Your Guide to Yesterday's Winning Lottery Number

If you could go back in time and change anything in your life, would you?

You know something now about how the future will turn out. And if you go back in time, you have the opportunity to bring that knowledge and follow a different route back to the present.

Will your plans work out, and will you benefit and end up with a better future? Will thinks go unexpectedly, or will you fail in the face of trial, and end up with a worse fate? Or will things end up exactly the same?

Consider other times in your life when you can know some future.

A five-year plan for a promotion, a child, and a new car. Wedding vows, “ ‘Til death do us part.” Relapsing into an Oxycodone addiction with recurring joint pain and some remaining supplies years after the knee injury. The self-fulfilling prophecy of failing out of school and dying in gang violence when you’re an impressionable teenager whom/who was always told that he’d amount to nothing.

Well, these things can or cannot happen. Two options.

You have an affair with your secretary and stand up your wife on the night of your thirty-first wedding anniversary. It doesn’t work out, and you are divorced. Switch ‘off.’

It’s five years later, and a grandmother’s recurring illness uses up all your savings, you take her in, and you miss that promotion when you have to leave early from work night after night. The switch never flips ‘on.’

It’s binary. Either you are in a state of remission or a state of activity.

The end event is a benchmark. It’s some condition, and regardless of what happens leading up to it, either it will be met or not met.

That’s not always how knowing the future works.

Sit down, my friend, at the big table. Let’s deal you in this hand of Texas Hold ‘em. In the pocket: two spades, a Ten and a Queen. And what’s that? Some blinds and a non-eventful round of betting later, and the community cards are dealt: Jack, King, Ace. All Spades.

Royal Flush. You have a winning hand. That future is irrefutable.

What happens between now and then? What do you do while waiting for the prophesied event to take place?

You profit.

You find yourself in the advantageous position of having come back from the future and having the chance to make the most of that information.

Of course, it’s not always so certain. It’s a numbers game. You have a series of probabilities floating around in your head, and those are the possible futures. Those are set, you know what can happen, and you just have to find the right path there. Here’s your opportunity to go back in time and change something.

Either bluff your way to victory with a pair of fives and some ballsy raises, or fold and throw away your flush to a player’s two-pair hidden behind a last round all-in bet.

You find your way to the future through some judgment on that threshold of probability versus payout that makes it ‘worth it’ to you.

Cost-benefit analysis is the other important part of the equation. In horse racing, you mostly have only the statistics of odds and each horse’s record to aid in your betting. What’s your threshold in this cost-benefit analysis? Which of those profitable futures in your head can you find the Golden Path leading to?


This type of time travel can be a popular mechanic in various forms of media and storytelling, too.

The interactive story [adventure] game Life is Strange implements literal time travel to this effect. The player has the ability to travel back in time within a scene or setting in order to get an actual do-over.

This can be used to follow every dialogue branch and perfect what you say to your benefit. Or it can be used to set in motion some inter-temporal Rube Goldberg machine.

You get a chance to go back and change something. But like you may imagine, it’s never an easy decision. Both in how the game is intentionally designed and how it reflects reality, there are consequences no matter what you do.

Sometimes it’s something small: warn a girl about an incoming errant football so that she doesn’t get hit in the head, but the rogue football bounces past and breaks a window.

Sometimes it’s bigger: interfere and help a girl who is getting harassed, or hide and take a picture so that you can have evidence to present to capable authorities at a later time.

Like with horse racing, there has to be a certain judgment based on the risk and reward of each situation. But it’s not that one-dimensional here. It’s not certain whether a decision will ever have enough benefit or little enough detriment to go forward either way in good conscience.

Good intent isn’t enough. It’s not consistent with the pluralistic nature of these possible futures.

So intent dies, and agenda rises.

What do you want to prioritize?

Help steer your bullied and alone friend away from the path to suicide? Try and hold on the best working relationship with your “Partner in Time” and sole cohort in saving the world? Maintain public relations with school faculty and administration, and your parents, and other students so the world isn’t cut off from you when you’re expelled and no one trusts you?

It’s just another dimension that comes with knowing the future


“ ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” (Alfred, Lord Tennyson).

Mamoru Oshii’s The Sky Crawlers features a cast of fighter pilots fighting in a never-ending war. At some point in the film, we learn that the war is effectively staged, and the pilots are cannon fodder stuck in an infinite loop, to be shot down by the enemy pilot “Teacher” and then replaced with near-identical copies.

And then the body of the film becomes the story of rebellion against the cycle and trying to live a unique life. It’s an existential uprising.

And just like being dealt a Three of Diamonds and a Seven of Clubs, with few prospects [of victory], each round of bets and bluffs can be worth even more than the prophesied fate of failure.

Will the pilots win that grand pot?


Time Travel often functions in loops, centered around a specific event. But oftentimes, whether it be a technological limitation, like in The Terminator, or the fact that this is real life, there’s only a single chance to work towards the desired future.

Some instances of knowing with certainty the possible futures or actual future is very straightforward, like in poker. Sometimes it’s a non-example like with certain “states of being” (ie, marriage, addiction), and the incidental journey there doesn’t matter.

But the next step is challenging this future.


If you could go back in time and change anything in your life, would you?

It’s not an easy question.