My favorite dumb sci-fi trope is reverse engineering. Not the actual, every-day kind where you get ahold of a rival company’s product, or an enemy county’s technology, and figure out how to make your own; I’m talking about the nonsense motivating the plot of the new Independence Day movie or the Terminator movies (there were only two) or any number of Star Trek episodes. People are always winding up with future gizmos or alien doodads in these stories, and then they immediately build their own. It always takes me out of the story.
Forget the alien stuff; that’s just cartoon bullshit. Let’s concentrate on the time travel, because what’s the point of having a Time Sheath if you don’t use it?
Phil, bored and drunk at 11 in the morning, decides to improve the lives of San Franciscovians in 1916 by giving his iPhone (but not the Watch) to Isadora Duncan, the Mother of Modern Dance. While Phil knows that Isadora Duncan won’t know what to do with the gift, he figured she would know some smart people.
“Darling, you are interrupting my rehearsal and those shoes are dreadful.”
“My name is Phil. Phil Lesh. Of the Grateful Dead. I am from the future.”
“I have a gift for you that will change your world! I’m amazing for doing this.”
“Are you drunk?”
“I have been drinking.”
“Is the gift the scarf? I like scarves.”
“It’s not a scarf, it’s…listen: I have this thing that I’m going to give you and you’re going to bring it to a scientist and then when I go back to whenever I came here from, the world’s going to be super-advanced.”
“That’s not how it works.”
“Sure it is.”
“Let me see your toy. Yes, darling: the tools to open the case have not been invented yet. Just so much that needs to happen before this ugly little white lump can be possible. Nothing about this trope makes any sense and, as the inventor of modern dance, I am an expert in not making any sense. It’s a non-starter; I’m going to pass.”
“But, Isadora Duncan–”
And so on.
Technology is linear and cumulative: you can’t skip steps.
That was your point?
Yes. Everyone else is talking about abortion and courtrooms and racism and recessions, so I felt like keeping it light.
Yeah, I’m still calling bullshit.