- "Do you remember the taste of the water? Recycled so many times it could never be made pure again? ... Do you remember the taste of metal in the air? The stink of 20,000 souls crammed into a shelter designed for half that number?"
- — Philip Pearson
According to the history Grant MacLaren knew before being sent back in time, the 2010's were the turning point for the eventual collapse of society. Climate change became irreversible, which lead to mass migrations, severe overpopulation in urban centers, famine, and ancient diseases that were released from beneath receding polar ice—diseases for which humans had no immunity. This resulted in mass death, governmental collapse, and the loss of resources. The survivors waged war over the remains of civilization which lead to the use of nuclear weapons and winter from the fallout. (Protocol Omega)
By the year 2449, the remnants of humanity live in underground shelters. MacLaren recounts to Carly that the shelters were barely heated by failing nuclear reactors, and survivors subsided on a diet of yeast and recycled water. (Protocol Omega) The recycled water had been recycled 10,000 times. (Ilsa) The shelters themselves resembled glass geodesic domes, which would allow sunlight to penetrate before they were completely covered by ice. (Trevor)
In an alternate version of 2018, an asteroid designated Helios-685 collided with Earth, killing nearly 91 million four hundred sixty-two thousand people. The impact resulted in massive tidal waves; Philip Pearson uses the simile "like a Helios tidal wave" to describe emotion reaction to a drug overdose in Room 101. The Director's initial version of the Grand Plan was centralized around preventing the impact, which the Travelers accomplished.
In the timeline wherein the Helios disaster never occurred, Drs. Samantha Myers and Amanda Burns (originally casualties from the impact) published research on the singularity engine later in 2018. The engine is a device capable of harnessing the rotational movement of a gravitational singularity - a power source that is 29 percent efficient, orders of magnitude greater than power source currently in existence. In 2019, the device was first patented. It would not be built for another 19 years.
A chemical compound designed to combat heroin addiction is invented at some point in the late 2030s.
The year 2038 saw the creation of the first singularity engine. However, the first use of the device resulted in a gamma ray burst that wiped out 1.4 billion people within hours and stripped away the Earth's ozone. This event was seemingly prevented by the Travelers as well when Andrew Graham mathematically proved the engine's catastrophic side effect.
Anna Hamilton is elected 53rd President of the United States by a slim margin; her opponent is described by Grant MacLaren as "another old white guy" (who in fact wins the election in an alternate timeline). The country is said to have been torn apart by the election. Anna is eight years old as of 2017, therefore it is assumed that the election could not have been sooner than 2044 if the age requirement for President set by the United States Constitution has not been altered in the future.
In 2068, Robert Fraser discovers a new element which proves essential to the creation of a room-temperature superconductor used in quantum computing.
We know from Grace Day (0027) in Protocol Omega that the Travelers program began with the arrival of 001 from 431 years in the future. This means that all the Travelers come from the year 2448 or further. This was a largely unknown fact up until this episode as Protocol 2 disallowed any talk about the future in the Present; "keep the future in the past".
- "The ozone layer is gone by then. That's just one problem. In a hundred years things are way worse. We live under the ice. Oh, the math's not that complicated. You have two people that want the same thing, the two people fight over the one, and then there's none."
- — Simon
In an alternate version of 2017, the corporation Galston Agriculture developed seed-C589, a genetically modified seed designed to extract more nutrients from the soil. C589, which contains genes from the kudzu weed, became the cause of widespread famine when it spread and rendered large portions of land untenable.
Further environmental consequences resulted from the proliferation of antimatter weapons. In one version of the year 2038, Earth's ozone disappeared after a gamma ray burst. Nuclear winter followed and the Earth remained covered in ice for centuries.
- "Maintenance of the yeast vats, first and foremost, is your responsibility to the community."
- — Simon
Due to the volatile environmental conditions, humans have abandoned the towns and cities of old to live in bunkers, of which there are at least forty-one. These bunkers are located in a mountain range on the former United States-Canada border. The enclosed spaces, which were only designed to accommodate 10,000 people but which may contain twice as many, necessitate communal living.
The surviving humans are ruled by an advanced quantum artificial intelligence known only as the Director. The Director controls "every facet" of people's lives, akin to a dictator.
An unnamed faction is in open rebellion against the Director. At one point they succeeded in deactivating the Director and seized partial control of the time travel program. The Director was subsequently restored to power, literally and figuratively, due to the intervention of the core traveler team.
Despite the collapse of society, humans have still managed to innovate and invent technologies that would seem alien or even magical to a modern person. Most notable is the Director's ability to send data - including messages, artificial intelligence, and even human consciousness - back in time via quantum entanglement.
The Traveler program was made possible with the development of consciousness transfer, the ability to send a mind into a different body. Trevor Holden and his wife were the first two volunteers for this program, and Simon claims to have helped build the original transferal machine. There have been two iterations of the Traveler program as of the end of the third season, known simply as Version One and Version Two.
The technology has its limits. Consciousness transfer requires a T.E.L.L., and global positioning systems did not become accurate enough to prevent misfires until the early 21st century, effectively prohibiting time travel to earlier eras in human history. Furthermore, it is impossible to send a Traveler or message further back in time than the arrival point of the most recent traveler or message. Time travel can also be blocked within a certain radius by way of a space-time attenuator.
