"May you live in exciting times"
-- old Chinese curse
FACT: Every year literally hundreds of thousands-- perhaps millions-- are stunned to find themselves the victims of abductions, kidnappings, and/or enslavement-- circa 2004
Human history is filled with accounts of people being summarily abducted and pressed into service for various purposes. It literally happened to millions of people we know of. And likely millions more we don't.
Some of the confirmed kidnappings occurred to fill out a sea-going ship's complement.
"Shanghaied" eventually became one popular term for the act.
It's a little-known fact that possibly millions continue to be so bound into various forms of slavery even today, world-wide.
The smallest estimate of annual human enslavement comes from the US Department of Health and Human Services, which estimates a global count of hundreds of thousands, with tens of thousands of these cases occurring within the USA itself-- each and every year.
-- Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)
Annual Trafficking Report to Congress - 2002 ["http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/policy/atrc_02.htm"]
The British Anti-Slavery Society estimated some 2.7 million people worldwide were enslaved circa 2003: another group (Free The Slaves) offered a much higher estimate of 27 million. Both groups said the number was trending upwards rather than down.
-- History on Slavery ["http://www.asinah.net/bahamasslavery.html"]; asinah.net; Slavery ["http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery"]; en.wikipedia.org appeared to offer virtually identical content as of 11-20-04.
According to one source more than 200 million people (women and children) are essentially enslaved worldwide today. Organized crime buys and sells up to two million people annually.
Organized crime's biggest profit center is illegal drug sales; the second is enslavement of women and children for purposes including but not limited to prostitution. Such slavery is the most rapidly growing international and illegal commerce recognized today. The number of defacto slaves worldwide numbers over 200 million circa 2000, with 700,000 to 2,000,000 people being bought and sold annually, resulting in criminal profits of perhaps seven billion dollars a year, just from the prostitution revenues. It appears a sizeable number of the globally enslaved toil within the borders of the USA.
-- Mafia Makes Billions From Trafficking People By Philip Pullella, Reuters/Yahoo! Top Stories Headlines, December 14, 2000
The International Service for Human Rights reported around 42,000 active missing person cases worldwide around 11-20-04. Missing persons are those whose current status and location are unknown: they might be dead, lost, abducted, enslaved, or simply runaways.
-- International Service for Human Rights ["http://www.ishr.ch/About%20UN/Reports%20and%20Analysis/CHR%2058%20-%20A%20of%20J.htm"]
From 1619 to 1865 about four million men, women, and children-- mostly Africans and African-Americans-- were kept as slaves in the United States and related colonies.
-- Lawmakers Ask Congress to Apologize for Slavery, By Christopher Wilson, Yahoo!/Reuters, June 19 2000
Between 1,530 AD and 1,780 AD, a million plus Europeans (95% of them male) were abducted and pressed into slavery by North African pirates-- many to man the oars of the pirates' vessels.
-- Book: Muslim Pirates Enslaved Whites ["http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20040322/slave.html"] By Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News; March 22, 2004; dsc.discovery.com
"Something I believe is true even though I cannot prove it, is that both cannibalism and slavery were prevalent in human prehistory."
-- TIMOTHY TAYLOR: Archaeologist, University of Bradford, Author of The Buried Soul
-- THE WORLD QUESTION CENTER 2005 ["http://edge.org/q2005/q05_print.html"]; John Brockman
Publisher & Editor; edge.org; accessible online on or around 8-10-05
-- You think slavery ended in 1865? Jul. 23, 2008
By LEONARD PITTS JR.
"More slaves are now imported (though the current word for this is trafficked) into the United States annually than were imported in an average year during the American colonial era."
"...globally there may be more people in slavery than ever."
"...the U.S. State Department estimates 600,000 to 800,000 brought across international borders each year - forced to work around the world under threat of violence for no pay.
In the United States, the best estimates indicate that 40,000 to 50,000 people are held in slavery at any given time, with about 17,000 people brought into the country and forced to work for nothing every year. The largest single category of them are forced to work as prostitutes, but a majority are domestic servants or some other form of forced labor."
-- New antislavery law may be wrongheaded By Richard Bernstein; April 9, 2008
MILD SPECULATION: This historic trend will continue indefinitely-- no matter how advanced technology becomes-- and the risks will steadily rise for us all
It seems safe to assume that a practice existing throughout all human history and even the present day will still be going on centuries from now. Because no matter what level of technology humanity attains, so long as some people possess more wealth and power than others the dictum 'the end justifies the means' will lead to the unethical treatment of those unable to fend off such assaults.
But what new wrinkles might technology advances add to the crime?
