How Useful Would Your Current Knowledge Be if You Were Back in 10,000 BC?

Thanks to reader Greg R. for this week’s topic:

DT5 - 10,000 BC FEATUREYou’re on a walk in the woods when you accidentally pass through a time warp, and suddenly it’s 10,000 BC. You look down and realize you’re naked, without any of your artificial accessories (tattoos, jewelry, makeup, hair dye, etc.), and your body hair matches the people’s of that day.

Ahead is a clearing, where you come across a local tribe of hunter-gatherers. Luckily for you, they’re a peaceful tribe with a policy of welcoming wandering strangers into their tribe.

Little do they know that they’ve welcomed in a very special wandering stranger. Their new tribe member is from 12,000 years in the future and carries the knowledge of the entire history of human civilization and discovery—a history that in 10,000 BC is all yet to happen. It’s their lucky day.

Or is it?

The question is: How could you use your knowledge of the far future world and everything that happened in between to help your new tribespeople? How could you use what you know to make their lives, and your own life, better?


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  • Zach

    I don’t think my knowledge could be of much help, seeing that I don’t know how to do anything.

  • Catjellycat

    It’s kind of presumptuous that they would want you to make their life better, isn’t? Bit old-style-colonialism.

    I mean, I’m also thinking that I was born in a major city and have lived in one all my life so my outdoorsy skills are somewhat lacking BUT if I’m going to justify my uselessness, I’ll go with this.

  • Labyrinth65

    Write scriptures to let the future public know to immediately lock up Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian upon birth

  • Uncle Bill

    knowledge of simple machines would come in handy

  • Uncle Bill

    knowledge of germs

  • Christopher Columbus

    Quite honestly, I don’t know if I could do anything helpful. Much of the “progress” around me has been developed and integrated into society by those much smarter and more specialized than me. I merely use this technology day in and day out. Without electricity, our entire structure of tools and the vast majority of our daily interactions are gone. And beyond that, I think about what could I contribute?

    Can I build a candle? Can I cut a piece of wood better than them?

    Perhaps my biggest strength would be organizing a new government. Setting up an organizational structure for them to thrive under. With my own two hands unlikely to manipulate the environment better than any of the natives, my best asset would be my mind and the knowledge of how to optimize resources. By dividing and conquering (both literally and figuratively), I think I could aid the tribe the most by organizing an efficient method of collection, building, and traveling. I mean shit, basket weaving 101 would have been the most college-applicable course I could take towards this exercise. I told you it was important, mom.

    • guest

      wow christopher columbus, didn’t know you were so peaceful

      • Christopher Columbus

        I discovered 10,000 BC first. Trust me.

  • Shanghighed

    I know how to make cement from scratch. I’d be king.

    • Jen

      Would you have all the necessary material to do so back in 10,000 BC though….?

  • Djyo

    I’ll start my own tribe and conqueer the world as Gengis Khan !

    Just kidding I would be in deep ****
    I would bring the tribe every virus and germs from the 21th century, and will see them dying in front of me. The few that would survive will pursue me and consider me as a vampire or some kind of sorcerer.
    And since I have no knowledge of the wild nature/how to survive there without technology i would probably die of hunger or eaten by some bear.

    Dear god I don’t even know how to build a fire !
    Even if I would survive, I don’t know how to extract the basic: iron, bronze etc… How to make paper, papyrus… I have very basic knowledge in building or weapons.
    Today our knowledge is too much specialized. In order to be of any use I’d need to have proper infrastructure: schools, electricity, labs, etc..
    And It will take decades to teach them a proper language to explain them. I’ll just try to teach them school, to value science and reason.

    So to be honest my knowledge will no be of any use and well i’ll probably learn more from them than the opposite.

    • Zach


  • Bill Mason

    In a very real, immediate, and practical sense, knowledge of (even the notion of) the germ theory of disease would stop a lot of suffering. Knowing that (e.g.) you need to clean wounds and keep them clean would reduce mortality rates by an awful lot. And you wouldn’t even need to wait until the mid-1800s!

  • Uncle Bill

    artificial selection

  • Sulphur

    I would prevent religion by explaning how we understand the world “today” (e.g. a lightningbolt is not a result of a raging god). So they wont believe in supernatural powers.

    • guest

      they’d probably kill you, lol

  • Eduardo Serra

    What about Tim’s answer?

  • Kay

    as already mentioned: knowledge about germs, bacteria, hygiene (if possible in that time); don’t know if people were farmers back then or still hunters and gatherers.
    might be helpful to show them how to grow crop and to raise animals.
    Unfortunately, I think I would not be that much of help back in time 🙁

  • AJMacFarland

    I think I might show them how to make a guitar, or other stringed instrument, which I know could be done (albeit crudely) with the materials at hand. The earliest stringed instruments we know of are from maybe 3000 years ago, so it would be new. Making music: universal language,nice to enjoy by the fire with the tribe after a day of hunting and gathering.

  • CatFly FlyFly

    World history, even though everything might not happen at all.

    • Lee

      Yeah, but wouldn’t teaching them about what was going to happen in the future potentially throw off the entire course of history so that nothing would actually happen in the same way it did the first time around?

  • Uncle Bill

    first aid, cpr, basic everyday knowledge of diseases, infections etc

  • Leonard

    Around 10 000 BC, the agricultural revolution was already underway. The next important thing (amongst others) was the advances in metallurgy from bronze to iron and later steel. Knowledge of this would probably have accelerated the development (and safety) a lot. Knowledge of hydro- and steam power would then catapult the cavemen into the industrial revolution. Along with, of course, lot’s of other handy knowledge around infections, bacteria, geography, meteorology etc. Also, knowledge about fundaments of politics would probably help the tribe to stay safe. Cool topic.

  • Sarah Tietjen

    I would try to foster their sense of community. If you think about it, a lot of the most horrible things that have happened in the past and are currently going on is because of our differences. If we could start for the beginning and show them that even if someone looks different, acts different or believes in different things, that it is not a threat to them or their lifestyle, it is just someone being themselves I think it would change the course of history for the better.

  • penguin

    I have thought about this before – i look like a penguin but my real ‘occupation’ is computer programming – So i am thinking i would have a real tough time going back to the past.. Without a leadership position i don’t know what i would do..

    I would attempt to convince them to trade with other tribes as opposed to killing other tribes in order to increase the standard of living of said tribe. I would try to explain that if we can focus on building one thing that we and other tribes need, we could trade for other things that other tribes build. By doing so we can increase the populations standard of living. I also think that if we focus on trading and building were less likely to come into physical conflict with other groups – as we would know them as a trading partner.

  • Seth

    Considering that there are still plenty of hunter gatherer tribes in the world today that are doing just fine (arguably better than us civilized people), I don’t think there’s a whole lot to offer them. They would already be well adapted to their situation, just like we modern folks are well adapted to our current situation. Any knowledge that I would have for them would need to be filtered through the lens of their reality and belief system. The goal as a time traveler would be first to learn how to fit in with their society, then figure out what modern knowledge might be useful at all, and finally figure out how to teach that knowledge in a way that would stick. I agree with some others below that the basics of hygiene and germ theory would be useful, but would need to be taught in a way they would understand, i.e. “the River God wants you to wash out your wound with fresh water” etc.

    • Tinkerbelle

      Agreed. There are Amazonian tribes that fit the profile today. Also, as a non breeding female, I’d have almost no hope of even being accepted let alone listened to and their knowledge of their environment would be a lot more relevant to survival than mine. The only thing I would invent on the spot is hot shower. For realz.

    • Greg Rosner

      Well said. Totally agree. Begs the question what is cultural evolution.

  • Bob

    I would focus on locating metal ore and developing early smelting processes. Gunpowder could be developed from charcoal, volcanic suffer, and potassium nitrate, and coal power would greatly increase productivity once shallow deposits could be located. Water wheels wouldn’t be too difficult to create, and they could mill grain and cut boards. I would want to get organized to start building a stone castle- a lot of the early ones included a moat and Bailey and would greatly increase defendability. I’m sure a lot of my survival, first aid, and basic mechanical engineering skills could prove to be useful.

  • Jacob Nestle

    First, language. Second, writing. Communication is one of the big things that I think they’d be able to use. Also, I wouldn’t touch their religion unless it had something to do with human sacrifices–those are just wasteful–and the technological knowledge I have of just simple architectural design, tools, and that’s actually about all I have that would change anything for them.

  • Jessicat

    How do we know this didn’t happen already?

    • Maybe. But each time it happens again will makes the world a.. wait a second, a better or a worse place?

  • julius

    I would invent the wheel for them and then go chill in the VIP tent for the rest of my life

  • Ramana Krishnan

    Agree with most about lacking survival skills but for whatever period I’d be there, I would try to spread a certain philosophy. A philosophy of being awed by things around but without necessarily attributing it to external unexplained ‘godly’ phenomenon. Mish-mash a bit of scientific theories (without proofs – Fermat, ftw!) and essentially start the first organized religion. 😛

  • Jacek Szyndler

    Would anyone be able to explain them how to produce antibiotics (penicilin) or at least soap without using web resources? Tim?

    • Ramana Krishnan

      A big fight club fan might be able to make some progress. He’d still need to boil fat though.

  • medmgr

    Being an engineer who does a lot of camping, I could contribute:
    – hydraulic power which can be used for irrigation of crops, power generation (stone mill for grain)
    -design structures for protection of food and supplies from weather, animals and other tribes.
    -Make bows and arrows and teach archery for hunting
    – I know enough about metallurgy to develop early steels/bronzes depending on type of ores we can obtain.
    -Depending on attitudes of neighboring tribes, can make bigger and badder weapons if needed (hopefully would not be).
    -I can build a water filter from only natural components (sand and gravel)

    That being said, I know my knowledge is not typical of modern man (outside of engineers).
    Some things everyone should be able to contribute:
    -written language
    -Cleanliness (germ avoidance) and basic sanitation requirements
    -Teaching the concept of trade
    -Brewing of beer or fermenting wine for anyone who has been on a tour of a brewery or winery – may not be able to compete with modern wineries or Budweiser – but can probably advance the art through trial and error…

  • Erik

    How to cook (modern techniques to make food tastier) and, more importantly, how to manipulate micro-organisms: brew beer, make yogurt, etc. People were already starting to do all these things around that period (roughly speaking), but presumably I could help them get better, faster because I understand the science behind it. Granted, there would be a lot of limitations (no thermometers, for instance), but then again I’d have a lot of time to improvise and innovate.

    One thing people need to remember is that people 12,000 years ago were not dumb. They were biologically identical to us and every bit as clever. The only difference with this group is that they don’t already stand on the shoulders of giants, and really, the skills that THEY have that WE lack are much more universally useful. They also have all of our modern flaws, such as tribalism. You can’t undo that in them any more than you could in modern day society.

    To think that you could rule them simply because you know a few tricks they don’t (which you probably don’t, even, in any way that could be displayed in a vacuum in 10,000 BC) is foolhardy and would probably get you killed. If you can make yourself useful and teach them something useful, then you may be able to live happily.

    • Ryan Foley

      I disagree that they are every bit as clever. There’s a great TED Talk ( that talks about how just in just 50 years people have moved up through several levels of abstraction in thinking. Sure, you may not be able to do all the skills that they can, but you have the intelligence level and the capacity of learning that far surpasses those people. If you were to demonstrate that your intellect is superior (such as specializing the tribe for efficiency or planning for the seasons as someone else suggested), I think you have an even stronger case for leading that tribe. Let them build the fires and catch the fish, you have other matters to consider.

      • Greg Rosner

        Hogwash. IQ tests are all products of the new abstraction – of course scores will be getting better. And even if this is true, he’s talking about 2% of the earth’s population – as he’s not talking about China.

        • Ryan Foley

          Why would scores be getting better if the tests are getting harder? And what does China have to do with this?

          I appreciate the response. I hope to see more of this kind of discussion here in the future, rather than just posts to the original question.

