How Technology Changes us in Unexpected Ways

Salvador dali melting clocks

Our relationship with time is complicated in more than one way. We live by the clock. Yet, I'd wager that most of us would love not to have it that way.

Witness our holidays, which likely involve looking at a watch, or a phone, as little as possible. There is a reason why we feel so much better when that happens —we stop caring about knowing what time it is or how long it takes to do something and we just enjoy the experience.

The very idea and expression of time is fascinating. In Metaphors We Live By Berkeley linguist George Lakoff and the philosopher Mark Johnson at the University of Oregon say, “time in English is structured in terms of the time is a moving object metaphor, with the future moving toward us.”

For example:

The time will come when…

The time has long since gone when…

The time for action has arrived.

When we say, “time flies” we are thinking of time in terms of this metaphor. We perceive time in terms of a front and back orientation, with the future ahead of us, or moving toward us. But there is another way in which we think about time, and that is with it stationary, and us moving through it.

For example:

As we go through the years…

As we go further into the 1980s…

We're approaching the end of the year.

“Time is money,” says Benjamin Franklin in an essay containing advice to a young tradesman in 1748:

Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, it ought not to be reckoned the only expence; he hath really spent or thrown away five shillings besides.

Smart or not, clocks and watches are everywhere. But for most of our existence, we woke when the sun came up, ate when we felt hungry, and went to sleep when the sun went down. Something changed in 1957. It was the year the balance spring was invented.

While we used sun dials before, now the movement was mechanical. Suddenly, we could measure time. Which led people to wonder what else we could measure. And we wondered something else. If time could now be broken into small, even pieces, what else could be?

The mechanization of time caused the mechanization of people. With time following us everywhere, it dictates when we eat, when we sleep, and how we measure the speed of things. “Technology doesn't just change the world. It also changes how we perceive it; often in fundamental ways,” says Adam Westbrook.

He tackles this fascinating topic in a short video essay.



[image above Salvatore Dali Melting Clocks]