Is technology eating the present? No way, we’ll do it ourselves

The year is young and one feels old oneself. Where have the last twelve months gone? Somehow they’re gone, swallowed up in the moment of New Year’s Eve. A strange feeling: time flies and stretches at the same time like old chewing gum to which every bad memory seems to stick forever. The French media philosopher Paul Virilio calls this state of affairs “raging standstill”. He describes a present in which the human sense of time gets confused. This has a lot to do with the technological change of the last few years.

The Internet and mobile digital technologies have changed our understanding and perception of time. Some say for the better. After all, the ubiquitous multitasking, the parallel completion of a wide range of tasks at the same time, should make us faster and more productive. At the same time listening to a podcast or making a phone call, changing the baby’s diaper and emptying the dishwasher, that’s possible. We live in a parallel society in which everyone and everything, including ourselves, is constantly available.

For the time this means: their linear passing, one thing after the other, has been replaced by the concept of simultaneity. The Internet has disrupted time as we know it and reassembled it into a multi-level jigsaw puzzle in which every piece must be placed simultaneously at every moment to keep up.

For more delicate minds, that’s not always an advantage. They suffer from chronophobia, the growing fear that time is passing faster and faster, even too fast. In the internet world, the present has merged with the future. The Canadian media philosopher Douglas Coupland believes that there is now no temporal dimension of hope, to which one could previously direct many things.

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Various apps on our smartphones turn this time-related feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) into a business model. We can log our activities, record them systematically and evaluate them according to their percentage of day-to-day business, use the Pomodoro technique to be reminded of regular breaks in the infinitely accelerated stream of time, or document good resolutions for better dealing with work and life time and commit ourselves to it hold yourself accountable if it doesn’t work out again. None of this changes anything over time.

In fact, it has been scientifically proven that time seems to pass faster with age. And that doesn’t only apply to recent periods of time, entire decades of life also seem to simply fly by the older you get. So not even time can save itself from the steel grip of inflation.

If the internet has disrupted time as we know it, how about trying to disrupt the disruption? There are different ways to do that. We could decide to simply abolish the calendar and live without a time structure.

Just like the small Arctic village of Sommarøy tried two years ago. Without time and its measurement, stores could just open when the owners wanted them to and people could meet on impulse instead of having to go through the hassle of arranging everything in advance. Well, that may still work with just 300 inhabitants. It is not possible to live like this in our complex world. The clock will remain, even if it mainly shows how time flies.

Why does time arise and disappear for us horizontally, not vertically?

If there is no structural disruption, then it is up to us to change our view of time. We don’t need any apps or new technologies for this, because there is a “techne” that is ideally suited for this: leisure. It does not describe a state of laziness, as is often wrongly assumed today, but a relaxed focus on the present.

Augustine wrote in his treatise on Time as early as the fourth century: “There are three times, a present in relation to the present, a present in relation to the past, and a present in relation to the future.” flow” is, we would say today.

How time passes also depends on how we imagine it spatially. Mostly by a timeline with the past on the left, the present in the middle and the future on the right. This is the visualization of the ephemeral without alternative. In countries that read from right to left (Arabic, Hebrew), it’s often the other way around. Time runs from right to left.

But the real question is: Why does time arise and disappear for us horizontally, not vertically? Wouldn’t the vertical, soaring timeline be the right image for a feeling that arises when something is going up, when there are new developments, changes, improvements that affect our lives, catapult us into the infinite space of possibilities? Space and time are not only mutually dependent in physics.

It is due to the self-chosen limitations of human imagination that we imagine time as a piece of fly shit sliding steadily to the left out of life’s field of vision, like on a treadmill.

More: The most important tech trends in 2022: the conversation at the end of the year with Miriam Meckel