      • DrSuess

        Don’t mistake education (and the practice it brings) for intelligence.
        I forget which comedian (Louie CK?) said, “If you’re so smart, let’s drop you alone in a forest with your clothes and an ax, and let’s see how long it takes you to send me an email!”

        • Ryan Foley

          You’re right, they are different. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t related. Love the quote!

  • Jack

    As a civil engineer with a black smith hobby and medical training, I think I could contribute. The wheel would be first. This would, of course be assuming that food and shelter needs could be met easily so there was time for these things.

  • Tracey G.

    My current knowledge would likely be useless. I can’t light a fire to save my life, I don’t do well with people who struggle to communicate in non-verbal ways, and I feel fairly certain that my ‘flight or flight’ response defaults are almost non-existent. Unless the men of that time were somehow into the ‘damsel in distress’ thing, I would not last. In sum, I would be first in line to be eaten by or sacrificed to a dinosaur. Or clubbed in the head by another member of my tribal group. And I would probably deserve it.

  • Vince

    I think the only valuable knwoledge i could give to these people would be basic engineering inventions to help them in their every day life.

    The wheel for example would be very useful to help transport heavy stuff. A wooden wheelbarrow would be makable with material at hand. The only difficulty would be to stick the parts together but with some thinking I don’t think it would be too difficult.

    The pulley is another example of what could be taught to them.

    Except this kind of knowledge, i think i would have a lot to learn from them in order to live in their society.

    • Judy Ruth

      Excellent way to win friends! Wish I’d thought of this.

  • roger_orange

    I am a creature of the internet and a City Boy to the bone. If I were required to live by my atrophied survival instincts, I would surely feel more than my current distant twinges of regret over failing to embrace any of the manly-man survivalist fads of the last few years.

  • growup

    I would start by making a loaf of bread. Lots of skills involved for early man there. Then, I would slice that loaf of bread to become the greatest man EVER!

  • Douglas

    This might sound greedy, But I would probably end up building more advanced tools and weapons and with my new tribe and then be friends with other tribes and leech off of their materials. When I feel as though I am powerful enough I will go raiding, killing, and taking over other tribes to expand land. After that I would make my tribe a tribe focused on entertainment and enjoyment of life rather than just a tribe that thrives to survive.

    • Chip

      Doesn’t sound greedy. Sounds like a Scorpio thinking the way we think!!

    • Greg Rosner

      What tools and weapons do you actually know how to build? Please share.

      • Douglas

        Most likely bows as it would provide methods of hit and run raids which won’t have any consequences to my side if I can teach my tribe how to use the bow. But besides hit and run raids I could just stand back from a distance and rain arrows down on other tribes while they can’t do anything but throw rocks or run. If I wanted to wipe out an entire tribe I could make fire arrows like the fire carts they had in Korea in the Joseon Dynasty that could shoot 200+ fire arrows at once. If I had to fight closer than I could always mass produce spears with more modern tools and make shields and use the Roman infantry methods and make a wall of shields while charging at the enemy with long spears

  • Zach

    Changed my mind; in the spirit of Arthur Dent, I would contribute my excellent sandwich making skills

    • Judy Ruth

      I mentioned this, too….before I read your comments. I’m starting to think this dinner table group has some kind of strange virtual chemistry going on.

  • Carol T

    As weird as it sounds, I would teach them the universal language of laughter. When we laugh, we are all the same. When I am nervous or
    stressed, I make jokes…..often physical type, pratfalls, klutzy things. Also, I can cook and garden, which I can also teach. But I would be most prepared to learn from them as they are obviously survivors.

  • Great Pierre

    I would teach them science, like the fact that the earth is round, and algebra, and advanced reading. I’d show them not to be sexist, racist, or homophobic. I’d also tell them that I’m a supernnatural being and trick them into listening to them with petty little magic tricks.

    • Greg Rosner

      What tricks do you actually know? Please share.

      • Great Pierre

        Like the one wit the magically dissapearing thumb

        • Greg Rosner

          That’s a good one. 😉 most effective 😉

  • Ana

    I would use my knowledge to make them all work for me. Dominating the ignorant like a goddess.

    • Greg Rosner

      I’d love to hear about how you would do this. 😉

  • jacob

    I would teach them how to farm so that human technology would advance “quicker”.

  • Greg Rosner

    This was my suggestion for the dinner table, thanks Tim for posing it and thanks everyone for contributing your ideas and suggestions as to what knowledge you would and could share, that may or may not be useful

    There are a lot of assumptions in this Scenario. For example, just because you explain geometry to people doesn’t mean anyone will understand. Just because you explain germ “theory” doesn’t mean anyone will get it. I say theory because how can you prove that germs exist without showing that they exists? So you can probably do a side by side study of treating a wound the right way?? Vs the way they were currently bandaging wounds. But what would YOUR knowledge of “the right way” be? When I say “your” I actually mean “your” knowledge, not knowledge that may exists inside text book, in a Google Search, or in one your friends heads who you can’t call on your iPhone.(!)

    As for me, I have given this a lot of thought and here are the things I know and can offer this tribe;
    1. Sing many awesome Beatles songs I know by heart. By the fire. Also hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. I think they’d like it. And they might decide to keep me hanging around to teach the other important shit I think I know.
    2. Show them that I was capable of learning their ways and their language as a means of demonstrating my intelligence and my desire to be one of them. I would try to prove to be useful in a way they can understand. This also will make whatever I can pass on to them over time, as far as my knowledge goes, easier to digest for all involved since I can place my knowledge in the context of theirs.
    3. A few Ju-jitsu moves very effective when in a wrestling fight. (These have evolved over millennia) I think they might like this.
    4. EDGE method of teaching (this is cultural technology)
    Explain with words or pictures, Demonstrate, Give them the thing do try and do it, Then have them Explain it back to you.
    5. I love to draw, and I am pretty good at it. I would be able to teach a 2D and 3D perspective art class if anyone was interested. Plus I know the alphabet which is like HUGE.
    6. Assuming there is no standard written word yet, (not like there is any standard language today with more than 6,000 languages still spoken today) I would teach the roman alphabet and numbers (26 characters and basic numerology.) With an alphabet people can write stuff and pass knowledge of what they know that way. Also with numbers, I would share my understanding of numbers, how to add zeros to the 1 as a way too multiply by 10. I am thinking 5th grade math might be very useful in facilitating trade and bartering.
    7. Calendaring – assuming they don’t yet know what day is – on any given Tuesday – for example, I can explain how they can keep their summer calendar from slipping into winter by counting 365 days after the longest day of the year. (June 21st?) then adding an extra day sometime in June? (Nicer than Feb 29 I think) every four years to account for leap year. This time-sync will help with meet-ups and trading events between tribes and villages which will speed up cultural evolution. (But this lead me to think – is speeding up cultural evolution a good thing?)
    8. Chess- Even though I suck at chess, I could make a chessboard and chess pieces and play chess with anyone willing to play.
    9. Music – I could teach what I know about music theory, the octave and classic harmony. (I.e. Row row row your boat) I could lead an acapella group.
    10. The Art of the Question – science is all about questioning and seeking the truth. I would demonstrate my ability to ask the right questions which do the work in opening closed minds and revealing new possibilities. To pass on the value of questioning as a uniquely human trait and one which has opened countless doors ( in the future?) would be very valuable I think.

    And if they didn’t feed me to the wolves by now, I would then live out my days in this small community looking to create the same health, fellowship, and peace that I seek now.

    • Judy Ruth

      I swear I wrote my comments, including specifically mentioning the Beatles and this very song, prior to reading your comments. Your other ideas are thoughtful, too! I’ll keep them in mind, since, as I wrote above, I don’t have the best voice. I’m pretty sure something like this is going to happen to me some day, so I appreciate the additional tips!

      • Greg Rosner

        Whoa, so synchronicity. Agreed!

    • Greg Rosner

      OK – so wow. Many amazing posts here – learning a lot. Here is what I’ve learned so far from people at the table:
      (Stream of consciousness style – so please forgive the run-on sentences, bad grammar and poor structuring)

      1. Atrocities – Going back in time as a man is like totally different than going back in time as a woman. I have romanticized the notion of time travel and completely forgot that it would likely totally suck to be a lone naked woman trying to get in with the tribe and educate them. But maybe not though – especially if the tribe was run by Matriarchs which judging by Native American tradition which still exists today, which is arguably 5-10K old, this might be the case. So this whole piece is interesting because it speaks to the cultural evolution of humans and what may be OK to do to each other 12,000 years ago is not OK to do ANYWHERE ON EARTH today. Which is absolutely a huge step forward. While there is still media sensation swarming around horrible things that people do to each other – (cause it sells ad space) I think there is FAR less murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, torture, slavery, and other atrocities being done on the planet today – than there was 12,000 years ago – especially if you tried to normalize the population numbers per incident. Nation-backed slavery was only abolished on the planet a couple hundred years ago – (in the U.S. which is shameful through my 20th century eyes) which means that 12,000 years ago, on earth, slavery was pretty much how shit got done and normal through the eyes of an earth-goer. (If you were conquered, pretty good chance you were dead or were a slave. (i.e. Jews in Egypt = Pyramids. But were the pyramids “progress”? Rhetorical question.)

      2. Medicine – Not having Antibiotics would totally suck. So, like after a few years I imagine I would die a painful, slow and horrible death – from an infected leaf cut or something stupid like that – as so many of us did back then. But not sure if you know but I surely don’t know how to rustle up some penicillin – in any environment except a Wallgreens (with a prescription, of course), so I would be pretty much screwed.

      3. The notion of “Race” hasn’t come up so far as being an issue in gaining acceptance to the tribe – which is fascinating, and I’m not sure why because for many people it’s still a big issue. It could be because in this scenario we are already the “outsider” so by definition we would be considered a different breed than everyone else. But skin color has been a big deal (albeit a complete illusion) culturally speaking over the past hundred years.

      4. Civilization Reboot? Some folks on this blog have brought up this scenario as analogous to surviving the apocalypse and helping restore culture and progress. And most folks (not all) seem to think that progress would be a good thing for those hairy and pungent smelling folks. So what came up for me in reading several posts was how it seems we want to progress, no matter what the situation, we seem to want to evolve and make things better – as a given, – – as the baseline human desire, as the starting point which never seems to end, in spite of a pretty much all-inclusive civilization reboot. (i.e. Slavery = Bad. Equality = Good) What was interesting to read about was how people would try to introduce the same things that came about in our past – like metallurgy, and simple machines – which follow in our footsteps. But what if progress was more about deeper relationships with each other, and spiritual connectedness with the earth and everyone and everything in it, versus material gain and “material progress”. Or a better balance of those two things. Or are those levels of consciousness really not available until a plethora of human needs are met? I think there are some monks today living with nothing and with minimums to survive who would argue that point. I then wonder if there was such a renaissance – so to speak, 12,000 years ago – in some tribe or civilization somewhere on the planet. And as they evolved culturally, spiritually and technologically – things were going great until – wham, a nasty virus wiped out the folks with the knowledge and insight. Civilization 2.0

      – – –
      All this makes me think about what it means to be alive, to be human – and I wonder if this fundamental impulse, this spark – to evolve – to improve – is what ALL LIFE shares in the cosmos and which has propelled us and continues to propel us forward through physical and cultural progress.

    • Matt

      Very civilized and erudite the things you suggest but i think you missed the point.

      They have barely what to not starve, you can teach them some fancy ninja moves for half an hour but then “Hey, very cool but now i think is mammoth time” and good luck teahing alphabet and math, math is boring even when you have enough food, clothes and paper, coomerce is unexisting, you can’t make commerce with only one merchant:
      -Hey, we have some sparkling stones, gonna trade?
      -Oh, I just some rotten meet between my last two theeth, what a fortuite coincidence!
      When they understand you. And not try to kill you and take the stones.

