You find yourself transported back in time to England, 1940. No address, no papers, nothing. How do you convince people you're not a spy, but from 2011?

This question as originally posted on Reddit.

Hmm, 1940… That means World War II is about to start. And I think people were still pretty racist back then, right? That sucks, ‘cause I’m Asian.

Okay, World War 2 and England… Think, Nebu, think… OMG, Alan Turing must be around here! I’d do everything in my power to find him. I don’t know if I’d tell other people I’m from the future; I might, it doesn’t matter, as long as I get to meet Turing.

I would definitely explain to Turing that I’m from the future, and that everything he’s someone I consider to be one of the most important people who ever lived. His work on computational theory allowed us to build actual, electronic, digital computers that perform billions of calculations per second. In 2011, almost everybody in first-world nations owns a computer, if not several (I own like 5 of them personally). We have integrated chips in our cars, our watches, our portable wireless phones. Our computers are connected via wireless networks so that all of our data is accessible from anywhere.

And I’m telling him all of this because I want to urge him not to kill himself. I’ll tell him that if he reveals to the British government that he’s gay, they’ll try to force him to take hormones and other chemicals to “cure” him of his homosexuality, but it won’t work, and he’ll enter into a depression and eventually commit suicide.

Hopefully, my telling him all of this will be enough to convince him I’m really who I claim I am.

Then I would see if I could work with him on improving computer science. Obviously, I’m nowhere as brilliant as Turing is, but hopefully with my “hindsight” and ability to stand on the shoulder of giants of his future, together we can jump start the computer revolution. “Alan, I suck at history, so forgive me if this is a naive question, but do you know John Von Neumann? Is he alive right now? If so, you definitely should collaborate with him. I think Alonzo Church is from the 1940s too, right? You two definitely should formalize some shit together.” If he gets stuck, I can help him from my vague recollection of what I read from his papers. “At some point, you showed that a machine with an infinite tape with only two symbols and which can only move one slot left or right is powerful enough to produce all known computation. I don’t know how you proved that, but hopefully that’ll set you on the right track?” and “Do you know a Backus Nauer? Maybe he’s not famous yet… I can’t remember what decade he’s supposed to be from. Have you guys discovered deterministic finite automatons yet? Regular expressions?” etc.

I’d make sure they invent the internet, so that I could brag on my blog about how I worked with Turing.

 
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