Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Economics of Time in the "Time Paradox"

Sometimes in life we lose those that we most cherish, and regret forever that what we cannot hold onto anymore something we once had. In this age of the information revolution, we forget that time is scarcity. Renowned Stanford psychologists Phil Zimbardo and John Boyd's The Time Paradox is a cumulation of thirty years of research, and is a must read for those who have questions about our existence and what our purpose is on earth.

Our time here is finite, and is perhaps the most precious commodity we have. The authors argue that time is psychological though; although we may live in the twenty-first century, our bodies were designed for life 2000 years ago. We are living and breathing anachronisms racing through an information-possessed world of social networking sites, globalization, cell phones, iPods, and hyper-2.0 technologies.

In spite of the many valuations we assign time, and in spite of the fact that time is our most valuable commodity, it is striking to note how little thought we give to how we spend it. The authors raise the question: Why do we often spend our money more wisely than our time? Relationships are very much time-dependent on three stages: past, present, and future. When you meet someone new, you share neither a common past or future. You are stuck at the present, which you hope will turn out to be a good place. The warm feeling of holding hands together for the first time, kissing on the beach, your first phone call . . . blossoming of love and staying up until four A.M. talking together about nothing.

Time passes; the initial passon fades; and the past and future reassert themselves. It is not that you or your partner changes. It's that together you have created a past and a future, which require having new attitudes toward time. If one person is biased toward the future and the other toward the present, it may be difficult to make simple joint decisions. Deciding what to eat for dinner to how to spend extra money to how to spend free time become tempting arguments where none had existed before.

Boyd and Zimbardo discover from their research of couples that what people want from relationships differ depending on their time perspectives. Couples with mismatched time perspectives will be prone to miscommunication and misunderstanding. They may truly love each other but live in separate worlds, like lovers who speak different languages. Couples with conflicting time perspectives may not undestand why they have difficulty in communicating. There may be no apparent reason why they cannot hear each other. While one speaks in the present perspective, the other speaks in the future. Their conversation is incomprehensible not because they are dense, uncaring, or unloving, but because they speak different time perspectives.

If two people attempt to meet in the past or the future, they are likely to be lost in a fog. When they argue, they are tempted to leave the bridge of the present and become lost in the past or abandon the present for the fog of the past. How do we bridge the gap in the languages of time? You start with the present. As Shakespeare puts it, we are the clocks on which time tells itself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that. That was beautiful.

When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.