1. AgonyDrum
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    AgonyDrum Member

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    Exploiting a time machine for profit

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by AgonyDrum, Feb 28, 2013.

    Over the past month I've been working on an outline for my science fiction novel and I've run into a snag. The plot, in a nutshell, is that an army veteran is sent back in time by a "evil" company that has secretly developed a time machine, his mission is to attempt a rescue on an agent of the company who was sent back to manipulate the past for some sort of financial gain. The problem im having is that i cant think of what the agent's mission could have been. It should be something simple like an assasination that would net a significantly larger profit than say going back and buying a bunch of lotto tickets, also the time period is prior to the renaissance. Any help would greatly be appreciated.
     
  2. GazingAbyss
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    GazingAbyss Member

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    If the time period is before the renaissance, they could easily hide some relics and then have the company "discover" it later. It would not only directly profit the company, but it would look completely legit, and give them a nice, healthy PR boost at the same time.

    If it's changing the course of history you want, then I can't think of anything. Human history is a chaotic system. Any change could easily make it so that the company, or whoever invented the time machine, or whatever else never existed. It's too far back to predict the effect of even the tiniest alterations.
     
  3. Eric242
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    Eric242 Member

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    That could be a tricky one. My first thought was at some point before the renaissance a significant portion of family money went to one person rather than another (the other being some ancestor of the company's founder or something), but that wouldn't really make sense for the company. Too many unknowns, anything could happen to the money in that amount of time and they would have no way to keep track of it. Unless of course the time traveler was also sent to 'check in' on the funding periodically to ensure it was secure, growing, and untouched throughout the years until the actual company gets its hands on it.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Rather than give a plot point suggestion, which wouldn't likely be of much help, I'm going to suggest a method.

    First, you need to understand what kinds of decisions result in huge long-term profits. This will vary based on what type of industry your company is in. Some examples - if oil, a key decision could be where to explore for oil, to be the first to drill in a small, restricted area rich in oil deposits. If manufacturing, it could be what new products to bring to market (I remember a film in which Kathleen Turner plays a character who goes back to the 1950s and, as a subplot, tries to be the first person to design pantyhose). If technology, it could be to develop the microchip. All of these are examples of where a time traveler could reap huge profits by having knowledge of the future.

    Next, you need to research your chosen industry and see what the key developments have actually been. Then design a plausible story line around them. In this, Google will be your friend.

    Good luck.
     
  5. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    The first thing that has to be understood about time travel stories is that they are extremely complicated, and that there are many different types of time travel. Even if something seems like it would work in your plot, an in depth analysis will just completely pick the story apart.

    What concerns me the most about your plot is that you are trying to change the past for the companies benefit. If you travel back to change something so you can profit on it later, and you succeed. There would be no need to go back to change the thing in the first place, as it has already happened. Thus the company would never go back, the thing would not be changed, and that leaves us in full circle, where they would decide to go back in time to change something for profit. You have in effect created a time loop. I see you write "It should be something simple like an assasination". Like GazingAbyss said above, if you go far enough back in time, it becomes near impossible to predict all the possible outcomes of such an assassination, and you might end up returning to a world ravaged by war, or a world where nothing we know exists anymore.

    However, if time travel in your story works in the way that you create an alternate timeline, you cannot change history, but you can go back and learn valuable information that you can exploit in the present. This will take care of any potential problems with changing the course of history. If you decide however, to go with a single timeline, I advice you take a look at the movie Looper (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1276104/). They had an interesting take on the timeline problem.
     
  6. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    There was another thread like that about two weeks ago i think. The first thing you have to consider when talking time travel is how time travel works. There are theories that state that once a time traveler has the tiniest effect on the past/future, the timeline splits and the traveler can't return to his original period because for him it doesn't exist. Others state there is no time paradox or that the paradox will start manifesting the moment the traveler returns to his original time. And since most of your target group have already read time travel stories you have to be very careful with your time mechanics.
     
