What If?

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Alphonse Penaud
  Let’s accept as a given (for argument’s sake) that, in 2056, a mission has been developed for a time traveler to go back to a given year (1878 for example).  This time traveler’s mission is to “accidentally” meet a Mr. Milton Wright (1828-1917) and nonchalantly bring up the topic of family, children etc.  
  Given that Milton also has children, he too, will take part in the conversation and mention his own two boys, Orville and Wilbur (aged 11 and 7 at the time).  Our time traveler, having confirmed that this is the gentleman he has been looking for, nonchalantly and in a friendly manner, provides a small toy to Milton to take home to Milton’s two young sons.  Milton thanks the new acquaintance and returns home.  He gifts the two boys with their new toy from a “kind man I met while away on business.”  What was the toy?  

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9f/P%C3%A9naud%27s_flying_models.jpg “…a toy “helicopter” for his two younger sons. The device was based on an invention of French aeronautical pioneer Alphonse Pénaud. Made of paper, bamboo and cork with a rubber band to twirl its rotor, it was about a foot long….In later years, they pointed to their experience with the toy as the initial spark of their interest in flying.”

  By virtue of this small gift, Milton’s acquaintance (a time traveler) has now set into motion a series of events (and stopped others!) that will, ultimately, lead to powered and controlled flight.  The purpose of such a mission could have been for any number of reasons.  To my eyes, the most plausible reason for this hypothetical mission would be to stir the development of a key technology earlier than when it actually occurred in the time travelers’ own history.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/df/Young_Orville_Wright.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/Wilbur_Wright_child.jpg  But what unintended consequences have they initiated by virtue of their mission?  Predicting all possible outcomes for a given mission is likely impossible.  Though at the same time, how can they predict any outcomes other than the likely earlier development of this technology?  
  For example:  If, by virtue of directing the young Orville and Wilbur’s interests towards flight (and away from building bicycles, for example), a woman who would have bought a bicycle from them at some point, didn’t, because in this new history, they stopped building bikes to concentrate on their flying machine.  
  But because Wilbur and Orville stopped building bicycles, she never came to their shop to buy one.  Because that never happened, she and Orville never fell in love, married and had a large healthy family.  How many dictators, scientists, popes and murderers never lived because of our time traveler’s mission?
  Incidentally, neither Orville or Wilbur Wright ever married…

  Is it plausible to believe that mission planners in 2056 could have predicted any or all likely outcomes?  
  And how do they judge that certain outcomes or unintended consequences are more or less acceptable than others?  What is their red line?

  What I mean by this is, we can obviously assume that they know how the unaltered history will play outThey also should be able to reasonably predict the results of their mission such as the invention of the aeroplane earlier than in the original history (otherwise, how else to plan anything?).  But my question is:  how do they make the decision to allow a given history or event not happen.  How do they decide that one series of events (only indirectly related to the primary mission) is more/less important than the mission at hand?  Who makes this decision?  What oversight is provided?

Below the fold is an interesting article (h/t infowars) asking the question, What If?  The author’s question relates directly to 9/11 but gives very interesting examples with WWI and WWII.  
What if?

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Paul Craig Roberts
Feb 22, 2013
“What If?” histories are a good read. They are entertaining, and they provoke thought and encourage the imagination. How different the world would be if different judgments, decisions, and circumstances had prevailed at history’s turning points. Certainly English history would have been different if King Harold’s soldiers had obeyed his order not to pursue the defeated fleeing Normans down the hill. This broke the impenetrable Saxon shield wall and exposed King Harold to Norman calvary. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Battle_of_Hastings
Would there ever have been a Soviet Union if the Czar had stayed out of World War I?
Would there have been a World War II if British, French, and American politicians had listened to John Maynard Keynes’ warning that the Treaty of Versailles would result in a second world war? Germany had been promised a different outcome–no reparations and no territorial loss–in exchange for an armistice. As Keynes realized, the betrayal of the peace led to another great war.
There are a couple of what ifs that I have been waiting for historians to explore. As no historians have risen to the challenge, I will have a go. Keep in mind that a what if outcome is not necessarily a better outcome. It might be a worse outcome. As what if did not happen and there is no what if history, there is no way of making a judgment.
Suppose Churchill had not succeeded in pressuring Chamberlain to interfere with Hitler’s negotiations with the Polish colonels by issuing a British guarantee to Poland in the event of German aggression. Would World War II have resulted or would it have been a different war?
The British guarantee emboldened the colonels and frustrated Hitler’s attempt to restore
a Germany dismantled by the Versailles Treaty. The result was Hitler’s secret pact with Stalin to divide up Poland, technically known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
Having given the guarantee, Britain was honor-bound to declare war on Germany (fortunately not also on the Soviet Union), which pulled in France because of the British-French alliance against Germany.
Without Britain’s guarantee, the German (September 1, 1939) and Soviet (September 17, 1939) invasions of Poland would have been prevented by the Polish colonels’ acquiescence to Hitler’s demands and would not have resulted in Britain and France starting World War II by declaring war on Germany, resulting in the fall of France, the British driven off the continent, and Roosevelt’s determination to involve the US in a foreign war unrelated in any significant way to Americans’ interests.
Historians write that Hitler’s ambitions were in the East, not the West. Without the British and French declaration of war, the war might have been contained, with the two totalitarian powers fighting it out.
Alternatively, Hitler and Stalin might have continued their cooperation and together seized the oil rich Middle East. The British, French, and Americans would have been a poor match for the German and Soviet militaries. General Patton, the best American commander, thought he could take on the Red Army that had crushed the Wehrmacht, but his hubris did not worry Red Army commanders, who defeated the bulk of the German Army, which was deployed on the Eastern Front, while the Americans, aided by German motorized units running out of fuel, struggled to contain a small part of German forces in the Battle of the Bulge. Today we would be buying our oil from a German/Soviet consortium.
This outcome implies a different history for the Middle East, and so does another what if. What if the 9/11 Commission consisted of experts instead of politicians with their fingers in the wind, and what if the commissioners had too much integrity to write a report dictated by the executive branch? The unlikely and untenable failure of every institution of the American national security state would have been investigated, and the collapse of WTC 7 at free fall speed would have had to have been acknowledged in the report and explained. A totally different story would have emerged, a story unlikely to have locked Americans into permanent war in an expanding number of countries and into a domestic police state.
Americans might still be a free people. And American liberty might still be a beacon to the world.
On the other hand, a finding of government complicity in 9/11 could have threatened powerful interests and resulted in violent conflict and martial law.
What ifs are provocative, and that is what makes them fun. Thinking is America’s national disability. I’m all for anything that provokes Americans to think.
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts is the father of Reaganomics and the former head of policy at the Department of Treasury. He is a columnist and was previously the editor of the Wall Street Journal. His latest book, “How the Economy Was Lost: The War of the Worlds,” details why America is disintegrating.
H/T to Infowars.com

You Will

I remember these commercials.  They are obviously not examples of “predictions” per se, but rather just a “coming attractions” from a company involved in innovative technologies that they hadn’t introduced yet. 

But it does demonstrate the technologies that we have now that we possibly take for granted.  Likewise, it does allow us to remember (or imagine, for my younger readers) what life was like before cell phones, internet, YouTube, “Distance Learning,” GPS’s in cars, RFID toll booths….