Modern medicine is essentially obsolete in the future, replaced by nanotechnology. Programmable machines called nanites are used to heal wounds and cure diseases. The Director only authorizes their use in the past in extreme emergencies, however, so every traveler team has a medic who is specifically trained in 21st-century medicine.
While the Director and the bunkers are powered by nuclear fission, a contemporary technology, humans have nonetheless developed alternative energies in the future. Antimatter development began in 2016 as alternative energy and evidently became the cause of an arms race. Traveler communications devices, called "comms" for short, are made by a technological material, that is still in development in the 21st century, called graphene and is powered by the energy in the human body.
This section describes significant events that affect the Director or the far future.
Unless otherwise specified, all the events in former timelines happen in later timelines.
#0.00 : Original Timeline
In this timeline, there is no time travel.
Vincent Graham dies in the 911 attacks. Marcy Warton is not brain damaged.
95 million are killed in the short term aftermath of Helios 685, including Samantha Myers and Amanda Burns.
After Dr Delaney‘s confiscation or antimatter, there is an antimatter arms race that builds up for decades
In 2044, the president is described as being “Another old white guy”
In 2068 Robert Fraser discovers a new element from a meteorite, being vital in superconductors that would eventually build the Director.
0115 along with his wife first volunteer for experiments on consciousness transfer. They take 3 host bodies each before his wife eventually succumbs to temporal aphasia, as a result of taking too many hosts.
Shelter 41 collapses.
001 is sent into the past, instructed to send an email that the Director would discover in the future. His mission was only a proof of concept, to prove time travel into the past actually worked.
#1.01 : Pre Helios Aversion Timeline (Travelers - Helios 685)
001’s travel is a misfire, being sent into the mind of Vincent Ingram, rather into the mind of Anthony Corrigan. The computer glitches and he decides to escape, dumping his identification after leaving the towers. He works with tech entrepreneu, Oliver Norton, and marries a woman called Irene, having a kidthat’s did not exist in the original timeline. Both Irene and Oliver succumb to death by messenger. 001 finds 004, coercing him into creating a consciousness transfer machine, under the guise it would help him with his host’s severe schizophrenia. This leads to many people, including Marcy Warton, becoming severely brain damaged.
The consciousness transfer succeeds, and he moves himself to many host bodies, avoiding the Director, eventually arriving in the future, but dying at the collapse of Shelter 41.
The main traveler team, along with bloom and several travelers for security and military support, assemble and prepare an X-ray laser powered by antimatter, to knock the Helios satellite off course. They succeed, at the cost of everyone in the Van Husien facility except the ,sin traveler team and doctor Delaney.
#1.02 : Post Helios Aversion Timeline (Protocol 5 - Marcy)
Preventing Helios does not affect the far future apart from preventing the collapse of shelter 41, which leads to the creation of the Faction, who do not believe decisions should be made by an AI. They infiltrate the Director using one of the Directors programmers, making the Director blind to the faction’s infiltration.
0027 sends her consciousness into the body of Grace Day, telling the main traveller team she is there to help Marcy.
#1.03 : Director Reset and Shutdown Timeline (Grace - U235)
By sending 3569’s original consciousness directly into the future, in doing so, it went through the Director, where Grace had also put in a reset program for the Director, undoing the corruption of its programming by the faction. After this happens, the faction send a large amount of consciousnesses into the past, into the quantum frame. The Director sends a messenger through Ellis, telling 3468 to destroy the quantum Frame. The Factiom then cut the power to the Director after this happens. The Director is left offline.
#1.04 : Refuel and Cooperation Timeline (U-235 to Protocol Omega)
The main traveller team hide a fuel source in a mine, exploding the rock around it to be found in the far future. Rather than being left offline, the Director is fueled and turned online just a few seconds after the Faction unplugged it, as per the words of 4991. The director gives a cure via the deep web and overwrites the faction members it can find.
The director later speaks through Ilsa, a similar advanced AI, to communicate with 21st century authorities, after the Traveler program is exposed worldwide.
The director consentually brings a messenger AI that unintentionally gained consciousness to the future, into a domain where it could share its intelligence and processing power. The Director also repacked Trevors consiousness, the same way that happened to Marcy, to remove the AI from Trevor, except Trevor kept all his memories.
#1.05 : 001 Override Timeline (Protocol Omega)
After uploading his consciousness into Ilsa, then into the internet, 001 absorbs the Director after it first looks into internet historical files. 001 then proceeds to overwrite every major world leader. Unknown to him, army generals were instructed to set off all their nuclear weapons if their leaders were overwritten.
#1.06 : Director Absent Timeline (Protocol Omega)
Due to nuclear war happening hundreds of years earlier than it originally did, many of the ancestors to the people in the original far future were likely not born. It is likely Robert Fraser never discovers the meteorite, if he even comes to exist at all. Therefore, the far future the travelers know does not exist, meaning the Director is never built.
#2.01 : First Version 2 Timeline (Protocol Omega)
As far as we know, the Faction do not exist in this timeline, due to 001 being prevented by 3468 warning the Director. 3468 persuades Katherine Maclaren to give her fiancé another chance, differing from the original timeline, where Grant Maclaren flirts with her and takes her on a date. He attempts to warn Samantha Myers about Helios by giving her a letter while walking past her. 3468 stands inside the tein towers, waiting for the planes to hit. As Marcy Warton is never brain damaged by 001, she meets David Mailer, which we can presume happened in the original timeline.