      Every attempt to teach something unuseful for heathing or feeding would be like
      “Hey dude, not to offend but there is that hot neolithic chick there and you are very funny but you know, I’m like 12 in your strange count sistem, and i was thinking I’m becoming very old and so you are ok but sex is better, you should try”

      Give them scientific progress without a culture and they will kill each other with it, give them cultural progress without science and you’ll teach Socrate to a pile of starved-to-death corpse.

      • Greg Rosner

        Very interesting. Seems it’s best to have both at the same time?

        • Matt

          In my opinion yes. You can’t have one without the other any form of civilization and them are both very slowly achievable, centuries or millennia even for one who already know what to do.

          So unless you are so lucky and get two dinner table topic in one shot (the one of the choosen time to live, which would be funny knowing beside yourself there are millions of unalphabetized, unmathematized and easy frightened men put in front of a calculator and a sheet) there is no way to build a civilization in a (now very shortened) lifetime.

          Taken act of this war is a good option for my point of view, we are quite different from 10000BC homo sapiens this and knowing how to make bricks, soap and zebra chops could make you quite popular, quite a god. Obtained adoration from the tribe and taken act that your viruses kill anyone make close contact you are mostly a death god, perhaps making them drink your blood coud immunize them, if so it could be a cool ritual to your personal priests/bodyguard too.

          I would teach them a mix of jumpstyle and charleston as gods propitiating dance, funny.

          Next step is to find some copper and tin in rocky mountains and melt them in bronze armor and spear, could take a couple of years. This armor make you close to immortal against stone weapons, unless a deadly animal bites you or a little scratch infects or you catch cold after eating or your armor makes you drown.

          Try to submit other tribes and mantein yours in a rigid hierarchic, hunter/gatherer (more free time), to other impose agricolture, the ones that submit spontaneously would make the noble class and military caste, the others would provide food from medium-tech farms (irrigation, colture rotation, cut and burn) but not as slaves, give them some basic rights and most important when they reach a certain age give them a 50% chance to become a “noble” this would dramatically reduce insurrections and remember always to underline your god-like nature, not for narcisism but you need social stability when you are alive AND after to make your society grow in millennias to come.

          PS remember if you find caves or protected place to go inside and make a very simple stikman cave painting style and write under “Screw Monnalisa” or rearrange some bones to form “Dumb who read”; just to screw up the minds of archaeologists.

  • What a great, humility inspiring topic! 🙂

    Honestly, to humans living (as far as we know) at the very, very beginning of
    the agricultural revolution, pretty much everything I know about the last
    12,000 years (not to mention everything I know about day-to-day existence in
    the 21st century) would be entirely, utterly and completely useless.

    For example, it’d take me a few weeks of practice just to be able to
    competently start a fire without matches, flint or steel. Using a bow drill
    ain’t as easy as it looks.

    Physically, I’d probably also be useless (despite being a bit stronger and a
    bit more athletic than might be labeled average in the 21st century). I’m
    fairly positive, by 12,000 years-ago-standards, I’d be an awkward,
    uncoordinated, clumsy, far too noisy 200-lb weakling who has far too big an

    So…moving on, to a presumptuous angle…

    The only thing of any use that I could possibly bring would be associated with
    the fact that I’ve been intrigued by primitive technology, history and anthropological
    paleontology…particularly the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages (as well as
    Native American and Mongolian cultures) since I was a very small boy.

    So (if what I could offer wasn’t immediately labeled the preposterous, far too
    obvious advice of a novice poseur, fool and idiot), the best I might be able to
    do, to help my new tribesmen (and women), would be to offer (to them, what
    might be) “advanced” ideas and notions about medicine (which would be
    pretty much limited to first aid, of course), shelter design, pottery,
    rudimentary metallurgy, spear and bow design, etc.

    Ultimately, in my very humble opinion, any tribe that ended up with any of us
    would probably be better off leaving us to our own devices…much like the
    Spartans did with children born with birth defects…

    (Yes, I just did that….I’d say, compared to our ancient forebears, modern
    humans probably most resemble mentally retarded adults, born severely
    handicapped.) Just our memories alone, being individuals who use gadgets in
    place of ars memoriae, would make us appear to be ridiculous fools if compared
    to intelligent individuals of any pre-gadget era.

  • Hagbard Celine

    1st thing, show them how to make soap. 2nd shower head. 3rd hot water.

    • mallo

      I don’t think you’d be able to make these three things using stuff like sticks and stones and dead animals

      • Patrick Fang

        You totally could, soap was originally made from rendered fat from animals

        • mallo

          I don’t think you’d be able to just take fat off dead animals in a way to make soap.

  • Volksgasmaske

    Interesting question. I don’t know if this event would be their lucky day.
    1. First I would do is trying to stay alive. This sounds unusual but for me it’s the next pragmatical / logical task. The power of resistance of my organsim against bacteria, viruses and other hostile factors concerning food intake (e.g. untreated meat, unwashed food) is different and weak compared to the people from 10000 BC.
    2. I would learn their language and integrate in their community to reespect their habits, tradition and values.
    3. I would teach them how to produce qualitively good food that is an initial condition for a longer and healthier life.
    4. I would show them how to make paper and use bird feathers (blood can be used as ink) to draw simple shapes.
    5. I would develop a written language based on the language they taught me and the alphabet.
    6. I would teach them reading, writing and fundamentals in mathematics (addition, subtraction, multiplication and geometry) and medicine. The reason is, everthing I will teach them and everything they already know or will learn should be stored to a knowledge management system for succeeding generations.
    7. If still alive, I would practise philosophy with my new friends.

  • Gokhan Arslan

    Our knowledge alone wouldn’t have any practical advantage for a comfortable life no matter how much we know now. Every final product we use today is the result of a natural substance being processed at least half a dozen times. Some people might have really practical jobs such as blacksmith, carpenter or tailor; however, you need to keep in mind blacksmith must mine the metal from the earth, and you are surely not going to find any iron mining site in 10,000 BC. Same thing applies to the carpenter; he must find some sharp tools first to practice his/her mastership. My engineering skills are next to useless since there are no tools that I can create my magic with. So I’d just die in a couple of weeks.
    As a matter of fact, I would probably die of boredome in 10,000 BC long before being eaten by a saber.

  • vitaminCMC

    For the most part, I see this ending up very badly. I get the feeling that even if I didn’t want to, I would probably still manage to infect the tribe with some sort of social anxiety. And that may be an incredibly pessimistic way to look at this scenario, but I honestly see that happening. Granted, that’s just me – someone who deals with GAD, depression, and BiPolar 2 Disorder on a daily basis, so my assessment of the situation is going to be colored by that. But, I still think that our modern brains are too complex, especially on a social level, to function with this hypothetical tribe.

    • Wiremu Hohepa

      Autistic self-reliance might work (with the ability to watch and learn survival well enough for success.)

  • Judy Ruth

    In Mostly Harmless, by Douglas Adams, Arthur Dent arrives on a primitive planet to realize that the only real thing he has to offer them are his sandwich making skills. He has no idea how any of the advanced technologies operate. Nor do I. I couldn’t even make gun powder like Captain Kirk was able to when he was cast on that planet with the lizard man. However, I can sing many Paul Simon songs, Beatles songs, and I believe I could find a way, over time, to make a rudimentary guitar that would play a few chord like strums. In spite of the fact that I don’t have the best voice, I believe I would be honored as a singer. I could piece together the words of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, and just fit in whatever I learned of their language, and that would do the trick.

  • Thorsten Schulte

    One question first, would any modern bacteria or viral infections go the way of my other “modern accessories”? if not I might have to chose to hide and search for the portal back until I die alone…

    Otherwise there are possibilities I might want to avoid: Killing them all! and by extension killing everyone else including myself…
    And being so lucky, that might destroy the universe whole because it can’t handle time-paradoxons…

    If I can’t avoid them and don’t immediately vanish after contact, I might feel inclined to stay and see what I could do, but still I might undo myself by changing human history, leading to a paradoxon I don’t understand and can’t possibly predict…but who know, I might have stepped through a wormhole and are not in the past but on another, younger planet!?!?

    However, being next to a child when it comes to hunting mammoths with sticks and stones, I probably would have to try to be of some other use to them if I want to live and I guess, there might be any number of possibilities, we probably all know many things we aren’t even aware of to improve what they already have…

    agriculture, construction, even medicine. Even in Kindergarten we learned some things unknown to anyone even remotely as long ago… cpr? I don’t know If they did that when somone recently drowned or choked?

    So…I think they could eventually become as glad as myself they fed me xD

  • Eli Peter

    Ooh, interesting question. Knowing that planet Neptune exists or that matter is made of atoms or what the Magna Carta says is all well and good, but it doesn’t really help filling out the base of the Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs.

    I think the most valuable things I’d bring to the table are:

    1. How to avoid disease
    2. A sense of geography/seasons/direction

    Hopefully I’d remember to bring the Timetraveller’s Cheatsheet:

    Being an Electrical Engineer I’d try to build some next level stuff: a compass, some kind of generator, although hunting down materials would be an incredible pain in the ass. There’s a great book about how hard it is to build the most simple appliance (a toaster) from scratch:

  • Jochen Kirn

    With all the apocalypse and zombie TV shows in the last few years, I sure wonder what my role would be in a post-apocalyptic society, where basic skills and trades come in a lot more handy than college education. I think that this is not too far away from the scenario at the dinner table. Now I am an engineer and project manager in heavy industrial construction… not even a mining engineer or anything, who can “smell” where precious materials lurk in the ground and how they are recovered and processed; it’s more about budgets and contracts. My wife, on the other hand, is a nurse and also very resourceful around crafting wood. I hope she would get the two of us a place by the campfire (no matter if it’s 10,000 BC or 2200 AD).

  • David Grigg

    You couldn’t. Poul Andersen wrote a science fiction story like this, and his hero from the future perishes miserably. His take-out before the end: “You don’t have the tools to make the tools to make the tools!”.

  • WW

    Spear heads to hunt better, help them figure out agriculture and basic tools, and then I’d make up a crazy mythology that is basically just semi-realistic teachings from the future and hope that it would make a wiser and less war mongering people… because religion can live on for a long long time.

    Once they get some free time, it would be time to paint… starting with human anatomy. Then I would teach a bunch of people theoretical mathematics because it would be fun, but I have no idea how they would work that into practical applications, but I’m pretty sure they would need them to derive the pythagorean theorem to build stuff.

    Then I’ll live the rest of my days continuing to make up the mythology and figuring out ways to return to the creature comforts of the present.

  • nathan woodard

    I could teach them how use physical leverage to construct huge stone obelisks to mystify scientists thousands of years hence and divert attention from study of various causes of the inevitable downfall and extinction of tribal ways. After final assembly of a couple good sized obelisk farms I would settle down and construct a nice little farm and start domesticating various plants and animals. In the unlikely event that I’m not killed and eaten by a rival tribe of hunter gatherers, I will be living a life of such ease and comfort that most members of my new tribe–minus a handful of outspoken misfits and deviants– will be highly envious, to say the least, and pretty soon the majority of them will follow suit. Once they get a sense of just how tough it is to run profitable farming operations they will slowly but surely abandon the old obsolete practice of reciprocal altruism that has served them so well for thousands of years, and they will begin to selfishly hoard their surpluses to carry themselves over through bad seasons. The ones who fail early will be forced to either starve or enter servile relationships in which they become serfs to the luckier and more resourceful members who will mercilessly exploit their suffering in order to leverage their advantage to the maximum extent possible without provoking a revolt.

    About 9,900 years later, my great^15 granddaughter, now living in New Jersey, will finance a team of archeologists to study newly discovered obelisks uncovered by a Panamanian canal digger just before he died of malaria.

  • Kwayedza Bokani Butshe

    I would basically chill and enjoy just watching them do what they do and document it as best I can for for posterity . I would try to be as none interventionist as I can “the butterfly effect” comes to mind. Intervention could go horribly wrong as they may not be ready to understand what I want to teach. As horrible as it sounds I would just so me and document.

  • Innocent Bystander

    I don’t think my current knowledge would be that useful. These people need the basics just to survive. Outside of that the only real wisdom I think I could impart is what the infield fly rule is and why it is necessary.

