Would you rather be able to go back in time or forward in time? | Coursera Community
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Would you rather be able to go back in time or forward in time?

  • 7 July 2019
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”Would you rather be able to go back in time or forward in time?” ( New York Times magazine)

This most interesting question was posed to readers of The New York Times.

54 % of the people polled said they would rather go back in time.
46% of the people would rather go forward.
Do you agree?
What do you think? How do you explain these results?

6 replies

As much as I'd like to go back in time because I know what happened I would say everyone has to face the life in front of you so although it may seem harder going forward is something we all have to do. Even if we go back time unless we want to stay as we are in all ways and thoughts (and I certainly don't) there is really no option
Such a thoughtful reply, @Paul thanks.
I have such mixed feelings about this question. I wish I could be 25 years old again , but with my current thoughts. It would be wonderful to enjoy my younger physical being, but not mentally, too much naivety.
As a female, I wouldn’t want to live in the past where I wouldn’t be considered an equal, or be able to vote, for example.
But the future seems scary for our world. Will climate change sink our islands? Will our oceans and air continue to be polluted? But on the positive...
Will diseases be eliminated? Will there be more of an understanding between us ?
This makes me feel more of a commitment to the future, to make sure it will be a place I would want to go to.

What do you think?
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Gr8 thought-provoking question @Judith .
I would not want to go back in time. Nor do I prefer to go forward in time. I would love to live in the present time. (If compelled to choose one, I would prefer going forward in time).

My reasons are that I strongly believe that life is lived in the present moment looking forward and experiencing backwards.

Why not going backwards in time?
That would mean for example I am 21 again. There are definitely certain things that I would have liked to deal with differently. But how? All things would be the same, isn't it, including my level of wisdom/behaviour/ expertise (what I have now but was not there at that time). How would I expect different results? In hindsight, we can always see better solution/behaviour, but what about that particular moment? In each moment we behave to best of our abilities under given circumstances, is"t it? If we say at that time our circumstances were not favourable, then going back in time also will not change them into favourable (everything needs to be exactly the same, isn't it?)
So, though we may think/ wish, things were dealt differently in past so that we could have been dealing with something different today, there is no such guarantee that such new outcome would have been to our 100% satisfaction. All such thoughts give rise to regrets and thence lower our happiness. Things happen the way they happened for a reason (that we may or may not be able to explain and like). This acceptance gives us belief in the process called life.

Now, why not going forward in time?
Again, with my current level of wisdom (experience, expertise and behaviour) I may see things in certain ways, that may be true only partially. Here I cannot look at all aspects and circumstances fully. Whatever are missing dots, they may reveal in due course of time and spoil the outcome to a variable extent. And the worst part will be that once there, I would want to go back in time and fix it differently. Can you see a vicious cycle setting up here?
We all know that we have certain plans for our life but life has its own plans for us.

To some extent we all constantly live in the past (regrets, savoured moments) and the future (goal settings, hopes), so why we would want to go back/forward in a particular time and lose this option?

Now why I want to live in the present time?
I want to live in the present so that I can look back and think, I have come so far, survived all that what was not to my liking/ desire, and enjoyed what all was good, learnt from all those experiences that make me what I am today. (Remember, we change each moment, we are different from the previous moment). Also, look forward to using these learnings to best of my abilities in times to come. Why rush and go forward less experienced, less prepared and add to regret. For all this to happen I need to live in my present and enjoy/endure it. It will give me the resilience to embrace my failures and hope/ optimism for a better future.

Looking at survey results, I think living in the present was never an option. So as I said, I would love to go forward in time in that case.
Why? Because I already have lived my past, mentally fixed/ mended it a lot, several times, there is no guarantee that I will not continue to tweak it a little more each time. Going forward, I can get new situations and deal with them differently using my learnings so far. Who knows, I am able to improve my % of liking the outcomes, at least there is hope minus regret. It is easier to create new, better things compared to fixing broken things, which still continue to have marks of repair. Also, I will increase my collection of past events (we all are hoarders) that are easier to visit frequently and often possible to extend our stay there.

Looking at results, it explains why we are becoming unhappy species.
I thought long and hard about this Question many times @Judith and what makes me not want to go back is that in the very beginning of my youth I could never have anticipated becoming a CEO in the job I was in. Travelling to Canada, America, Portugal and other places, least on wheels 😉 Seriously although I could walk when I was younger before I got down to being a wheelchair user I had all my surgery done as a child thankfully and when I did start Using a mode of transport with wheels on 😉 it was purely my own fault and realised if I'm stuck like this I better not let 'the grass grow from under me' (if you now what I mean , so to cut a long story short the way I think now is if I didn't want to lay back, so to speak then and was given so much to enjoy , I don't want to do it again, And who knows what lies Ahead for any of us in the future, Yes the future seems scary for our world. Will climate change sink our islands? Will our oceans and air continue to be polluted? All of the questions you raise are valid but none of us here today know the answer to any of them and if we did we definitely may not want to face the future. So as you say, 'on the positive...
Will diseases be eliminated? Will there be more of an understanding between us ?
I think so, at least most but not alls peoples attitudes are beginning to change for the better but you still have people in powerful positions that are wanting to change these things, for what they may see as the better way to go' but from my side I'm hoping like the things that have been positive in my life, The future will in the long run surprise me and be as good as the past has been for me.
@Namrata Tejwani , such a thoughtful reply, with much to consider. I agree that it is healthiest to live in the present and look forward to the future. We learn from our past and shouldn’t forget it, but we shouldn’t obsess about it or think too much about it either. When I considered this question I wasn’t sure if it meant going to the past as I am now or going back to the inexperienced me. Either way, whatever life lessons were to be learned still need to be. I like thinking as you said that “life has its own plans for us.” I also like to think about these and wonder why?

You have such an admirable positive understanding of life that must help you live in the present.
I fear that many people have become skeptical of the future, of climate change, for example and of some of the humanity or lack of, that we show to others.Hopefully, the future will right these issues.
@Paul , you have such a remarkable story and have found such a successful life. I hope the future does indeed surprise you in a wonderful way.

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