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The increasing nonlinearity of time

5 April 2001
Matt hasn't got time for this.

What do you expect, closure? Time isn't space, you know. As much as it feels like a build-up, climbing up a hill towards your birthday, unable to sleep for excitement (or nerves); as similar as it feels to break through that barrier in time and then roll down the other side -- as much as you think you're walking a path, crossing (and burning) bridges, days like years or years like seconds; as much as you feel like that, it's not.

Time goes on, one second per second, tick tock, tick tock. Except it doesn't, today more so than yesterday.

Fire is real, but your perception of fire ain't. There's a bit of your brain that lights up and keeps you staring. Those tens of thousands of years where a burning ember was the difference between death and life have made a mark on you.

You can taste sausages in your mouth because you smell them with your nose and transpose the sensation to your tongue. Our brains make a stamp on the universe.

And such it is with time.

So time goes fast, slow, fast, slow, never at the right speed. And if, for a moment, it does go at the right speed, that's not going to last forever. So it's going too fast. You'll live your life alternately bored and frustrated, too bad. And from something you created too. Well done.

Time rolls round, or spins out. Are we towering up, moving forwards with time? Are we cycling, day after day after day? Or a fractal, zoom in: year month day second microsecond, then lost in the uncertaintly of the quantum foam?

Why do we insist on making time into a physical thing? I say again, it ain't. If it were, we're moving backwards. In a car at least I can see where I'm going; I've already seen where I've been.

Time is the direction of information flow. We produce and we consume information. Speech, television, rules carved into rock. Mostly, we don't notice producing the stuff, but we notice consuming it. By definition, really, consumption implies a change. A change in oneself.

We live at the point of consumption, not at the point of production (which is always behind it). Your consciousness sits in the timestream, gobbling data.

Once upon a time the two points used to be co-incident. No longer. With recorded information the point of consumption can be anywhere from seconds to millennia ahead. It's blurred out, muddled up. When we act, we're acting in the future. But we're responding to some time in the past.

We dart about, forwards and backwards, no longer living in the now. Histories come into existence as we consume data. Do chickens exist before we eat them?

And when we respond, we're acting from the deep past into the uncertain future. We're doubly out of date. Is it any wonder arguments are never settled and disputes always confused?

With more and more stored knowledge this situation is only going to get worse. I write now, and change the world months, maybe years ahead. If I talk to you before you've read this essay we've subverted cause and effect. Time is becoming nonlinear.

Except... except it ain't.

Socially, we concentrate on specific points. Together, we funnel our points of production and consumption together. As we approach the time singularity closer and closer we refer less to what comes after it.

When I make a decision based on what you did, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, four months ago; when you continue doing what you do because you think I don't know: We get involved in knots of causation. And as we approach the singularity it's hard to discern anymore who said what, who consumed what and in what order it all happened. And in this case, all that we know is that we're approaching the end.


Previously on upsideclown


Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
23 October 2003. Matt writes: Topology
2 October 2003. Matt writes: Haunted
8 September 2003. Matt writes: The Gardener's Diary
21 August 2003. Matt writes: The Starling Variable
31 July 2003. Matt writes: Two stories
14 July 2003. Matt writes: What is real?
23 June 2003. Matt writes: Mapping and journeys
29 May 2003. Matt writes: Extelligence
5 May 2003. Matt writes: Religious experiences
17 April 2003. Matt writes: Seeing the Light
27 March 2003. Matt writes: Flowering
10 March 2003. Matt writes: Climax state
10 February 2003. Matt writes: The Role of Cooperation in Human Interaction
20 January 2003. Matt writes: The same old subroutine
2 January 2003. Matt writes: New beginnings
9 December 2002. Matt writes: Packet Loss
18 November 2002. Matt writes: Wonderland
31 October 2002. Matt writes: Having and losing
10 October 2002. Matt writes: Trees of Knowledge
19 September 2002. Matt writes: The online life of bigplaty47
29 August 2002. Matt writes: Divorce
8 August 2002. Matt writes: How to get exactly what you want
18 July 2002. Matt writes: Eleven Graceland endings
27 June 2002. Matt writes: Listopad, Prague 1989
3 June 2002. Matt writes: Engram bullets
6 May 2002. Matt writes: Sound advice
15 April 2002. Matt writes: How it all works: Cars
21 March 2002. Matt writes: Proceeding to the next stage
25 February 2002. Matt writes: Spam quartet
31 January 2002. Matt writes: Person to person
7 January 2002. Matt writes: All for the best
13 December 2001. Matt writes: Life
19 November 2001. Matt writes: Giving is better than receiving
25 October 2001. Matt writes: Ludo
1 October 2001. Matt writes: Gifts, contracts, and whispers
6 September 2001. Matt writes: The world is ending
13 August 2001. Matt writes: The Church of Mrs Bins
16 July 2001. Matt writes: Things I Don't Have
25 June 2001. Matt writes: Fighting the Good Fight
31 May 2001. Matt writes: Code dependency
7 May 2001. Matt writes: Up The Arse, Or Not At All
5 April 2001. Matt writes: The increasing nonlinearity of time
19 March 2001. Matt writes: Hit Me Baby, One More Time
22 February 2001. Matt writes: Space, Matter, Cities, Sausages
29 January 2001. Matt writes: Truth in Advertising
1 January 2001. Matt writes: Six predictions for tomorrow
7 December 2000. Matt writes: You must reach this line to ride
16 November 2000. Matt writes: The truth about the leopard
23 October 2000. Matt writes: Shopping mauls
28 September 2000. Matt writes: Heavy traffic on the road to Utopia
4 September 2000. Matt writes: Sixty worlds a minute
17 July 2000. Matt writes: You, Me, and Face-space

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