Would Time Travelers Affect The Stock Market?

time travelersCanadian business professor Richard Hudson, PhD, reveals the bizarre reasons why it is impossible for time travelers to go into the past and make millions picking stocks:

Since H.G. Wells (1895/1991), the advantages of time travel for investors have been clear. This paper presents a solution to the problem of bilking behaviour of time travellers.

For a time traveller, all investments are risk-free since she will have perfect knowledge of prices throughout time. Reinganum (1986) claims time travellers will run around time, buying “underpriced” securities and selling (or shorting) “overpriced.” Because of the strange temporal nature of time travel, the adjustment in prices due to the trading activity of time travellers would be instantaneous, as seen by the time-bound. Time travellers from all time would be present en masse attempting to realize their arbitrage profits: the very first time traveller would meet multitudes from her future (and even multiple copies of herself) trying to engage in the same transactions she is trying to complete.

Financial markets in a time travel world would look far different from what we see. We don’t see zero rates of return, zero inflation, and unchanging security prices. Instead we see lots of volatility in financial markets. Reinganum (1986) concludes that this means that time travel must be impossible.

The actions of the time traveller, in acting like the time bound (i.e., in wealth maximizing), are in themselves self-defeating. The time traveller, in looking at the past, sees changing prices and picks the best moment to buy. But all time travellers from all time are looking at the same data and are making the same decisions. Because the last trade registered (by the time-bound) is at an advantageous price for the time traveller, when she attempts to trade, she finds herself beside a multitude of time travellers, also trying to trade. Rational time travellers, who are even more homogeneous than ordinary investors, will anticipate the actions of other time travellers, and will realize there is no point in attempting to use time travel to invest.

Time travellers coming from societies far different from our own may not even be able to understand what financial markets are or how they work. Most of our fellow citizens have no understanding of markets, so how would someone from a culture of the distant future? And even if time travellers were to come to understand what a financial security was, they may have no interest in money: they may not value what we value. Their society may be too rich to worry about some dollars from the past, or they might be more interested in love or in truth and beauty, or they might be concerned with saving their eternal souls and feel that wealth would get in the way. They may be fundamentally different from us in motivation: i.e., they may not be wealth maximizers or they may have a different view of what constitutes wealth.

Time travellers may have difficulty trading in our time due to our laws. While we don’t specifically forbid investment by time travellers, unless time travel is invented in the next few years, any time traveller we encounter would be an illegal alien, or an underage minor, not authorized to sign contracts. If, say, time travel is invented in 2020 by someone born in 1990, that person would be eight years old today (in 1998) according to his birth certificate, regardless of his apparent physical age.

15 Comments on "Would Time Travelers Affect The Stock Market?"

  1. I dunno about y’all, but if I could time travel, I would not be concerned about playing the fucking stock market. Why bother, wouldn’t there be far more interesting things to do?

    • Jonas Planck | Jun 21, 2013 at 5:42 pm |

      Not if the Time Police have anything to say about it!

    • Bruce Fenton | Jun 21, 2013 at 11:46 pm |

      I agree. This article ignore the obvious fact that if we could time travel to whenever and wherever we wanted we would have a life more interesting and more full than any wealthy person today. Why spend time trying to make investments.

      Anyway the global economy collapsed in 2016 and currencies were replaced by shiny pebbles, making all of this a non-issue.

  2. Rhoid Rager | Jun 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm |

    a business school prof with a linear conception of time….how quaint.

  3. Anarchy Pony | Jun 18, 2013 at 4:55 pm |

    Time travel hurts my head. Too many paradoxes.

  4. wingo shackleford | Jun 18, 2013 at 7:10 pm |

    This dude obviously hasn’t seen the movie Primer.

  5. Coyne Tibbets | Jun 18, 2013 at 8:55 pm |

    Three words: Winning PowerBall ticket!

    • Jonas Planck | Jun 26, 2013 at 2:33 pm |

      Hmmm… two problems with that… Although it could be done secretly, without terribly disrupting the flow of history, it would still represent a change in the past, causing repercussions to the future (present) upon return. The way to minimize the Butterfly Effect would be to jump back in time by a margin of only a few days, just long enough to get the ticket and get back, having planned ahead so as not to run into yourself… but the second problem is Murphy’s Law, meaning it’s best left to the conjecture of indy filmmakers to determine the hundreds of different ways this could STILL go horribly wrong… And it would probably involve gangsters and gambling debts…

  6. Cold_Drake_80 | Jun 18, 2013 at 9:54 pm |

    The biggest problem I see with this theory is what the author values. Why would a time traveler think it was a brilliant idea to come back to this period in history and chase his or her tail going after fiat currency?

    Yeah, lets go 100 years in the future and see what the US dollar is worth. Still think it’s worth it? Try 12,000 years then. If a time traveler were to comeback for something they would look for something common now but valuable in the future. That isn’t going to be paper.

    • Jonas Planck | Jun 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm |

      That depends on how rare trees are in the future… in fact, commodities would be the way to go… an extinct flower here, a vintage automobile there… a dozen pallets of 8 1/2 by 11 typing paper… a barrel of PETROLEUM… stuff like that. In fact, I’d wager the BIG money would be in stealing “lost” things from history, like Hitler’s missing sketchbook or a plane from the Bermuda Triangle…

      • Cold_Drake_80 | Jun 24, 2013 at 2:56 pm |

        LOL. By paper I meant stocks, bonds etc. Commodities and products are what time travellers would go for. Garbage like fiat currency might have some value to antique collectors or the like buy would be worth much.

  7. If you travel back in time and make any change whatsoever you end up in a new time line, so if you had a device that returned you to precisely where you left off it would be entirely unchanged. The reality we live in is one created by our impact upon it. Of course this means any device for choosing such a specific point to travel to would have to avoid ending up in one of infinite universes created by different choices.

    • Noah_Nine | Jun 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm |

      worm holes = plot holes….

      • Care to explain? Otherwise your reply to me remains pointless. What Impact does a potential wormhole have on my comment? Are you remaining in the world of fiction only therefore “plot holes” or do you actually have something to add? There is no saying that a “worm hole” could allow you to bypass anything I had said in my comment, just so you are aware.

  8. Noah_Nine | Jun 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm |

    no matter how you slice it, time travel creates plot holes….. that shit used to drive PKD crazy….

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