A thought experiment: How would you abuse power?

Came across a thought experiment that might be fun. Not yet sure how I’d answer.

If you could change any one thing in history, what would it be?  A specific, single event. So no “I would make World War II not happen” but you could say “Have Hitler’s mom decide on a timely abortion.”

Shorty Hitler

Could you have denied the world this image? Actions have consequences.

The tricky part becomes “what are the repercussions of that?” If there is no Hitler, what is Germany like in the 1930s? Was the problem Hitler himself or did he fill a Fuhrer-shaped hole that would have been plugged by someone else had he not been there? And what happens to the rest of the world without WWII? The German scientists who fled Germany because of the Third Reich might not do so.  No Wehner Von Braun might mean no U.S. flag on the moon (at least not first).

Also, without the Nazis, Einstein probably doesn’t warn FDR about the German attempts to build the first atomic bomb, so the Manhattan Project doesn’t start when it did. If Germany, still smarting from WWI, gets the bomb first, then someone like Goebbels or Goehring or some other ethically questionable person manages to get in charge, would we now be wondering what it was like to have a London?

I don’t mean to fixate on WWII (and FWIW, I think a world sans Hitler is likely a net gain even if it is much different), but that’s an example of what I’m talking about. You are free to bump off Stalin too.

Do you try to prevent 9/11 and the two wars and all the nonsense that’s happened since? There are lots of ways to do it, but that keeps the U.S. off-guard and maybe the next attack is worse.

Do you keep JFK from being shot? Or MLK? Or RFK? Or Gandhi?

This occurred to me while watching the new Cosmos.  Do you keep Carl Sagan from getting cancer? Or do you drag Jim Henson to the hospital a month sooner with a note penned to him that says WARNING: STREPTOCOCCUS PNEUMONIAE?  Both are tempting. Twenty more years with either of them would have been nice. I think Carl would have enjoyed seeing the pics from Cassini.

Maybe something more personal? If you have a parent/spouse/friend/sibling/child who died tragically, do you undo that instead of risking the big move that might make things worse? If you yourself are in the grips of something awful, I don’t think anyone would judge you harshly for fixing that. The ghost of Gandhi would forgive you.

And how many Bama fans do I have to show this to before this gets undone?  Three?

It still makes me laugh

Like I said, I’m still thinking through it. Having a difficult time finding the right balance between being purely selfish and risking a major butterfly effect that ends all of humanity in a blaze of fire and pain and terrible music.

But I’m still curious if anyone else has ideas. Also, I’m going to go last to re-fix history undone by the Bama fans.

One Comment on “A thought experiment: How would you abuse power?

  1. The first two things that came to mind:
    – Have the ancient Greeks invent the telescope
    – Make the Library of Alexandria be fireproof

    There’s a third one that involves Paul not being able to write all those epistles that he wrote but that’s a big-time butterfly effect.

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