Before the pendulum clock was invented around middle of the seventeenth century people perceived time differently. Time was not something related to a periodic rhythm, but rather solar activity. If you asked somebody “what time is it now”, you’d get an answer like: “the sun is still very high, so I still have time to harvest my crops”.
This all have changed with the invention of the steam engine and eventually the rail road. Operation of the real road required more precise time coordination.
Co-ordination was essential to bring together supplies of raw materials, to organize workers and distribute their output. No point in having workers turn up at any old time, hoping that someone had brought in the cotton or wool to be processed, or hoping that someone had cleared yesterday’s output. Co-ordination was possible only by co-ordinating the time.
Factories demanded considerable time-management. Workers had to be woken by ‘knockers-up’; shifts needed to be measured by a factory clock.
As the industrial economy and its transportation network became more and more complex, bulky raw materials and finished products needed synchronized services from canal companies, mail coaches and, later, railways.
In our era the meaning of time has become different, but our perception is still lagging behind. Being on time is no longer relevant, what is more important is being ahead of time.
We have to ditch the old perception of time. If I was to choose a requiem song for it, I would go for Radio Ga Ga by Queen:
Listen to it: a rhythmic start, just like the industrial era time clockwork. In the background — Metropolis sequences, an apotheosis of industrial society with all its symbolism. And then slowly, but profoundly, paying tribute to the industrial time (Radio Ga Ga) and finally sending farewell to it. Watch the background sequence, read between the lines: it says loudly — the industrial time has to go.
The industrial time drags a lot of archaisms behind. Today industry and logistics is driven primarily by computers. Humans are no longer parts of the process, they are above it. And computers excel them at being right on time. It’s no longer productive to be at work at 9am and leave at 5pm, it is actually counterproductive, as we no longer produce material objects, we produce ideas, we discuss and share them and enter into computers.
Appointments are becoming irrelevant, because communication is universally available. Appointments are becoming irrelevant, because intent is more important than time. Appointments are becoming irrelevant, because we trade less material things than in the past. Appointments are becoming irrelevant, because logistics is so advanced nowadays, that it works like a huge continuous process.
Television on a fixed schedule is becoming obsolete. Radio on a fixed schedule is becoming obsolete. Radio is being replaced by Spotify and podcasts all on demand. Television is being replaced by on-demand services like Netflix, Youtube and ultimately, the Internet.
In the future without fixed time there still will be these anchor events like tornado or sport events, but everything else will be fluid and dynamic.
The time is becoming intuitive: it’s time to do something that I need to do when I feel like it is time to do it. Why? Because unless I feel like it is time, it is not cooked, it is not mature.
Our era is an era of event-driven time, it is the time when you don’t know what you are going to do apriori. Our era is an era of cruising in chaotic and unpredictable ocean of unknowns and finding your land. In this chaotic ocean everything might seem high-priority, because everything seems like a danger. When everything is high-priority the only way to get something done is to do what your intuition tells you. And this is the only way you can get ahead of time.
So, let’s welcome the intuitive time! Let’s welcome the time that is frustrating with its unpredictability, yet exciting with its opportunities!