The Hourglass in the Gearbox

Time is subjective. New and colorful experiences intensify our personal perception of time, extending our felt lifespan by several decades. The more each day resembles the last, the fewer outstanding peaks there are for our brains to recall as milestones in the fabric of spacetime. The same applies to weeks and years. When the peaks, enshrouded in a soup of clouds, fail to puncture through, our perception of time blurs. Just as an EKG heartbeat line requires spikes, if day-to-day life forms a flat line for an extended period, the first cracks appear in the glass of our hourglass.

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Sanduhr aus Glas vor schwarzem Hintergrund.

No Painting Without Contrast

The peaks of daily life are called time contrasts. Without them, we wither away like a plant without varied weather. This doesn’t mean that we need to wrestle bears daily, leap off cliffs, or juggle chainsaws. Time contrasts are subjective, shaped by characters and preferences. Moreover, these contrasts are neither positively nor negatively defined. A terrible or even gruesome experience can leave a contrast in our lifetime just as much as a moment filled with happiness. Positive time contrasts can be hobbies; an engaging book, a walk in nature, time spent with loved ones, attending a concert, or taking time for oneself.

Just as time contrasts are necessary, a balance between bad and good experiences is unavoidable. Winning the lottery every day would soon feel like a regular wage. To prevent desensitization, time contrasts should not be too close together and should be of diverse nature. It's likely that these contrasts are the reason why eternal life would eventually become tedious. The longer one lives, the more difficult it might be to paint contrasts on the canvas of one's life.

The Trap of Happiness

Caution! With certain perspectives, one edges towards the borderland of fortune cookies. Time contrasts can be summarily put into a proverb: "Fill your days with diverse and memorable experiences." There’s a kernel of truth in this. However, what use is the most beautiful wisdom when bills need to be paid, societal obligations pull us down into quicksand, and life's lottery is merciless. Place of birth, social class, or physical ailments - these are all the results of an unfair throw of the dice. It’s like with all supposed wisdom; its true value is measured by how tight the "stranglehold of circumstances" is. Many gurus, copywriters, religious leaders, and psychotherapists tend to overlook this. It can be perilous to indirectly or directly claim that with the correct life philosophy, garnished with a few wishes to the universe, everything will turn out for the best. Tell that to a Syrian girl, an orphan, clad in mere rags, sitting in a bombed-out neighborhood, quenching her thirst with filthy puddle water, too weak to escape the approaching human trafficker.

The circumstances, the context, and one's own possibilities sometimes form an insurmountable wall, against which all dreams, hopes, and positive thinking shatter. The more leeway life gives, the more it can be shaped. Realistically assessing this for oneself and others is of fundamental importance.

Until the Last Grain of Sand

For many people, the sand in the hourglass seems to trickle away faster and faster, although on average, people pass away later in life. How is that possible? If the sand flows faster, then there must be more sand. Through accumulated prosperity, advanced technology, and medicine, we have earned a higher life expectancy. Just imagine what a wonderful life it would be if the hourglass contained more sand yet flowed slower; to still reach almost a hundred years old but not rush through life in a mundane sprint.

The acceleration of time has been served to us by technological progress. In the past, a message took several days to be delivered from point A to point B. This is now possible at the speed of light. Additionally, average citizens have access to more information than the most elite scholars of all epochs. Another absurd example: someone with internet access can view more nude images than the most powerful rulers could ever have done in their lifetimes.

The rapid exchange of information results in shorter reaction times. We receive more information and news, yet we have less time to react, let alone process. Added to this is the capitalist accelerant that formulated the poisoned saying: "Time is money."

The goal must be to slow down the subjective flow of time. How can this be achieved? For those privileged enough to fully shape their lives, they should focus on their time contrasts and filter and reduce the influx of information. For this to be possible for the masses, societal life must change. The only solution I currently see is artificial intelligence in conjunction with a form of "social capitalism". Technology needs to take better care of itself and relieve us of work. However, this relief should not be atoned for by the economy with new burdens. A social construct must stand protectively in between. As long as there is no better economic form than capitalism, the pace of information and society will remain high and continue to increase, with or without artificial intelligence.

In the distant future, digital copies of us may lead businesses. However, this utopia lies dangerously close to a dystopia. One thing seems certain: technology must become more autonomous or our economic system must be structured differently. In the best case, both. Otherwise, the rush of the technological age will continue to crack the hourglass. Instead, we should protect the hourglass and enrich it with time contrasts so that our lives end not only with a full but a fulfilled existence with the last grain of sand.

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Chris Casutt

RealizationZone, CEO

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