A Dusty Rumination on Time
What follows is a tune-up of a scribble from one of my old notebooks. It's dated 26 November 2012, the 3-year prior anniversary of my pretirement. My perspective on time and technology has changed a bit since then, but this all still rings true-ish to me.
Here's what I was thinking:
Time is our prime commodity.
We each have a measurable but unknown amount of time alloted to us. I might spend my time vying for more time. Or I might spend it recklessly, wholly enjoying the moments it's made of, or ignoring their value. All we know for certain is that our time is finite.
We technologists build mechanisms and concoct algorithms to save ourselves time performing tasks we judge to be necessary or desirable, or boring as Kyle posits. We employ time-saving devices to increase the value of our incremental time, ideally peddling our own limited time to others at an inflated rate.
So then, technology functions as a multiplier on the value of our finite time allotments, and as a reducer of the costliness of our actions and endeavors. If not, what value can it add to our lives?
One might suggest that we also concoct and build technologies in order to make our moments richer or more enjoyable. But perhaps this is merely the flip-side of tech as a multiplier.
Take art—a manifestation of creativity that enriches the one who experiences it—as the prime agent of time enrichment. Then tech may serve to assist in the creation, distribution, or dissemination of the enriching agent, but it is not the enricher itself. The creative act is the kernel of enrichment. And the process of creation is the source of flow or happiness. The tech enables the creator to trade time spent creating for a greater amount of others' time spent at tasks that support a creative lifestyle.
Here's a silly diagram I drew on a plane five years ago.
Beyond that, and inspired by Czikszentmihalyi's work on Flow, it seems pertinent to ask whether flow is ideally an individual experience, or one had by groups in the best cases. Does happiness occur more easily in a concentration of people in flow rather than in a single flow-er? How many of those around you must be flowing or happy for you to flow or be happy? Any? Some baseline number? None?