The latest episode of Lost raises an interesting ethical question for time travelers who gamble. Upon entering the submarine to go back to the mainland in 1977 Sawyer suggests that he and Juliet would buy Microsoft stock and bet on the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. They were from the year 2007 so they knew the outcomes of those “gambles” (as did Biff know the outcome of sporting events in Back to the Future II). As long as they were sure that their betting on those events wouldn’t alter the events themselves, they could be sure to profit substantially from their bet. Removing risk. One of time traveling’s biggest perks.
While my opinions on (what we mean when we say) gambling are probably not in-line with most members of the Church, I don’t really ever engage in it. Not because I have conflicting morals, but because I suck at it. I’m a terrible blackjack player, worse at poker and my odds for winning the other games only deteriorate from there. My dismal record for “taking the pot” is only matched by my terrifyingly bad luck at choosing stocks. Which leads me to my view that the only difference between the poker player and stock broker is the word “Community” in his alma matter’s name. I’ve always felt that the professional poker player has eliminated much more risk in his investment choices than I do when I try to figure out if I should sell that Apple stock at $80/share two months ago (I did. See here for where it’s at today).
Of course the aversion to losing my moderately-hard-earned money makes it easy for me to act within Church orthodoxy. No, I would NEVER gamble, Bishop. That’s just not a part of who I am.
Now I must say, if I had the money I’d buy a house right now to fix up and flip, the housing market be damned. I know what I’m doing, I understand the market, I understand the buyer (here in Brooklyn), I know when the numbers stop making sense. In effect I have eliminated the controllable risks. Just like my friend who is a day-trader. And the professional poker player.
So anyway, back to Lost. So if Sawyer and Juliet do indeed go back to the mainland in 1977 and live out their lives in the past, buying Microsoft stock, betting on the Cowboys (a scenario which I would feel comfortable betting every penny that I have won’t happen on the show, btw), is it dishonest for them to do so? If a time traveler came to you today and said they have been to the future and that the Lakers were going to win the NBA finals in a couple weeks, would you bet on them? Is it simply a matter of “doing your homework”? It seems that President Hinckley’s counsel against gambling was in part due to the desire to get “something for nothing”. Would this fall into that category? And finally, do you ever wonder if guys like Warren Buffett aren’t as smart as they put on, but are just time travelers?