is affected.

Answering these questions will give you the answer you are looking for. For instance if FTL can be portable and carried by a person, or located in a room, air travel becomes a thing of the past and a new industry is created, also creating jobs for "jump" operators, manufacturing, testing, R&D etc. If this is a "space only" tech, then FTL creates a new industry there as well, except now you have all of the above on a larger scale. Job creation and industry are one thing, but the ability to transport people and objects across large expanses will afford the opportunity of infusing huge amounts of raw materials and industry into the home world's economy. Basically - huge growth!

Of course, if the exotic matter is difficult to come by or incredibly expensive, FTL travel will become both a luxury and a commodity. Depending on the availability of the same material, FTL travel may not be sustainable as an industry at all. In which case it is ultra expensive and would most likely become a tool of science and immigration, having more of an indirect effect on a local economy.

But then you have to answer who owns and controls the tech because this will be a huge determining factor on how extensive the economy is affected. This could determine, ultimately, where the power resides on the home world and who gets to start new industries, worlds, etc.

Bottom line, regardless of the way you slice it or how you answer these questions, the ramifications on a local economy would be huge in the way of job creation, tech licensing, interstellar ticket and freight sales, and on and on and on.

The only way this negatively impacts the economy is if something goes horribly wrong and the earth is sucked into a black hole.

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  • $\begingroup$ This isn't an answer. But they are good questions. Should they have been in the comments under the question itself? I've done that myself just to be sure. $\endgroup$ – inappropriateCode Jun 29 '16 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks @inappropriateCode! I've added to the answer based on different outcomes to the questions. $\endgroup$ – Steve Mangiameli Jun 29 '16 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ This raises really interesting issues about the interactions between transportation, technology, and the economy. Glad that you shared them. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jun 30 '16 at 5:27
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In principle, if we allow easy time-travel BUT restrict it to only non-paradoxical events, then we will necessarily move our timeline to the most change-resistant possibility. Why? Because if any change could be made to someone's future benefit, then they will have committed that change already; with the cross-competing interests of humanity, the only logical endstate is a continual chronological stalemate in the most change resistant possibility.

Which, given what we think we know about human behaviour and economics, means the most machiavellian bastard becomes high-king dictator. The rewards of time travel are too great, and do not require the input of a powerful, emancipated, well-treated citizenry to be realised.

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To Market, To Market

The improved ability to traverse space quickly will have a similar effect to every other transportation improvement, ie, people will travel more, markets will synchronize to equalized values, and the economy as a whole grows as a manufacturers ability to reach larger markets improves.

As time to deliver goods to a target market decreases, the value of that remote market increases. If it's too expensive to move goods to a target market, that market isn't really a market.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't it synchronize with past values as well, given time travel. $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Aug 11 '15 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think so. The Novikov self-consistency principle asserts "event exists that would give rise to a paradox,or to any "change" to the past whatsoever, then the probability of that event is zero." Historical market values are just past data that can't be changed by time travel. $\endgroup$ – Green Aug 11 '15 at 14:02
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Interest rates would be driven to zero. All value differential would disappear and nothing becomes actually profitable.

The fact that we see positive interest rates is proof that time travel does not exist.

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  • $\begingroup$ "The fact that we see positive interest rates is proof that time travel does not exist." I choose to not read this as that the fact that we see negative interest rates would somehow be proof that time travel does exist. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jun 30 '16 at 8:49

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