Friday, February 25, 2011

Perception of time

I have a theory.

It might not be a very good one, and I can't prove it, but (even if somebody else has proposed this before, which they probably have) I did come up with it completely independently.

It relates to our perception of time.

You know how, as you get older, every passing year seems to pass faster than the previous one? Obviously, the actual years are not getting faster, only our perception of them.

My theory is this: Your perception of the speed of time passing is directly related to the amount of time which you have already witnessed passing.

Thus, for me, 1980 was 1/10th of my life, so it seemed to take a long time, whereas 1990 was 1/20th and seemed to pass a lot faster. 2010 was only 1/40th of my life and whooshed past. And so on.

The problem with this, if true, is that I have now realised that most of my perception of life is over, irrespective of how long I live! If I am lucky enough to live to 80 years old (i.e. twice my current age of 40), then my perceived time remaining (1/41 + 1/42 + 1/43 + ... + 1/79 + 1/80) is only 14% of my life, normalised by perception - 86% of my perceived life (1/1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + ... + 1/39 + 1/40) has already passed!

Even if medical science is able to extend my life to 200 years, I've still perceived over 70% of my life already.

If, as some claim, medical science will be able to halt aging within the next few decades, and lifespans of people begin to tend towards hundreds, perhaps a thousand years, then that doesn't deal with the perception problem. By the age of 500 a year passing will be perceived as being faster than a month does for me now. Even if I was to live to be 2000 years old, I've still experienced more than half of my perceived life already!

Presumably, the only way to halt or reverse this acceleration is to forget stuff - effectively reducing the amount of already perceived time?

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At 12:01 am, Anonymous ryan hilditch said...

I like it.

Consider though that you cannot actually "remember" all of the time that has passed- due to it being so long in comparison to our brain's limited capacity.

Was listening to brian cox explain some space/time theory last week. I have concluded that thinking about this stuff for too long may be dangerous!

I, on the other hand, often cannot remember what i was doing yesterday, which makes the perception of a whole year seem like a lifetime! rather than a fraction of one.

Finally, if you are right, you may have spelt the end for the "life begins at 40" party!!


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