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The Abolition of Time

  • The temporal dimension is usually related to "change". Things change, and thefore we perceive the "passing" of time.
  • Change for humans has usually meant more than just "aging". In particular, the journey of a person requires "time". So does the "journey" of information from one person to another. These processes of physical or virtual movement are particularly powerful in delivering the sense of time because they embody "mini-lives": it's the passing of time at a microscale (compared with the macroscale of the universe).
  • Another powerful contribution to the sense of time comes, of course, from memory, and especially from the fact that memories fade away with the passing of time.
  • These three dimensions of time (transportation, communication and memory) have been dramatically altered in the 20th century. Transportation has become faster and smoother thanks to airplanes, trains and cars. Communication has become almost instantaneous thanks to the telegraph, the radio, the television and email. And memory has improved by orders of magnitude because of the invention of recording devices (cameras, music and video recorders, digital storage).
  • The passing of time used to be tied to a specific location, where time was "paced" by natural phenomena (e.g., the seasons). Transportation has altered the physical dimension of time: the passing of time is paced less by the seasons than by the number of trips.
  • Communication has entangled us in a wave just like the quantum wave function entangles all the particle of a system. We are immediately affected by something that happens far away, and we can affect the others the same way. All we have to do is pick up the telephone, and we can change the life of a friend or a relative in a few seconds.
  • We can "memorize" the sound, the look and the data of a civilization for future generations. The "legendary" dimension of the past is gone. Recording equipment demistifies the past. It makes the past less "past" than it used to be. It becomes more obvious that those places and those people are still around, are still with us.
  • The dimension of time is splitting and being replaced by a number of dimensions. There used to be only one tool to transport, communicate and record: our body. And there used to be one dimension associated with that tool, that we called "time". The new tools that have replaced the body are creating new unnamed dimensions.