  • DrSuess

    I’m a jr high science teacher, and the vast majority of what I know and teach would be completely useless in that era. David Grigg’s answer 45 minutes ago is completely spot on. Oh, the atmosphere is made of 20% oxygen, 78 %nitrogen, 1% argon… who gives a F%&$!

    EXCEPT…. a strong grasp of the 6 simple machines… … could probably invent a bunch of tools they didn’t have. An Archimedes screw or simple water wheel could be revolutionary. Even knowing that you can make hotter fires in an oven or kiln-like structure could alter their materials technology. Leverage. Pulleys. HUGE!

    Basic arithmetic.

    Written Language.

    IF we are at a time before agriculture and domestication, even knowing that that is a possibility compared to hunting and gathering would change everything (for that group, as it seems they (we??) DID figure that out on our own).

    I also bet that they would have far more knowledge than we give them credit for… especially in their native environment.

  • Sam Kozman

    I’m pretty sure that the person coming into the tribe would contain way more knowledge then they could fathom. Basically, I would start a school, teaching the very basics of math and language, while doing my best not to piss off the alpha tribe member or any of the tribe people.

    I would start with math, and then move on to language. Both of these would be cool because the people of that age possess the same amount of brain processing power, but more than likely, they would think a lot differently. This means explaining the definition of the number ‘one’ and using numerals, or explaining how different sounds mean different things, all without being able to communicate through English. All in all, if I could explain these concepts, I would start the first school, and take all the young ones who are not old enough to provide for the tribe yet, and teach them awesome ways of communicating.

  • Jacek Szyndler

    Fuck it. I would simplify it to give them the recipe for burger and french fries. I guess the wouldnt have potatoes though. It could still be french fries made of carrots. ( it depends on the continet). I assume they have the basic knowledge of making flour and chopping the cows meat? Can you imagine if it wouldnt start last age but 10000 bc?

  • Josue0877

    I will become a story teller of the events I have lived through and learned about. Let them get what ever they like off of it and depending on what questions i get asked, dwell deeper into that story.

  • Luc Beaudry

    Assuming they feed me and protect me long enough for me to learn how to survive (and that might take a while), my first thought is that I would like to do two things: 1) take time to observe and learn what they know, what they think, how they think in order to know where to start with… 2) introducing the consciousness staircase and get “humans” as far as possible up the steps early on. My hope is that this would lead to more wonder and less plunder; more appreciation and less destruction; more inclusivity and less separation; more understanding and less protecting. I’d love to see what impact that would have on the next 12,000 years.

  • The tribe members would be far better adapted to living in their world than I, so firstly I’d try to learn from them their language, customs and survival techniques. Only then would I offer to use my knowledge to introduce improvements. I see it as two way street with us both learning from each other. Obviously I wouldn’t be able to able to bring them right up to the 21st century, but daresay I could help to advance them several hundred years into the future.

  • Heidrun Searles

    I don’t think I would use much if any of my knowledge. I would enjoy a simpler more spiritually connected life. I might warn the people not to domesticate anything other than dogs to help with the hunt. I would try to prophesie about the dangers of becoming “civilized”. I would certainly use the skill set I already possess to live in the wild and accept the advice of the people living in the area as to what is safe to eat and how to live. I would use my knowledge of first aid and help teach how to set a broken limb, stop bleeding, and basic CPR. So I guess come to think of it I would use the knowledge I have. I would not teach easier ways to make fire or how to find and forge metals. I would defiantly speak against this knowledge and the dangers that come with it.

  • Tyrant#1

    If I got effed into living in a past with no internet, TV, refrigeration or any of the trappings of modern life I’d say screw it- I’m going to take over the known world. I’d use my knowledge of Machiavellian tactics and basic combat strategies to dominate the other neighboring tribes. Bows and arrows, spear/phalanx formations, flanking, fortifications etc. likely would have been completely unknown. Better yet, if trading exists compound interest and treaties could be completely one sided. Subjugating the local tribes would likely give me the pick of all the cave babes I could handle whereby I could then impart my knowledge of the kama sutras or whatever crazy stuff I want.

    • Vancesca Dinh

      Okay Tyrant number one. Seems like you’ve put quite a bit of thought into the means to rule the world even before this question was posed.

  • qhardy

    I think the big decision would be whether to impart (a) writing and (b) a sense of cause and effect, repeated hypothesis-experimentation, and a custom of building behaviors around test and measurement of observed phenomena — the roots of the 17th C. Scientific Revolution. It’s hard to think what could alter the next several millennia more. Would one really absent God (at least, in some detailed, dogmatic way)? Would a sense of sequential material progress reshape a view of mankind? Would ushering in a machine age stop centuries of enslavement? Or, on the other hand, would one be speeding the destruction of the natural planet?

  • madeye

    I think I would show them where cannabis naturally grows and its use as a relaxant, and how its so easy to grow.That might save the world from future world wars may be.It might help people might find peace without much materialistic desires .Might even help save them from wild animals if they succeed in getting them passively smoked up.

    • notsofast

      Good God think about how much less would get done. 2014 would be the bronze age…

      • flame821

        Meh, if he got transported back to the Middle East and could put a softer edge on the monotheists god we’d never be forced to endure the Dark Ages so in the end I think we’d have a net gain.

        • Anthony Churko

          The “Dark Ages” was a 19th century term for the Middle Ages that modern historians don’t even use anymore. It’s a debunked myth that religion held-back scientific advancement during that time – the vast majority of scientists were Christian or Muslim.

  • qhardy

    Also: “Wash your hands.”

  • Jin

    This is rather drastic and I’d rather not to disturb the natural progress because I would not know how my knowledge will be used. I’d be much happier if I can travel to the future since my lack of knowledge won’t do any harm to others.

  • istvan

    Start with the children. Small children are equally clueless and flexible-minded in any age.

  • JameyB

    I think they could teach me 1,000 times more than I could ever teach them about the human experience and what it means to be ALIVE. I’m sure I could add value to their tribe by explaining basic medical skills, introducing math, how to plant crops, fighting strategy, etc but at the end of the day…that knowledge wouldn’t get them anywhere ‘better’ than they already were.

    We are conditioned to think that we are so f’ing special but in reality, most of us have never needed or forgotten the skills necessary to live in the world 50 years ago. I know there’s lots of Boyscouts out there who could last a few weeks with the natives but most of us would be screwed like me…and they are kidding themselves if they think otherwise. Personally, I would crap my pants if I was in the jungle in 10,000 B.C. I would be terrified of living outside where anyone who wants to can kill you, scared to death about diseases and poisonous plants/insects/etc. and worried about how to get myself enough food to last a week. They would think I was worthless and probably cast me out of their tribe soon.

    • Amy


    • WW

      Why do you think they have so much more to teach you than you have to teach them, when you have 10k years of development stored in your brain. You know things that are possible – visiting the moon, clean water, skyscrapers, cars, airplanes, etc – technology that they cannot even imagine. You don’t think that you would have some capacity to help them?

      So what if we lost the skills to live 50 years ago. We’re adapting to a new world and using new and relevant skills. That’s the same as looking down upon an older person who has trouble using an iPhone.

      • JameyB

        I’m glad you asked…

        I guess my point was that the people who lived in 10,000 B.C. got feel alive on a day to day basis and when anyone today wants to experience those feelings, we have to take a break from our lives and seek those activities somewhere else. Even when we do that, we still enjoy the comforts of technology before, during and after that camping trip (drive your car there, use metal and plastic tools to make fire, sleep under a tent, eat pre-packaged foods or hunt with a gun, use a knife to eat…you get the point).

        We don’t know what it’s like to feel like a human. They did…and they could teach me to feel ALIVE as I have never felt before. So we adapt by getting our thrills through jumping out of an airplane or something else like that to get a glimpse of what it feels like to experience real fear/adrenaline.

        Most of us don’t need to rely on our human bodies to do anything other than the bare minimum. To compensate, some of us go to gyms and use equipment to achieve a body that will attract someone to like us. Most of that strength isn’t functional and wouldn’t do you any good. Or how about running on a tread mill. When in the hell would anyone need to run in a straight line? Ever? If you were running from an enemy through dense woods with all kinds of obstacles in your way, or chasing down a wild boar to kill it…you would need all of your instincts and none of the aesthetically pleasing muscles that are achieved in super cool work out clothes…and don’t forget those highlighter yellow Nike shoes!

        I think it would be amazing to be able to feel when the rain is coming and rejoice because that means food will be there for you and your family. To experience the confidence that comes from sensing danger nearby and fighting it off personally so you don’t get eaten alive. To know what it’s like to have to rely on our friends and family while you build a house together so you don’t freeze that winter. I realize I’m getting a little ‘hippie tree hugger’ on you but honestly I think we don’t get enough of this stuff anymore. Most of us don’t ever feel alive.

        What would my knowledge do to help them in their current state? Even if I told them that humans will go to the moon, drive cars, etc. – what then? They’d look at me and say ‘oh cool, that sounds pretty neat… about this hunt we’re about to go on…are you just going to watch from afar and then look away when we gut the animal again because you don’t know how to help and you don’t like the sight of blood?’ Let’s say that I did convince them to help me build something with a couple levers, some rope and a pulley – chances are that another tribe will come along some day and kill them all, wiping out that knowledge from human existence (like when the great library of Alexandria was burned down and we lost countless treasures of knowledge and culture). It wouldn’t have to be anytime soon but eventually, something would happen.

        On the flip side, humans would keep going and figure it out all over again. I don’t think one person could change much of human history. Yes you need a person with an idea to get big things started but unless they are in the most powerful tribe and the right time in history, it wouldn’t end up in a history book.

  • Ymmitg

    I think in many ways our knowledge would be very beneficial, but in most ways it would be useless. You see these TV shows like ‘Naked and Afraid’ and within a 1-2 weeks these people are starving and making ill advised choices. I think we’d really be relying on the tribe to keep us alive and thriving and not the other way around.

  • Eric

    I would use what knowledge I have now to perform simple magic tricks, thus making me a great wizard. I’d use my status amongst the tribe to gain favor amongst the tribes women, and work my way into a leadership role. From there I’d militarize the tribe into a force that hasn’t been seen since the Roman Empire and conquer the known world, the tribes people would love me, for they wouldn’t have to struggle to survive, the slaves we would aquire from our conquests would do all the hard labor, and food preperation. I imagine they’d most likely have sacrifices in my honor as well.. And giant statues too.. the people of today would read about me when they found my temple complex ruins throughout the world, and be in awe of my name.

    • Rodrigo Gomes

      “the people of today would read about me when they found my temple complex ruins” -> You started thinking big, then ruined everything in the last sentence. Why not be worshipped until current days?

  • Terry

    Kiss my behind goodbye. Mostly likely any attempt at communication would reveal me to be an evil outsider.

  • Bailiuchan

    Considering I’m a female, probably nothing, even if I had something to teach or share because it’s most likely a patriarchy. And there will be no reproducing on my part, soooo… I’m having too many flashbacks to Clan of the Cave Bear. I hate that book and want those hours of my life back.

    • Amy

      Actually, there is possible evidence that some societies were matriarchal at this time. Clan of the Cave Bear is fiction, and those people were Neanderthals.

      • Bailiuchan

        This comment might be a reason why I rarely engage in internet conversation. Yes, I know it’s fiction, but thanks. And matriarchal societies exist today but are statistically rare. Extrapolating from that knowledge leads me to believe that it would likely be a patriarchy that I would enter. I can hardly think of why it would make any difference to note that Clan of the Cave Bear had Homo Neaderthalis (assuming that you take the majority view that they were a separate species, and I am working on statistical probabilities) when looking at the hypothetical scenario or even my brief thoughts on it (which solely relate to patriarchies). Is there a difference as to temporal existence? Yes. It there a difference as to the existence of a patriarchy? Statistically, probably not. Was the protagonist a (Cro-Magnon) girl struggling to fit into a patriarchal society? Absolutely.

