At some point, everybody and every team makes a mistake they regret and wish they could take back. During our regular status meetings, I sometimes make the mistake of saying something like “if I could go back in time, I’d tell myself not to make that decision.”


Image from the greenhead.

That tees it up for our lead developer who’s so smart even his ass is smart. You might say he’s a smart ass. His response is usually “Really? I can think of a lot better things I would do with a time machine.”

Which got me thinking. Hypothetically speaking of course, if I did have a time machine, how exactly would I maximize my profit?

Often, time travel questions fixate on boring topics such as if you could meet anyone in history, who would it be?

Lincoln? Snore. Jesus? Yah, maybe he can do something about that chronic rash you got going down there.

I think the question of how you’d become rich is much more interesting and potentially creative. Let’s put some constraints on the question to make it more interesting.

  1. The time machine room size and located in your house. Thus you can’t travel with the time machine.
  2. The time machine can only transport you back in time and back. It can’t transport you through space to another location. So if you live in Seattle Washington, you can travel back in time to any year, say 1951, but you’ll still be in Seattle.
  3. You have one trip and one trip only and you can only bring yourself and the clothes on your back. I’d recommend a backpack.
  4. You have the resources available to you today. You can’t go back in time and buy a million shares of some stock unless you could actually afford to buy that stock.

Keep in mind the consequences of your action. It might seem like it’d be easy to go back in time around ten years, go to a public library and login to your old E-Trade account and buy a bunch of stock. But you, ten years ago, would probably notice and assume you’ve been hacked and perhaps sell immediately.

Also, if you travel to a time before you were born, consider that you probably won’t have proper identification and papers, unless you forge them. Could you buy stocks without identification?

So my friends, I ask you. Given these constraints, how would you maximize profit with a single trip back in time?

Again, this is purely hypothetical. I don’t have a time machine in the garage. Let’s just say, I like to be prepared just in case.