Hobbling Time

There is an allotment of time for every thought. Our bandwidth of consciousness is limited to under one hundred bits per second at best, in spite of our ability to chunk information and utilise massive parallelism of cortical columns. When we are tired or otherwise indisposed, our bandwidth is reduced accordingly.

Our consciousness is arranged so as to focus our attention on one thing at a time. Women may manage a limited type of multi-tasking due to better balancing of the cortices, but men are generally confined to one conscious thought at a time. That is one hobble, the real-time limitation of thought.

Within hours after waking, the human brain requires nutrient and fluids, and periodically through the waking hours this must be repeated. For many humans, periodic infusions of nicotine, caffeine, ethanol, and other chemicals are required in the waking time.

For most modern humans, the waking brain requires periods of rest and rejuvenation, when it simply sits and drinks chemical refreshment, or watches pre-digested “information” or entertainment content — or reads or listens to reassuring and undemanding sounds. After around fifteen to seventeen hours of “waking”, human brains require rest, so they sleep. That is another hobble, the need to sleep.

Humans can, of course go for much longer times without chemicals, sleep, and recreation. I myself have worked for periods of up to and longer than sixty hours without sleep, with only periodic short rests for food and fluid — and no chemicals except the rare and treasured caffeine. That is not a thing that humans will do willingly, unless given strong motivation.

When humans are born, they cannot think, not like adult humans. It requires years to acquire language and the forms of thinking that adult humans use. At least half of each day, of those early years, is occupied by sleep and other non-thinking activities such as television or a badly designed school curriculum.

Frontal lobe pathways do not fully myelinate before the early to middle twenties. Judgement suffers during this time prior to brain maturation, and very often the brain is well-indoctrinated and inoculated against independent thought before the brain has grown to dynamic maturity and competence. In many of these cases, there is no amount of time that can remedy the disfigurement. In other cases, the coming of full brain function allows a growth out of childhood and university/cultural indoctrination.

We think very slowly, when we think at all. Much of our time is devoted to performing duties of various types in exchange for currency, currency that gives us choices in what we do with our “free” time. We would rather talk on the cell, watch a film, relax with a cigarette or cup of coffee, drink a fine wine, and exchange non-thoughts with our friends. This is life, this is time.

Grasping for companionship, thinking this will stop time, this will be forever — this eternal moment. Attending weddings, our own, our friends. Surprised by time by babies by new emotions. Surprised by strangers with the names of our spouse and our children. Gray hair and wrinkles time sneaks strange.

All too soon, we are spending time at the clinic, at the diagnostic center. Visiting the hospital or being visited. Attending funerals for those we loved, whose time elapsed. Seeing ourselves in the casket reflected in the bathroom mirror, seeing ourselves in the hospital bed from the medicines inside the cabinet. That is our time.

What is the bandwidth of thought when one never thinks? When what passes for thought is pre-digested hyper-processed slurm? A lifetime of it and then nothi

All the marvelous ways we have of forgetting the passage of time. We say we are killing time but really we are just ignoring time while time is killing us. What can people do? Is it enough to be wise and to age gracefully, to achieve balance and peace of mind? Yes, that is preferable to suffering. Most humans never think, never think about this except in bad dreams or tragedies, but if they did they would not accept the contemplative answer.

Humans want to hold time rather than to be held by time.

Sometimes it comes down to the daily conflict between the intention to act willfully when awake, and the inescapable need to let go and sleep in peace. Understanding this balance, we can see one important gulf between people. Of those who care most about acting strongly while awake, there are those who want to achieve primacy over others, and those who only want to act out their own lives free from unnecessary hobbles.

Inevitably, time hobbles us even as we try to hobble time.

All of this will continue even after “the great acceleration” hits us. Pay attention. If you understand the terrain, you can anticipate the future watercourse after the coming deluge.

The above article is adapted from an earlier and more cryptic posting on the original Al Fin blog.

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1 Response to Hobbling Time

  1. John Galt says:

    This was great.

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