        • Amy

          Oh, SO sorry to inconvenience you by responding to your first statement. I guess you know it all.

  • Patrick C

    Useless….they were way ahead of us in adapting, living off the land, and fending off enemies. And, they probably had all the tattoos they could handle!

  • Robert Louis Pagnani

    Well, without my iPhone, they would think I was out of my tree, because there would be nothing to corroborate what I could share with them! The world is round?? Gravity? How electricity is made (and I actually can make a transformer), aeronautics?

    But it would be hard to even get a foot in w/o credibility.

    Think, if they were a peaceful tribe with plenty to eat, it would be much easier to assimilate and pray I didn’t get a health condition.

  • Morgan

    I have to think I would do nothing. I would try to adapt to the lingo of the time, and learn from my fellow humans what their ways are. I may use the fact that I can create fire and use salt to my advantage, but otherwise I think I would just be startled by how clean the air and everything else is!

  • Dan

    Honestly, the traveller would be at a disadvantage more than anything else. Most of our modern knowledge is integrated with technology, and without the means to recreate that technology the knowledge is useless. In fact, the most useful knowledge for the time would be for hunting and survival– something most modern people are sorely lacking.

    There could be some cases of using advanced knowledge, such as the wheel, or crude attempts at more advanced weapons, but those would be the only useful things.

    • Nicole Tsandelis Mason

      You’re right. I don’t know how to make a fire without a match, and even then it’s touch and go.

  • Guy Rosen

    Written language.

    There’s a whole sub-genre here everyone is discussing on whether we’d be at an advantage at all, what’s right and wrong, how we’d even communicate or convince them to do anything. I’ll ignore all of that for a moment because the fun is on the macro level, figuring out what part of our knowledge could actually help.

    Acknowledging that I know very little that’s practical for survival, I’ll take an economics-like investment approach and prioritize knowledge that will help to develop further knowledge and discovery.

    Reading and writing are probably THE MOST important long term investment. If there was one thing I’d spend the rest of my life on, it’d be figuring out how to make paper/parchment/ink/stone etching/whatever. Writing will enable knowledge to be passed down, from small things like which plants are poisonous (I wouldn’t know…) to new discoveries, to things like where to find iron ore (I wouldn’t know either, but someone might eventually figure it out…).

    There’s also other things an average 21-century person might be able to figure out like basic sanitation, making a wheel, navigation by stars, domesticating animals, simple agriculture, etc. But it’d take me time to figure out how to do these things in the reality of 10,000 BC so being able to document them will be the most important part!

  • Bill

    Learn their language while trying to survive and become integrated into the tribe. Then introduce a phonetic alphabet and writing. I don’t know how to make paper or ink, but stone carvings are a start. I’d try to make myself a valued advisor to the leaders, as an outsider who shows off fancy new ideas probably wouldn’t live long, especially considering I’d be totally dependant on them for food. Hygene, basic agricultural concepts, basic math, and geometry would follow. I suck at math and wouldn’t have much to teach, but I expect Pi and the Pythagorian theorem would be one heck of a kick start. Id introduce what simple machines i could with available materials. A kiln ought not to be too hard to figure out, and with it would come varmint-resistent food and water containers, as well as bricks. Creating a currency would boost trade. If I actually got to a position of power. I’d impart a belief that all mysteries have natural explanations, and that learning, individual rights and freedoms, and rule of law are paramount virtues. I’d also teach basic military tactics so my jump-started civilization would be less likely to be wiped out by nasty neighbors.

  • Diceman

    There is some basic knowledge that the average modern human can use beneficially, even in prehistoric times – making basic tools and weapons, clothing, shelter, basic hygiene and medical (water purification, sterilization, food prep) – you won’t likely be re-inventing computers, or even electricity, during your lifetime (maybe electricity, I guess?) – but a number of technological advances could be made, even by a relatively helpless modern human who has little in the way of survival skills, assuming the tribe takes care of your basic needs.

    • Kanchan

      I remember a short story based on this exact same concept, can’t remember the name though. A scientist invented a time machine and introduced these in the middle ages. The mortality rate dropped and population soared, and by 21st century, the earth was like jam packed with human bodies upto the core.

  • Nikhil

    To read and write and to carefully preserve these records in a permanent way would be the most important thing. Learning technologies far ahead of their time is quite dangerous because the human brain and m,ental capasities have also evolved along with the technologies so that human kind is able to safely use them. I would let evolution run its course but enable future generations to learn more about their past ancestors though the recording of history. Even today I am not sure if human kind is able to safely manage technologies with the capacity for mass destruction.

  • nielmalan

    There is a temptation to say I’ll introduce a lot of technology, but I know that technology depends on developments far beyond the capabilities of one man. The smelting of metals requires much larger groups than my little tribe.
    Pottery is of course an easy introduction, and I’ll do that.
    I’d introduce them to the relationship between dirt and disease. With some luck, with my newly-introduced pots, we will be able to boil soap. I’ll explain the relationship between sex and babies.
    I’ll introduce my little tribe to democracy, explaining that it’s not always the strongest man who has the best ideas.
    Then I will do my utmost to unteach them agriculture. According to Jared Diamond, the biggest mistake we’ve ever made was to start farming. (
    Should we ever have to engage in warfare, I will have to introduce them to the principles of deception and command, control and intelligence. War will also necessitate the preservation of food, because the army that can stay in the field the longest will probably win.

  • epistememe

    The time and effort required to educate adults would be more productively spent on educating the young.

    Assuming I could ingratiate myself into the tribe so as to not be considered a threat but a useful member I would then quickly try to find one or more wives to quickly have children. I would try to isolate both the wives and children sufficiently from the others in the tribe and spend as much of my time as possible educating them. Doing this while not alienating myself or family from the tribe so as to cause conflict. If this is not possible then I would learn to be as self sufficient as possible and take my family away from the danger so that their education can continue. My kids and possibly the wives as well, would become multilingual. The kids would …..

    -eventually have all of my knowledge (I am a retired science teacher)

    -live longer than I

    -be numerous

    -likely both male and female

    -able to fit-in and communicate as native speakers

    -read and write

    -math from the basics to trig, geometry, etc.

    The goal is to pass on the greatest amount of beneficial information to the greatest number of people. This is best done by educating the teachers. One is likely to not live very long in these conditions so time is of the essence. While educating my children and wives I would be furiously trying to write down whatever knowledge I have on whatever means I could store it on.

  • Bungdeetle

    I often think about the ethics of time travel. I have come to the conclusion that, given the choice, I would choose not to travel into the past, and probably not even the future. We evolve in ways more subtle than can be articulated, always learning from the smallest events. To mess with that process and “undo” mistakes could lead life down a path it was not meant to go.

    Now that my choice is removed in this scenario, I would not specifically seek to teach anything. Not only do I not know much of anything in this world (jack of all trades, master of none), I don’t know much about survival in 10,000 BC, at least I wouldn’t know much more than the others, apart from things like hygiene. My main priority would be getting by, living life. If someone sees me doing something cool or weird they are free to imitate.

  • RG

    I would probably be quite depressed… I’d never see any of my loved ones again, and I’d likely never have an interesting conversation again either. the closest thing to a friend would be a companion in the tribe with whom I’d build up a silent respect, and maybe we’d be a little team when catching animals. and if one of us was still hungry the other would share their antelope.
    I like to think my current friendships are more developed than this.
    the only way to make it interesting would be to introduce a form of comedy. this would have to be slapstick. no irony ever again! and there’d always be the risk that if a joke went wrong i’d offend someone and be clubbed to death.
    and i’d probably be pregnant constantly, which I wouldn’t have consented to (when did rape start to exist as a concept? it doesn’t exist for animals…) and I’d put my money on being dead within 5 years.

    • Tripper

      Rape doesn’t exist for animals? I have chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese, and it’s pretty much NEVER consensual. They chase down the female, pin her to the ground by the back of the head and do the deed. (granted, these birds (aside from ducks) don’t have penises, but it looks pretty damn rapey to me.

      • Brian R.

        Yes, my dog is a serial rapist. He doesn’t care who or what you are, you are getting humped, like it or not.

      • RG

        TW: rape

        I agree that sex in the animal world is often forced and one party unwilling to participate (female spiders eating their mates after copulation; cats having barbed penises so the female can’t shake them off(??) and I’ve heard bird sex is often pretty horrible for the female).

        But the term ‘rape’ is only for humans. The entire concept of rape is inextricably tied to that of consent – which assumes cognizance in both parties. I wouldn’t speculate about animals’ agency to consent (in the human sense) therefore they can’t technically rape.

        And I think there are some species which ONLY mate via forced copulation… ie all sex would be rape? the term starts getting too clumsy to use in this case.

        Lastly… it’s problematic to use the term for both animals and humans, given how serious and pervasive it is as a crime, and how often it goes unreported/unpunished. We already live in a culture sympathetic to rapists who ‘couldn’t help themselves’, and ask questions like ‘what was she wearing’, ‘had he been drinking’, as if there are circumstances in which instinct takes over and a rapist is no longer accountable for his actions. Allowing the term rape to be used in the case of animals (where all sex is by definition instinctual) only reinforces this mentality.

    • Tom Miller

      Sex in animals is usually highly consensual. Females in most cases choose who to mate with; it’s the cornerstone of many types of natural selection and why there are so many bizarre mating rituals. The removal of that choice would (I’d suggest) be the definition of rape.

      It’s true you’d probably never have an interesting conversation again, but you may form a relationship much deeper than one that is based purely in language. I have a very special relationship with my dog, and he’s never said a word to me. I’ve often thought that perhaps a non-verbal relationship with a human could possibly develop into a much deeper and more meaningful one that is purely language based.

      But, you’re probably right – I think we’d all be dead pretty quickly. It’s likely we’d do something strange that would spook the tribe out and we’d all get burned at the steak (and that’s probably where a language-based relationship with someone would come in handy).

  • Colleen DeVries Valentine

    Hand washing. I think that would be the biggest thing that would ensure survival. Other than that, I’m not sure anything I know that makes life easier in the modern world would be of use 10,000 years ago.

  • Simo

    It might be cool to teach people an alphabet, so as to be able to leave a record of events for future generations.
    What about electricity? And basic sanitary rules..
    Granted, I would probably have a lot more to learn from my new tribe (anything to do with survival…)

  • Sooty Mangabey

    I’d teach em’ how to boil water even though to this day, not everyone has access to clean, drinkable water.

  • Jay Kay

    After the oh-!@#$ moment(s) pass – introduce writing, language (if one is already not used), art.

    Show the power of collaboration, hygiene / basic health, depending on the culture & encourage – create a system that punishes those who try to corrupt and create a self-monitoring system so no one person has absolute anything.

    Introduce food preservation, planning (calendar), & trade between groups (when there is surplus for things we do not have) which will allow further development of specialization, further evolvement of basic flint tools if they already exist, if not introduce them.

    As a Mech.Eng. Introduce basic machinery (Wheel, lever, ect) use stone tools to create wooden water-powered systems – start to teach math to allow further development (the concept of 0, addition, subtraction, then mult. divide, ect. )

    Introduce alcohol, find or refine salt (for preservation) basic builting materials (wood, skins, leaves/grasses, rock, mud, clay) – show use in shelter creation, food preservation…

    Or if you don’t like this, go play a game or two of SIM CITY to figure things out…

  • Brian R.

    Isn’t it likely (or at least very possible) that advancing their civilization in even the most minute way would significantly alter the course of history, potentially rendering you unborn? Would you then disappear, or would you survive the rest of your life in your new form? With this in mind, I would probably just play dumb and try to fit in while I figured out a way to get back to 2014. Life without any of today’s luxuries would be exciting at first, but would quickly get old.

    • Tim Urban

      It’s fascinating to consider going back, teaching one tribe a bunch of things about metal and agriculture and weaponry and writing (to draw on me_chris’s response above), and then return to 2014 and see what was different about the world. It might be COMPLETELY different.

      • Brian R.

