Today, I answered a question in an essay which related to time travel and what I would do if I could go back to a historical period. This got me thinking, and I came up with a hypothetical scenario in which I take a holiday to a Swedish village at the height of the Viking age (let’s say 900 A.D.) in order to explore the time period. I arrive dressed in period clothing, except for my satchel, which thanks to me forgetting to empty it out contains my MacBook Pro with a fully-charged battery.
Now, let’s say I was to seek lodging in the house of a family in the village. After gaining a valuable insight into how the Vikings lived, their religion and their culture, I come back to the house and decide to write up the valuable historical information I gathered. However, I stupidly forget that I am in the Viking Age and casually pull my laptop out of my satchel, boot it up and create a text document to write down all that I discovered about the Vikings, on the table in the middle of the family’s house. What would the Viking family think when they saw my laptop? Would they destroy it out of fear? Would I be worshipped as a cargo cult god?
As an additional time-travel experiment, what if I also carried in my satchel diagrams and descriptions of a crude steam engine (designed as plausibly as possible for the metallurgy of the time), a flintlock musket and gunpowder, as well as some fragments of modern knowledge, and attempted to kickstart the Industrial Revolution? In this scenario, I would find the relevant people (herbalist for gunpowder, swordsmith for the musket and blacksmith for the steam engine) and attempt to combine my modern knowledge with the equipment and materials they had on hand to create gunpowder, a musket and a steam engine. If they had the raw materials to create those things, assume that I have an excellent working knowledge of those technologies and can try to coach and assist them in whatever metallurgy and construction techniques are possible with their equipment.
If it was possible to create those things with the equipment I found, I would demonstrate the musket in front of the village on a mannequin, or perhaps livestock that needed slaughtering, and fit the steam engine to a small boat to demonstrate potential applications.
My question to you is: what would come about of my efforts to create those three technologies, and what would the world look like today? Would they be simply impossible to create at the time, or would they receive massive attention and significantly alter the course of history? Perhaps they may be seen as curiosities and end up like the Greek aeolipile or the Mayan wheeled toy animals.
- I speak fluent Old Norse
- I have enough of the local currency to accomplish what I want to do
- I am immune to the grandfather paradox (If I somehow alter history so that I am never born, I will be able to trace my lineage back to a family of alien space bats.)