TimeSaturday, June 16th 2012 by Pat
The other night I was thinking about time. It wasn’t my fault, I was peeing and I went into autopilot and all of a sudden a thought popped into my vacant head.
What is time?
I’ve probably thought about that before but now that the internet lives in my phone I decided to follow up, and yes, I washed my hands first.
What is time, Internet? Tell me.
Time is what clocks measure. [#] Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future. [#]
Apparently irreversible. Heh. In going further down the Wikipedia rabbit hole I found out that some very smart people have some very different ideas about time.
One group says time is a dimension we travel through, a theory I’m more familiar with because it’s the basis for most time travel fiction. The other folks, including people like Immanuel Kant and Gottfried Leibniz believe time isn’t anything, it can’t be measured or traveled, it’s more like a sense.
The best I can understand and explain it is that we feel the passage of time in a way that is very similar to the way we feel any other sense. Touch and taste are abilities which allow us to interact and experience the world but they are also concepts with no structure.
You can feel that you are touching something but touch itself is not a thing. You can feel that you are timing something but time itself is not a thing. The idea of moving through time becomes a description of the way we experience that sensation. Sensations are not things.
I like this idea of time as a sense. I immediately wondered if insects have a sense of time. Turns out they probably do. [#]
I read about experiments and temporal distortion and people who study time and then I ran into something fascinating about the way individuals think of time.
Some of us are polychronic and others are monochronic. The link explains it pretty well but the basic idea is that we experience and relate to time differently.
Polychrons are multitaskers, they don’t want detailed schedules and might not do well with deadlines, they aren’t concerned with exact times and dates. Monochrons are punctual, they view time as blocks and see single tasks through to completion before starting another.
It seems to me that pople experiencing time differently could be the root of some much larger issues.
A country like the United States has a mostly monochronic culture while a place like Saudi Arabia is more polychronic. I wonder how much conflict arises from not understanding how another person might experience or perceive time.
Myself, I’m a polychron in a monochronic culture. I always knew I didn’t fit into the work-a-day world but this concept might point to why.
This poly/monochron concept is a life changing revelation for me… Either that or I’ve latched onto a convenient excuse for being easily distracted and missing deadlines.
[Note] – The illustration may look familiar, chronbot was a character I drew many years ago and this is just a re-imagining.