  7. AgonyDrum
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    AgonyDrum Member

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    Thank you all for your suggestions, Im not sure a relic would net all that much money and you're right any investment could go awry throughout the course of the intermediate history. The natural resources are a great idea but there aren't really all that many in europe worth going after it has definitely got me thinking though, i really appreciate all of your help. I have already hashed out my time travel theory and i wouldnt say it is any more implausable or ridiculous than the theories found in other books or movies. Im a second year physics major and ive read alot of fairly "heady" books on time theory and its construct. Basically mine follows the idea that time isnt linear or a flow but rather a series a moments that are created and destroyed hundreds of times per instant via an extra dimension and through use of my time machine you can allow yourself access to this dimension and given a slight acceleration propel yourself through it..like i said obviously its ridiculous but so is the idea of travelling backwards through time in the first place. As for the paradox described by Xatron im still working on that little snag, the probelm being as youve said once the goal has been achieved their never would have been a cause for the time machine to be built.
     
  8. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    My instinct for that place and time period would be to take back a list of good ideas for future generations (e.g. 'oil is useful, try to own it') and start the first bank. That way much money lies.

    You can invent pretty much any reason you like for the time machine - say, once it was sent back from the future its existence became part of the new timeline, so it doesn't matter if no-one from the new future goes back, or maybe that list of good ideas included 'build a time machine, here's a manual' - as long as it sounds plausible in context, you'll get away with it. And context includes a time machine, so it's pretty flexible.
     
  9. AgonyDrum
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    AgonyDrum Member

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    That is a great idea! I forgot the first real bank didnt come about until the italian renaissance I could have them go back to 1400's England. I think the end of the hundred years war would mark a great time for the family of the corporation's benefactor to start the first bank.
     
  10. Sved
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    Sved Senior Member

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    Read Turtledove for some ideas on alternate history :)

    In my opinion going that far back, as opposed to going back to buy all them Microsoft, Apple, Google etc stocks, can only mean one thing! The iintentionis to become a ruler (by using modern knowledge of technology and history) :)
     
  11. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    And another question asks itself. If said agent goes as far back as the renaissance, before any notion of time travel is conceived by the family, why would he alter the past to his employers' benefit and not to his own family's? If he made his own family create the first bank as you said, then he would have no reason in the first place to work for his employers.
     
  12. AgonyDrum
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    AgonyDrum Member

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    That's actually exactly what happens, they send the protagonist in once the agent misses his return window. The main character than discovers that he tried to double cross his employer only to be double crossed himself and imprisoned.

    As far as the time travel paradox what about this; I coudl explain it away with a form of post processing where the creation of an altered history makes a sort of double entry for the "time sheet" code, a connection to the extra dimension created by the high energy field allows these two sheets to be consolidated manually when compared to the base reading taken when the field is first created before the agent goes back
     
  13. iWant iStrive
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    iWant iStrive Member

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    It wouldn't just have to be one mission, there could be a wide range of things but with one main goal.

    It could be the assassination of competitors, or even just sabotage.

    It could be giving his company technology far in advance of the time allowing it to compete far more effectively.
     
  14. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    How much money do you need? Find a house with an intact cellar in the modern day. Go back to when the house was being built, get some famously lost pieces of art from that time and wall them up in the cellar. Then excavate in the cellar and voila! A handful of pieces by famous artists could easily net many tens of millions of dollarpounds.
    The artwork was known to be lost anyway, the cellar hasn't been interfered with in the intervening time - so you would have done nothing that changed perceived history.

    Here's a list of targets for missing artwork - after all, they could be missing because your agent stole them, who knows ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_artworks
     
  15. AgonyDrum
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    AgonyDrum Member

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    the missing artwork is a tempting path because i could make the location and period anything i wanted but i feel like even with the millions they would make it would still be easier and make them more just to go back ten years and ride the stock market, it has to be a huge score with not only monetary benefits but social and political implications as well
     

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