        I think so, too, Tim. It would be an amazing experiment, so long as you didn’t have to suffer the possible consequences of such an action. I’m too big of a pansy to be that guy! 😉

        Perhaps the human race would’ve already wiped itself off the Earth. Or maybe the opposite; there would be some one-world utopian government. Mind-blowing to think about.

        While I don’t personally believe in it, perhaps the most intriguing thing to me about the Simulation Hypothesis is that the controllers are playing out that exact scenario (or one similar) in a parallel world at this exact moment.

        Okay, that was too deep, back to drawing lines in CAD.

        • Andrew

          Or it wouldn’t alter the course of history because you are already part of history and you didn’t know it.

          • Brian Gottfried

            Though, if your goal is to dramatically alter the course of history by introducing a huge burst of knowledge, you would essentially know going into it that you’d failed (otherwise you’d have memories of history where we discovered technologies way earlier, no?). That’s actually a rather depressing thought…

    • Alexandre Marklew

      Thankfully, time travel is impossible. If it was ever sucessfully implemented, it would be discovered in all ages simultaneously, for all purposes. Can’t imagine its users being so responsible as NOT to try and travel to the past to alter things.
      But the sheer boredom would be unbearable. Maybe the tribe could be taught to play papyrus and bone-dice RPG…

  • Chris

    I would probably be the vector delivering small pox or some other insufferable disease and wipe them out. I’m sure I would be the receipient of the same.

  • Chris

    But don’t worry, I’d teach them about HOW they’re being wiped out.

  • Katherine

    Well, seeing as I am a woman, I would probably work as fast as I could to find or fashion a sharp rock to fend off rapists, and sleep with one eye open.

    • Joanne

      I know right…

  • me_chris

    10,000 BCE, so … late paleolithic. Meaning fire is controlled, stone tools are pretty much mastered, and early agriculture is established.

    I would introduce writing of course. And then start to focus on hygiene and weapons. It’s a lawless time so defense is important. I know how to make black powder – but without metals it’s not terribly useful. But I woudl make some to use for scaring other tribes. Stuff like trebuchets, catapults, etc will allow my tribe to quickly establish dominance. We would also DEFINITELY have more advanced fortifications than anyone else around. Why do I immediately introduce advanced warfare tools and tactics? Because of human nature. We can’t develop all the other nice stuff before we’re sure we have a way to keep people from taking it away from us. Other tribes will certainly be jealous…

    After raising quality of life through better hygiene and more safety we can start to focus on the really good stuff. Mining ore and smelting metals. I’m not terribly skilled in advanced metallurgy but I know enough to grasp the basics of smelting iron and copper. With some trial and error I could develop bronze and steel – I know the ingredients just not the ratios.

    That’s probably realistically about as far as I could get with one lifetime. Our descendants would have to take up further development form there… but I would write a lot about possible future advancements (since they can read now, presumably this would help guide the descendants).

    • Jennifer

      Awesome response!

  • Anthony Churko

    What we all need to realize is that we really don’t know what was going on in 10,000 BC. The pyramids were built 4500 years ago, and that’s ancient history to us. So 10,000 BC is our ancient history’s ancient history’s ancient history. The only stuff that we can possibly know about that period is what survived until historic times, which is cave drawings and not much else (which leads some to infer that drawing in caves is all that people did back then).

    G.K. Chesterton wrote in The Everlasting Man (which is the book that I would have answered for last week’s question) that modern archaeologists falsely presume that prehistoric humans acted like modern savages. That we can observe the behavior of modern uncontacted tribes in Africa and South America and infer that they’re behaving like everyone did in 10,000 BC. But maybe it’s precisely because prehistoric man did NOT act like modern savages that they were able to evolve as a society while the savages didn’t?

    After thinking for a long time, I can’t answer this question. I don’t think it would be moral to give them technological secrets from the future. Why would you want to do that anyway? So that they can reach the Bronze Age faster, so that they can eventually reach the Industrial Revolution faster? Why would you want to put Industrial Revolution technology in the hands of Alexander the Great? He was worse than Hitler.

    Heck, even teaching them about hand-washing (assuming that they didn’t already know about it) could be disastrous. What if that caused a ripple-effect that lead to modern humans having a fraction of the immunity to disease that we currently do?

    And in terms of teaching them anything interpersonal or spiritual, we don’t know anything about what they believed or how they acted.The modern Christian belief is that people are spiritually “fallen” which is why everyone irrationally does things that they know they shouldn’t do. Were people spiritually “fallen” back then?

    • Greg Rosner

      All awesome points. Especially love the distinction between ancient history – and ancient history’s ancient history. Also I agree that putting science in place can do much more damage than good as we move towards progress. Curious what the implications of this notion is with the avialbility of nukes today? Nuclear energy is like 60 years old with will, motivation and money – anyone can make one.

  • wobster109

    This Wikipedia page is very good for putting things in context.

    Things that already exist: small towns, art, pottery (so fire), weapons (spear-type), clothes, domestic animals (dogs, sheep, cattle, goats, pigs).
    Things that do not exist: ice age (including ice-age animals)
    Things being developed around that time: farming
    Things that are still a few thousand years off: wheels (really?!), writing

    Hmm. If there’s one thing I’d want, it’s for people to be more compassionate towards peoples of different tribes and races. But I don’t dare introduce that to my new tribe, since it’s likely to get them killed.

    With that in mind, I’m going to go with mathematics. Basic algebra and geometry. It looks like numbers took off around 3000 BC? That would be an extra 7000 years of mathematical thinking and progress. In one lifetime I couldn’t communicate all of modern physics, but with the groundwork there we could have an Archimedes several thousand years before Archimedes, and perhaps our Archimedes would be their Stephen Hawking.

  • Ümit Kayabaş

    I can’t really put my finger on how ethical my response will be but because I as a lone man thrown into another time i definitely would see it as a veeery rare happening and focus on survival to see as much as i can and not think about helping or educating… until i do

  • SlvrScoobie

    I think between some basic math and farming technologies, I could certinly advance the tribe I met forward to ensure their survival over others. Thats not to say its ensured, but hopefully with that information they could build bigger better farms, and allow more time to studies, (math, science, art…) We would be the roman empire of the day.

  • one point twenty one gigawatts

    i would show them how to make a flux capacitor.

  • Jon Russell

    Don’t waste any time on religion.

  • Manas Jha

    I would not change anything.

    I believe that the survival of humans as a species has a lot to do with the luck that we have had. During the paleolithic age, survival was a struggle, and humans had to fend off other species constantly. But apart from that, it can safely be assumed that the humans were divided into certain tribes, and each tribe was settled in different regions. Now tipping the scales in favor of any tribe (by providing them arms, wheels or fire as a weapon) could have catastrophic results; it could lead to civil wars for food and supplies, and cause death at a large scale. Considering the rather small population of humans at that time, such wars could prove fatal to the survival of humans as a species. I would let them live the way they are living; after all, they did manage to survive, didn’t they?

    Teaching them scientific methods and concepts is also not going to benefit them, mainly because of the lack of NEED of any such knowledge at that point of time. A single lifetime would not be enough to make them realize the value of such scientific theories. Also, I believe that there is always the right time for every discovery or invention. You cannot accelerate scientific progress by preponing the discovery of a law of nature because the society is simply not ready to accept the law. A case in point would be Copernicus’ attempt to tell the world that the Earth revolves around the sun. Change is a slow process for humans, and that applies to the world of science.

    This question is a classic example of the butterfly effect, which says that small changes in any pattern can cause drastic changes in another part of the universe. Considering that the survival of humanity is at stake here, I would not try to alter this process.

    • Dan B

      This is monumentally important. We’ve learned things as a human race by building things on top of the things we already knew. Sometimes we remove or reorder other things (earth as the center, the role of atoms and microbes, etc.) but all told, we’ve built a tower of knowledge that is based on all the things that came before it. I, as a traveler, will almost certainly leave out something that is REALLY important to tell these folks something that they don’t have any basis for because I’ve left out that super important bit.

    • Ryan Foley

      What about documenting what’s happening for those in the future?

  • LSMalone

    I would invent the wheel a hell of a lot sooner.

  • Joey A

    I’m not a tech guy so I’ll just teach them simple things like how those tiny tiny bugs cause disease and how it can be prevented by simple handwashing

  • jeh_stam

    Douglas Adams had it — sandwiches.

  • Kannik

    Besides the usual suspects of fostering better hygiene and etc, I’d be able to share my knowledge as an architect to create better and more durable shelter and chose more suitable camp locations and layout. Depending where my new tribe was located, agriculture may be developing, in which case I might have a pretty big influence in how the new sedentary villages were organized and the buildings therein!

  • Kannik

    Oh, and appropriately for what this blog often talks about, I’d bring what I know/grok about philosophical thought and see if I could pass it on to my tribe. Imagine what difference it could make to many of our automatic societal foibles we’re born into if we could tweak them 12k years ago? Perhaps, if my tribe ended up being at least a bit more successful due to my knowledge (mostly hygiene, architecture, etc), there could be enough spreading of the philosophical thought that would create a more peaceful and sharing world. 🙂

  • poop

    I’d never be able to know unless it were to happen. They don’t know English. How would they react to that?

  • Clavell Jackson

    Hygiene and be ware of people who come preaching with a Bible.

  • Cris Crapello

    Short of maybe a rudimentary knowledge of first aid, there isn’t much help that any average human being who lives as part of an industrialized society can help a tribe of neolithic people. Our world of buying food from a market that in turn got its food from hundreds or even thousands of miles away, or turning on a faucet and have (seemingly) unlimited, clean water at our every beckon and call, or be able to quickly and easily find and/or travel to a medical professional to receive any number of technological treatments should injury or illness occur, has made the set of skills necessary for survival in untamed wilderness obsolete and largely forgotten. Remember, the people on the Walking Dead are just acting. So unless you know how to create fire without the help of a lighter, manufacture raw tools out of even rawer materials, can manifest the ability to communicate your knowledge without texting or simply speaking english louder to people who are thousands of years removed from inventing writing (the preferred American method of communication with people not familiar with the language), there isn’t much that the average American can impart on neolithic people before he or she will get devoured by that pack of wolves waiting just behind the tree line.

  • Aegis

    Edit: Removed garbage paragraph (1 AM, cut me some slack)

    Anyhoo, I think we’re too spoiled to impart much knowledge, if any at all. -we- would learn to survive from -them- rather than vice versa. We could probably become the “wise shaman” of the village (“any sufficiently advanced tech is equal to magic” after all) and rise to power, though. Either way, unless we kept records on stone tablets and hid them away against the elements, I don’t think our shared knowledge would last, regardless of “oral traditions”. Too much politics, people taking credit for things you did (especially after you’re dead and gone, and the tales get warped over repeated tellings…)

  • Kaaraan

    as always, cyanide and happiness explain it best

    • Kaaraan

      On this note, it’s only related to this topic from 2 minutes in.

    • That was brilliant!

  • Michael

    if I landed in the same geographic area 12,000 years ago, I could find coal for sure, and I might be able to find iron ore. I might be able to build a bloomery and make wrought iron, if I could figure out how to make a usable hammer with which to pound the bloom. If I could figure out a way to make suitable woodworking implements, I could make all kinds of things, like water-powered mills and drop hammers for pounding metal and pulverizing grain and such. It would be damn hard to get this started, since I’d have to fell trees with stone axes and hack out rudimentary boards with stone adzes. I don’t think I could fashion anything like a plane without better than stone age technology, but maybe I could make a serviceable plane iron out of wrought iron, sharpened with a hard stone or something. If I could work out cutting implements, I could fashion a pole lathe and do wood turnings. Uh, I guess I’d have to invent spinning and figure out how to spin animal hair into cords to make into rope. I could figure out how to make gunpowder if I could figure out where to find saltpeter and sulfur in the wild. I’m not sure about that one. I could build them a trebuchet or a torsion catapult to kill other tribes more efficiently.

