The news that the world is slowing down – and that time itself is running slow – announced to explain the leap second at midnight on June 30th will have struck many readers as odd. After all, all the available evidence suggests that the pace of life is speeding up, not slowing down. And it certainly feels like it is speeding up faster than one second every two or three years.
Anyone close to keeping up to speed over the past decade will only have seen the pace of their life accelerating. Ever-faster connectivity, shopping that arrives without you having to leave home, instant messaging, mobile everything, and all of it available 24/7 full of organic veg. Everything is getting faster all the time (everything except coffee, actually, but there is always at least one exception).
Strangely, as time slows down, we’re all working longer, networking faster, feeling more pressure, and splashing our cash at an ever-increasing rate.
Where is Einstein when you need him to explain how all this stuff works? Mind you, for a man who didn’t even have time to brush his hair in the 1950s, the pace of 21st-century life just might have been an equation too far.
Progress is what they call it. “Progress now!” is how they sell it. But how are we supposed to cope with this unrelenting imperative?
We’re supposed to buy more and more new stuff because it’s faster. If it takes 20 seconds to plug your phone in for a recharge, you can make yourself richer by upgrading to a pad that doesn’t need a pug in. That’s 20 seconds every time your battery goes flat! You need one of those, and you need it now!
Are you paying for something in person? Wait, you can go contactless and save yourself nearly a quarter of a minute. You need those seconds – you’ve always needed them (obviously, if you are buying an Americano, a mocha, or a medium-sized latte, this does not apply).
And this logic of acceleration affects us all. Even national governments aren’t immune. In the UK, they’re spending billions of pounds on their rail network to save a whole 30 minutes on a two-and-a-half-hour journey. What they are saying is that time is worth more than money.
In the good old days – before leap seconds leaped into being, and the days were long and sleepy, and bingo was played with real people alongside you – time was money. That’s how it was, and that’s how it had always been. Einstein would have approved of such a nice neat constant in the cosmos. But now Time has been set free – and it turns out that Time is a voracious and a vicious beast. All it wants is more, and it wants it sooner and faster and more efficiently and effectively than it wanted it only a moment ago. Please don’t believe what anyone tells you; Time is not on our side.
It may be that the only way to live at this unrelenting pace is to either
- Sweep the net for the latest new tech
- Find a black hole to live in
- Drink a double espresso every half hour.