Timeline by Michael Crichton
NudgeThaler makes this book much more interesting, for Crichton is making a similar claim. While Nudge focuses on the setting of good defaults, here we find defaults hard to move because of historical baggage.
But if you think about it, the past has always been more important than the present. The present is like a coral island that sticks above the water, but is built upon millions of dead corals under the surface, that no one sees. In the same way, our everyday world is built upon millions and millions of events and decisions that occurred in the past. And what we add in the present is trivial.
While on the shoulders of coral giants, we benefit from work completed in the past. Unfortunately, it's not easy to move to other coral giants because there are a lot of coordination games built using that coral, and we risk leaving our family, friends, and acquaintances behind.
“Consider for a moment,” Doniger continued, “how unevenly technology has impacted the various fields of knowledge in the twentieth century. Physics employs the most advanced technology—including accelerator rings many miles in diameter. The same with chemistry and biology. A hundred years ago, Faraday and Maxwell had tiny private labs. Darwin worked with a notebook and a microscope. But today, no important scientific discovery could be made with such simple tools. The sciences are utterly dependent on advanced technology. But what about the humanities? During this same time, what has happened to them?” Doniger paused, rhetorically. “The answer is, nothing. There has been no significant technology. The scholar of literature or history works exactly as his predecessors did a hundred years before. Oh, there have been some minor changes in authentication of documents, and the use of CD-ROMs, and so forth. But the basic, day-to-day work of the scholar is exactly the same.”
The same could almost be said of marketing and sales. We look at De Beers' ring massacre and we don't know how to replicate it elsewhere.
Temporal provincials were convinced that the present was the only time that mattered, and that anything that had occurred earlier could be safely ignored.
We are all provincials; the novel has technology which allows them to access the multiverse. And they stay on Earth.