    It’s actually pretty fucking cool to think of all the stuff I would have a fighting chance of pulling off in this scenario, without books or modern tools. I’m not saying I could pull any of this off, but I like my chances.

    • me_chris

      Your response is quite similar to mine. I hope we are transported back to the same tribe – otherwise our two tribes would fight to a draw after conquering everyone else who didn’t have trebuchets, catapults, metals, and gunpowder!

      • Jonathan Jie

        Haha but with the allures of MY tribe’s improved way of life, through infrastructure such as plumbing, crop rotation and the security of walled settlements(among other things), everyone will be assimilated! My tribe will have sufficient manpower to overwhelm yours 😀

        • Michael

          Collect all the resources behind your fortifications. We have trebuchets. That’s what we call a shopping mall. 😀

  • Nikhil

    Trust me.. I would teach the whole bunch of idiots to never believe in GOD or anyone believing in it!!!… And leave them to survive and evolve while I sit peacefully writing a book for the future generation about the human evolution!!…

    • mallo

      You forgot to take your fedora with you, proud atheist gentlesir. You shown these funDIEs. 🙂 Keep on tippin’!

  • me_chris

    A somewhat related article was posted on NBC today. At least we won’t have to explain to them how to make booze!

    “Human ancestors may have begun evolving the knack for consuming alcohol about 10 million years ago, long before modern humans began brewing booze, researchers say.”

  • Christian B

    It seems there would need to be too much to figure out, like shared communication with these people, not to mention surviving. Language, fire, and farming might be the best to hope for. Not sure how I could be able to explain concepts and tech that I barely understand myself.

  • Beebles

    That’s such a difficult question! I don’t know enough about how their life was like back then. I think I’d need play it by ear… Learn from them and then try and teach them about what I know through “visions” or something, so they would understand that I am prophetic. I guess I would try to teach them cultural relativity and agriculture, as well as science. I’d create art and music for them as well (although I’d be stealing some songs from the future haha).

    Oh! Writing! I’d teach them about writing and environmentalism (in case they don’t already have a policy on that). Also, I’d warn them of the coming wars and suffering mankind will inflict upon himself, but I’d try to be philosophical about it. I’d emphasize non-violent tactics to deal with problems, but also teach the importance of being able to defend themselves from threats so that they don’t get wiped out…

    This is all assuming that they’d even listen to me, which I don’t think they would, or if they did, it would take a lot for me to significantly change their perceptions on things. Still, I’d try to jump start civilization early and encode very reasonable laws and cultural principles into it so as to hopefully create a better world for tomorrow. I would end up writing out everything I know – everything. All of my historical, scientific, environmental, and other knowledge, so as to keep a record of my existence for years to come. I would have to instruct them to put in some safeguards too, so that my work isn’t erased from history by barbarians. There’s a lot to think about.

  • Do I speak the language? I don’t know if I’d be very much help at all! I’d have to brush up on my skills I learned when I was a Boy Scout 25 years ago. I grew up on a ranch and went camping every summer, tent camping too, mostly. I know how to fish, and I went hunting with my dad once, but I just went along for the ride. If anything they’d have to teach ME everything.

    If there wasn’t a language barrier, I could tell them about all the cool shit in the future but I don’t think they’d understand.

    I COULD however help them out with the wheel since I don’t think that will have been invented for another 7,000 years. And if that hadn’t been invented yet, there’s probably other things, too. Maybe certain tools, it depends on what they were trying to accomplish in order to survive.

  • Brad

    Wow, what a coincidence, I have just returned from my time travel journey to 10,000 BC!

    The people back then were great and I was able to share so much with them. I was surprised at how quickly they were able to understand all of the concepts I shared with them from the future and they were even able to take that knowledge and expand upon it. Together we created a civilization that encouraged everyone to unite in common cause and work peacefully and efficiently to address the problems of humanity.

    Sadly, it must not have lasted. I had hoped to travel back to my own time to see how much more progress this great empire had made in the intervening millennia, but it seems to have been entirely forgotten. I don’t even see any mention of it on wikipedia.

  • mallo

    What’s the deal with everyone hating on religion in comments?

  • Anthony Churko

    The most common suggestion on here (besides religion-bashing) seems to be “Teach them to settle disputes non-violently”. That doesn’t work with MODERN humans, so why would it work with less-evolved ones?

    If a person from 12,000 years in the future came here, and enlightened us with, “Be less violent. Fighting is bad.” and went back to the future, we’d just roll our eyes and carry on with our lives.

  • N00less Cluebie

    Huh…. I’d just teach the humans how to domesticate felines and then train those cats to wear little hats or act grumpy for ten-minute segments…. I’m PRETTY SURE the rest of human knowledge is irrelevant; oh! I might have to teach them how to tell the cat trainers “your (sic) a fag!”

  • Alexandre Marklew

    Well… pretty much like Arthur Dent on the last Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book, I have a faint idea about how things like a ballpoint pen, brick-making, crop rotation, etc. work, but wouldn’t really be able to reproduce that technology.
    As for philosophy, if I convinced the tribe to adopt a conduct code promoting peace, which seems to be a popular sugestion here, they would likely be run down by some nomad raiders, so I’d better stick to helping them pierce, puncture and smash things more efficiently. As happened in history, but faster. With some luck, at least I could teach them a writing system and the decimal system.
    But, most likely, I would become the old hermit that the tribe gathers around at night to hear his crazy and nonsensical stories about flying machines, lightning boxes, metal ships and steaming mugs of coffee.

  • samster

    Well, you could update their brain with a my-first-chemistry-set to improve their intelligence. Then I could relive every single historical event and a in-depth explanation of everything from what I ate this morning to the Napolionic Wars. Although, the only floor is it would take all of history to do it.

  • Kip

    I’d try to get some brewing system going. First things first.

    • me_chris

      Oh, there’s already booze. That was pretty much one of the very first things we developed as a species. Plenty of booze 10,000 years ago.

  • Mark Anthony Lindsay

    I would try and communicate to the group of the power of emotional intelligence. Studies have shown that people with high EI have greater mental health, exemplary job performance, and more potent leadership skills. To very briefly summarise, it is the ability to have people skills, to recognise your own emotions, and that of others, and how to hardness a positive attitude to really reach ones potential. Far more important than just having a high IQ.

    • Good luck with that one

    • Lightforge

      Couple caveats. One, EI is an enormous array of abilities and learned skills that substantially overlaps with g (general IQ) and is dependent on many specific intellectual abilities. People with high fluid and crystallized IQ also generally have the higher EIs (though reliable measurement of EI is a bit touch and go). Two, ancient peoples already know this, probably far better than we do. I mean, they don’t need to have a word for it to recognize charisma when they see it. And even if they didn’t, EI speaks for itself. There’s a reason EI abilities have been selected for throughout human history (and prior). They work. And in ancient society, they’re far, far more important than in modern society. There simply aren’t very many people/tribes within traveling distance, so social mistakes can literally ruin your chances of ever procreating.

  • Christian A. Larsen

    I would tell them I wrote “Stairway to Heaven”. Worked for Led Zeppelin.

  • Tonya

    Well, back then women had virtually no rights, so any knowledge I possess would be completely useless since no one would listen to what I have to say.

    • André

      Well… yes and no. Of course some tribes didn’t really care much for the opinions of women, others revered them. Since this tribe is nice enough to welcome you inside without being too picky we can assume they are not exactly bloodlusted murderers. So combine this with your superior knowledge you could become a high priestess or something similar

    • Vivienne

      not at all. Women ruled until monotheism!

      • Alex Lexo

        I used to think something similar, but have since found that this may be the contrary of current anthropological consensus. I have read a lot of old studies and explorations and interpretations which would favour the notion of anything but total patriarchy, all of which have been rejected for a variety of reasons.

        If I am mistaken on this, I would very much like to know about it! If you know of any studies or evidence which robustly demonstrates anything but patriarchy in our history (or even more recently studied societies), please do post it here!

    • Parker

      Wow, you know nothing about ancient history. Yes, due to changes in the evolutionary goals of men and women, men eventually established a dominance over women that lasted thousands of years, but back then, it was hardly as pronounced as it was in, say, early America and European countries around that period.

  • Page Morgan

    Well let’s see… 12,000 years ago there was definitely a hunter gatherer theme dominating the scene but I am not familiar if there was much of a capacity or value for philosophy and higher level processing beyond the imagination. I could definitely contribute to help their hunting success by introducing sling shots (more likely just a leather sling and rocks because I don’t know what to use instead of rubber), fishing nets, fishing hooks and poles, and traps.
    I would be a very enjoyable entertainer with enhancing their percussional music with drums and maybe even make a didgeridoo.
    My information & lack of information regarding technology may be useless. The steam engine has no use, I don’t know how to find and manipulate ore. I can’t think of any way to take advantage of using electrical currents. There is no way that I would be able to put a gun together. But a bow and arrow would sure turn the world upside down!!! My lasting impression on this people group would only be through skills and traditions that could be passed down to younger generations through teaching and training, rather than through documentation. When there is so much focus on survival, there is less capacity to value knowledge (unless it serves to aid in survival).

    • Page Morgan

      Someone should post if they know how to make glass, how to manipulate fire in a advanced way, primitive metal working, war strategies, medical knowledge, transportable housing, or animal training just to name a few useful ideas. We would be able to function as gods with some smoke and mirror tricks… As long as we don’t die. I bet introducing helmets would be a good idea too… How do I make foam and carbon fiber?

      • DeeDee Massey

        Most of us wouldn’t even be able to tell a poison berry or mushroom from
        a safe one, much less hazardous chemicals from harmless ones. (The movie “Into the Wild” comes to mind, but even in that, the protagonist of the story had an illustrated reference book handy.) I’d know
        that tea tree oil could be used to treat the insect infestation that
        would likely plague me and my big hair, but it’s in Australia and even
        if I was there, I wouldn’t know from memory what it looks like or how to
        extract its oils from it in sufficient quantity. So, maybe I could find a similarly aromatic herb that I did know, like rosemary, but I’d be left with little option more than to just
        shave to keep off the lice, fleas, and ticks, and cover myself with mud
        to keep off the mosquitoes.

        I made glass as part of a science project in school. The process uses extremely high heat and a boron compound, borax a.k.a. sodium tetraborate decahydrate. Like with most technologies, I would know the concepts but be hard-pressed to find, recognize, and refine the necessary resources within what would probably be a short life expectancy. Although the tribe would have already mastered fire, it would be very challenging for me to build a fire hot enough to safely form glass, not to mention all the fuel, effort, and time I’d waste on my trials. I also would be at a huge disadvantage at locating the right boron compounds and avoiding toxicity and injury. My productive attempts would require lots of time in one place, which I probably wouldn’t have the luxury of since my tribe would be continuously or at least frequently on the move. If my nomadic tribe did happen to be stationary long enough in an area with borax, great, because it can be used to make other useful things like soap and dentifrice, which would be in many ways a greater benefit to them than glass, but more immediately useful to me rather than them, since my microbiological constitution would probably be far less withstanding of the natural environment than theirs.

        To really impress them, I’d probably introduce the marvel of “end locks,” crafted out of bone, that can be pressed at each end of a roll of animal skins wrapped around a wooden pole, to make tearing them along a sharp stone’s edge, at the desired length much easier.

    • Parker

      The real question is whether you are capable of actually MAKING a bow, from scratch. It’s pretty dang hard!

  • Marcus

    My specific knowledge..aka my profession…would not be very useful. I’m a lawyer. Maybe in the long term my skills would be useful to form a more complex society, but, by the time I arrive, I would be a dead weight.

    But my general knowledge would be awesome. Music, cinema, basic physics and chemistry, basic knowledge of medicine, and so on…

    I would do stuff like that movie called Reign of Fire, where the main character, played by Christian Bale, staged the famous Star Wars ‘Luke, I’m your father’ scene, and the kids that never watched the movie believed that the scene was real.

    • Page Morgan

      That’s awesome!