It appears obvious that all of us will be increasingly vulnerable to many sorts of dire insults-- including kidnappings-- no matter who we are, what we do, or where we live.
The eventual-- perhaps inevitable-- collapse of our last natural defense
Perhaps the ultimate danger in this vein will come if and when the time barrier itself is broken. For no one can predict what the priorities or motivations of people (or machines) far into the future might be. They might as well be aliens from another star system, in-so-far as their motivations towards us may be concerned.
Such technology may be intimately related to various faster-than-light transport systems. So the sooner humanity (or anyone) invents a true 'warp' drive or 'star gate', the sooner it may possess the essence of time travel tech too.
The two tier time barrier
It appears that no inorganic time travel system will ever be capable of reaching deeper into the past than the moment the first inorganic time machine is rendered functional. In that moment and afterwards though, the present-day could be literally flooded with such visitors. Thorough future technologists would simply make sure one of the first items placed through the new conduit would be a much improved version of the first clunky station. After that billions of visitors from all future ages could stream through the portal at will. Doubtless one of the main improvements to the transport station embedded in our time will be robust defense measures: i.e., we'll be helpless to do anything about it.
Should an organic means of time travel become available, there might be far fewer restrictions on subsequent trips into the past.
No protection from the 'grandfather paradox' or a 'prime directive'
Top-line thinking on such matters today says we may not be protected after all by the popular 'grandfather paradox' or 'prime directive' ideas which occupy important spots in our contemporary fiction. That is, time travelers may have little or no concern whatsoever about disturbing the natural order of events. Why? Well, besides those factions among us who have ever ignored principles the rest held dear, and others who always strive to change the status quo whatever it may be, there's also the possible fact that changing our history may have no deleterious effects at all on the past of those making the modifications.
Because it may be that time travelers into yesteryear never visit their own past, but someone else's. That is, moves into the past always shunt the traveler into a different universe entirely rather than their own, so that causality is preserved.
But such other universes may ofttimes be so similar in major trends and events as to still feel like home to such chronological wanderers-- but cost them nothing in regards to their own heritage if they decide to meddle with the order of events there.
So time travelers could well muck up our world with impunity. Even destroy it completely for pure entertainment purposes, with no consequences to their own lives. Yikes!
And should the 'second-tier' realm of time travel mentioned above ever come about, such travelers might be able to reach far deeper into the past than the invention of the first time machine. Indeed, they might be able to go anywhere after that. All the way to the Big Bang itself. Our entire universe could become unraveled as one result. Or be remade in a way that humanity never evolves in the first place.
Could it be this is why we detect no other intelligent life in our universe, circa 2004? Because every technological race at some point develops time travel and that capability results in an orgy of chaotic destruction across so many different universes that such races eventually disappear entirely from existence?
Such a scenario could go a long way towards explaining how most intelligent races might end up pretty much isolated and alone in their own individual universes. For more complex possibilities may usually end up being destroyed via time manipulation. And maybe all races eventually destroy themselves too in that manner or others, within only a few centuries or millennia of reaching their equivalent of our own 1900 AD in technological prowess.
Accidental time travelers may lead the way
But perhaps long before the first tier 'beachhead' described above comes about, there may be far smaller and less noticeable intrusions into our time period. Accidental stops within our own lifespans, as future engineers muddle their way towards a reliable means of transport. Maybe purely by error tapping elements of the omnipotent organic means itself, on occasion. So that such a crew could literally appear anywhere, at any time, completely independent of the invention of the first inorganic time machine.
For both them and us, the time and location of the emergence of these first accidental time tourists may be determined more by luck or fate than anything else. Or perhaps even by other time travelers, in a 'wheels within wheels' scenario.
Or maybe even by a simple flight of imagination on your part. Perhaps you'll publish something on a web site or elsewhere someday which will survive over centuries or millennia to intrigue just such accidental tourists. Tourists who happen to pop into your neighborhood tomorrow and decide to look you up. Yikes!
Those of us living today might think only someone like an Einstein or Hitler or US President would be of interest to time travelers. But that may not be the case at all, for lots of reasons.
Many people who are utterly unknown to the public today may offer tantalyzing targets for time travelers, for reasons only time itself may reveal.
Perhaps the only potential upside to such circumstances will be the same technological advances which make us vulnerable to such seizures might also make our post-abduction experiences much less onerous than those of captives centuries past.
The Chance of a Realtime describes the plight of just such an unsuspecting victim; someone who never in his wildest dreams considered himself a prime target for such an act.
As you'll see, there may be far less standing between you and a similar experience than you think.
CLICK HERE to begin the online novel The Chance of a Realtime.