  • Krattz

    I have a basic understanding of physics which i could use to help design better tools. my psychology education could perhaps be used to help the tribe better deal with things like stress, loss and conflict. i have a little knowledge of first aid but not having any tools i wouldn’t be able to use it. overall i think i might be just useful enough to stop them leaving me for dead… thankfully.

  • Brad

    I would sit everyone down and launch into a really, really long story. The theme of the story would essentially be a cautionary tale– I mean to go back and just share all the accumulated knowledge I have to offer would be to lay the same tracks down for history to repeat itself. It would simply serve to speed up the evolutionary process. Rather, I’d use this mystical opportunity to attempt to forge a different path. First, I’d show them some cool tricks (to build up some credibility that I’m actually from the future), like making a stone flint (though fire might already have been controlled depending on where exactly we are). Then, I’d scare the shit out of them (some paradigms seem to work quite well) with anecdotes of the 9-5 workman life, industrial society, painting a picture of people isolated in homes sitting in front of a screen watching images of other people doing other things, and the detachment and destruction of the natural world. That should do the trick. Then I’d tell them that God sent me to tell you we’re meant to exist as small tribes of hunter gatherers for eternity.

  • triplestaff

    I know almost everything important that had happened since then (evolution and technology wise), so i think we could speed up the technical evolution a lot. also, i highly doubt that religion would ever start to exist, because religion simply answers the questions about our existance we hade a few thousand years ago. for all i know, i could be flying the NCC-1701! so my final answer is very, as long as they’ll have the means to understand it.

  • Mya P.

    Obviously we come from different worlds. It’s not so much about taking a trip to a different time as it would be a different mindset, a different way of seeing, thinking, perceiving and thus behaving. Though we are both from the same planet and species, we are worlds apart. What I see or value or understand presently would have no relevance to their lives nor theirs to mine. We could not change each others perception and trying to would be futile.

    Instead, I’d want to check out the night sky as there would have been no light pollution at that time making for an amazing view.

    • Greg Rosner

      I love your post. It’s so beautiful. So simple. And it gets right to the point. Instead of racking my brain for all the things I know, I think I would enjoy doing just what you suggested

  • Mel

    I could not. If I tried, I would be treated like a lunatic. What do we think of people with dramatically different understandings of the world? We think they are crazy; nod, smile politely. What would you think if I told you, “Guess what? The earth is flat!!”

  • Bob L.

    Lest we forget, Captain Kirk has already demonstrated that you can make diamond cannons to use against your enemies if you find yourself in a forlorn place (or time) with no to today’s (or the future’s) technology…..

  • Diana

    Before trying to change anything, I’d learn about and assimilate to the culture as best as possible. People will never trust you if you are an outsider with no intent on joining the group.

    Then, I’d see what problems the community was facing and work with community leaders to solve them together. Empowering others is the only way to make sustainable change.

    I work in international development, and I’ve seen first-hand how futile it is to spend energy on a project that the community doesn’t support. Long story short, even if one of us had all the technical skills and knowledge to advance civilization however many years, nothing would happen before first getting other folks on board.

  • Zach
    • Wendy!

      That video says it all. We’ve built too much generation upon generation to make any difference if one person leaps backwards.
      Literature and the Arts might be a way to make an impact.

  • Matteo

    It’s fun to imagine how 12000 years from now some future civilization will be discussing the same topic.
    I wonder what would they know.

  • Lucymaybe

    1. Thriller dance.
    2. You can tell when you’re most and least likely to get pregnant.

    The most useful skill I have that would be relevant in this time period is that I can block my nose off without using my hand (I suppose it’s using my soft palate?), so I wouldn’t need to deal with how awful everyone must have smelled. Apart from that, I work in online communications and have no practical skills to speak of that don’t involve technology I wouldn’t be able to access in 10,000BC. And, anyway, I’d be too freaked out that I’d re-set the course of human history to something worse than it is.

    I’d also eat a lot of berries. They’re good shit.

    • Cavebear

      I can block off my nose, too! This is a fantastic attribute when swimming, but it may be less a matter of choice than you know; when taking singing lessons, I couldn’t open the airflow between nose and mouth as much as my teacher wished.

  • Annie

    I’d probably be too petrified to contribute to the tribe or go wandering around, asking for the wi-fi password.

  • Madeline Rich

    It’s been mentioned that we would have very different ways of thinking–I think one of the most significant ways this would be apparent is the scientific method. Maybe it’s because I’m a biology student, but I am always thinking in terms of the scientific method–hypothesize, test, analyze, conclude. Thinking like this would get rid of religion (whether or not that’s good or bad is another question), and maybe this little tribe would become the proto-scientists that would develop formal science long before it was in our world. Ideas like Mendel’s and Darwin’s could be discovered AGES before the 1800s–imagine the implications of a society that became scientifically literate before it became…well…literate!! (On that note, maybe introducing writing would be handy). Also, I would try to push the idea of bacteria and viruses as the cause of disease, not evil spirits. We lost far too many human lives before that was found out.

    • RogerMKE

      I’m pretty sure that if you did this, a neighboring tribe would quickly invade and lop everyone’s heads off for being apostates.

      • fishtree

        So we teach our tribe gunpowder (sulphur, phosphorous, sugar/something with energy) if we teach tribes boring ideas they will forget. If we teach them explosives they will explode stuff forever.

  • FoolOfWorms

    If I already understand the local language, writing would be the first thing I would teach.
    Then I would teach 4 great “philosophies” or lessons and ways of thought
    Which are, in brief
    1: to share the “philosophies”, but don’t be a prick about it, and never harm another unless it is for the survival of yourself or others

    2: emotions, and how to deal with them, equality (race & gender), generosity, humanity, humility, and sexuality
    3: the scientific method, to be open minded, to preserve ideas, and to not destroy them, or limit its access
    4: resource management, preciousness of life, what farming is, cleanliness and why exploration is a good idea
    then I would tell them to write them down and preserve these thoughts and pass them down for generation.

  • CC

    Well, if they are still hunters gatherers maybe I could try and show them the basics of growing vegetables and domesticating animals, like poultry. Let us not forget that 10000 years ago humans had already reached the American continent, and they had been handling fire for a long long time. Probably they also had some basic mathematical concepts, like counting to some extent. The best would be to assess what they already know, what they need and then build up from there. In any case, I am sure they would have to teach me far more than I could teach them.

    • Helga Vierich

      I have lived with hunter-gatherers. Even little kids know from simple observation that plants grow if you plant their seeds or bulbs in the ground.

      • CC

        Sure, having a poo and seeing a tomato plant grow out of it is quite straight forward, but that does not make you a farmer. 10000 years ago humans did not cultivate the land

    • Bindle

      Hmmm . . . but the agricultural and husbandry revolutions kicked lifespans way downward, not to recover for *millenia*. Not a clear win.

  • Nawid N.

    I’d imagine even if we could bring technology along with us to the past, this is what would happen:

  • Galit Schwartz

    OK, so let’s see what the popular contenders have been:
    1. Writing. Paper requires a lot of pre-processing, and is not durable. Chiseling on stone tablets is much better. Definitely promote writing down the tribal history for posterity.
    2. Handwashing, especially before meals and after handling excrement or dead bodies.
    3. Basic reproduction, i.e. the rhythm method.
    4. Food hygiene.
    5. Atheism.

    Hmm. This looks alot like Biblical Judaism. Tablets, check. Tribal history, check. Handwashing, check. Rhythm method (masquerading as “sexual purity”), check. Food hygiene (masquerading as kosher rules), check. Atheism, as in STOP WORSHIPPING ALL THOSE IDOLS!, check.

    Biblical tradition claims to start about 6000 years ago, with a single person who magically appeared and started naming everything around him. Tim, you might be onto something!

  • Michael Ensslin

    Most of my knowledge is uesless without pre-existing technology, social structures and species.

    For example, I know basics about agriculture, but the relevant plants are yet to be bred. The population density is too low for it to be necessary.

    Writing might be of use, but it only matters for preserving knowledge, and trade with other tribes; both of these are rather unnecessary for a pure hunter/gatherer tribe.

    The most useful knowledge would be relatively simple things that have been discovered in history through unlikely chance.

    This includes basic hygene, using some sort of (I don’t know which) fungi for anti-biotics, the fact that copper can be alloyed with tin (or was it zinc? how does zinc ore even look? where can I find it?). As you see, even this basic knowledge seems rather useless since I still lack the fundamentals to apply it.

    I’d be utterly helpless and it’d take some effort to convince them that my “knowledge” is actually useful to them. After killing the second of them in my futile attempts at antibiotics, they’d probably just leave me for dead…

    I think I’d be a whole lot more useful in an early copper-age farmer civilization; I could probably advance them by a few thousand years in technology, since they’d have specialized experts that would provide all the basic knowledge to fill my gaps.

  • Anja

    Quiet a lot of people think they could not give so much as they don’t know stuff from scratch. But I guess we would have better chances in trying to improve things than anyone else, as we know that what we try can happen. Like maybe just improving an instrument like a hammer with a shaft (more force). Or the idea of a bow. Or a needle. Or to make food last longer by surounging it with fat. Or the wheel. Or maybe the idea of a a cooking pot.

    There are so many stuff we have seen in our daily life – I think we would see quiet a lot of possibilities to improve whatever this people have. Just because we already have an idea how an improved item would look like. And we wouldn’t just hunt an fix idea like inventurs – as we know there is a way this will work.

  • David Hackett

    I could help them take their cave art to a whole new level with my knowledge of perspective. I know some music theory as well, and the box step. Chances are I’d be carrying my ipod so they’d learn about The Eagles as well. Most importantly: Pizza,Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

  • AAPL

    writing, the wheel, some basic ideas about the uses of water, pulleys, weather systems, recording the patterns in things and processes around them, schooling, religion is bad, the earth is round, the sun is the center of the solar system, gravity, medicine/germs, food storage and very basic farming for a start.

  • Tom

    Weeellll… the first thing they’d learn from me – if they didn’t already know this one – is that strangers from afar bring terrible annihilating virus and bacterial loads. And that would be pretty much it.

  • Bindle

    If I had my heart’s desire, it would be Steve Allen, so I could watch those wonderful shows he did so long ago : Meeting of Minds, where he ‘brought back’ so many of the people chosen here.

    • Bindle

      Whoops, this should have gone into the ‘Who would I bring back’ bin, sorry about that. Newbie.

  • Manthyus

    How to run a business (or tribe), economics, social manipulation (think Machiavelli), knowing about biomes and basic geography (select a better place to settle), agriculture, bacterial warfare, knowledge of some natural toxins that are easily refined (nightshade, ricin, abrin), understanding of how to construct and use an atlatl, understanding of spinning wool to create thread > bone needles > clothes and gambesons (cloth armor), and some close combat knowledge. Probably more if I kept thinking, but there are a lot of REALLY basic things that have taken humanity a LONG time to develop that can be recreated from basic knowledge fairly easily.

    • Anam

      You have to have some gumption to think you could teach social manipulation (or how to run a tribe, for that matter) to a hunter-gatherer.

      Given the life they had, I’d expect those guys to be goddamned masters at manipulating each other.

  • anonymous user

    1) Agriculture
    2) Irrigation
    3) Hygiene
    4) Advanced Language
    5) Some tools
    6) Simple Machines (i.e. Wheel, Lever, etc.)
    That’s about it. Still, I don’t think it’s bad for someone still in Middle School that has almost no wilderness experience.

  • the bang!

    1. iPhone

  • brown

    make soap, find clay, make pottery, make homes with fireplace and draft, make wheels and cart, find coal, find alumina silicate for refractory brick, find iron ore, build blast furnace, make bellows, teach blacksmith skills, teach alloying, make steel, make saw blades, water wheel to make lumber, make weapons to get more labour and food, make wagon, increase production, make water wheel to make lumber. If enough of these skills are passed on skip bronze age. Likely too many things to teach maybe just get blast furnace going to make small steel objects. Once this is learned many other things would be discovered over time and clan and new technology would survive due to weapon advantage

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