In the summer of 2015 I invented a new way of conceptualizing the structure and measurement of time. I call both the system of timekeeping and the device a tricyclic chronometer.
One of the most current versions of the clock face is as shown below, though there are other versions that more closely resemble a standard clock face.
At first, I thought nothing of it, though I certainly felt a very deep sense of satisfaction as I delved into the intellectual work of re-conceptualizing and re-organizing an internal and external construct of time, a process that took me several weeks of intense research followed by several months of tinkering and refinement. I was quite pleased with the timekeeping system that I finalized because it felt deeply intuitive and disarmingly simple, despite the rather deep work that went into its creation.
But then, in the subsequent months that followed my invention of this alternate time telling system, my life took a rather dramatic turn. For a variety of reasons, I will not elaborate on the exact nature of the mysterious, spiritual, and seemingly inexplicable experiences I had, but, suffice it to say, the length and depth of these extraordinary events led me to a conclusion that I readily admit is quite bizarre and seemingly highly improbable – namely that this alternate time line that I created is a real, physical object with measurable effects in the real world.
Best as I can tell, I had, somehow managed to transform the reality around me by transforming my understanding and experience of time itself.
Alternate timelines, I finally concluded, are more than mere theoretical entities. With the right time machine, we truly can in a non-trivial sense travel into an alternate version of reality.
As a highly rational person, I agree that the notion of generating an alternate timeline via generating an alternate timekeeping device seems quite absurd. However, when one stops to more thoroughly consider exactly what a clock is, and what it does as a physical object in the world, my conjecture that the invention of an alternate timekeeping system quite literally manifests a very real alternate timeline seems far less strange than one might initially suspect.
In fact, upon closer examination, it becomes rather obvious that this must actually be the case.
There are actually three different ways that one can think about the process by which a time machine both generates and transforms time in order to explain how and why an alternate timekeeping system must have real world effects.
Alternate timelines, I concluded, are more than mere theoretical entities. With the right time machine, we really can in a non-trivial sense travel into alternate realms of reality.
Concept 1: Machining Time
Let us first consider what a clock actually is, namely a time machine. Moreover, let us consider that, as a time machine, a clock is quite literally machining time.
While it may seem at first like a simple play on words to say that a time machine machines time, when we consider the reality of what a clock actually does, which is to essentially take the raw material of “time stuff” and transform it into a quasi physical structure upon which we are able to attach conceptual objects which we then use in a real and measurable way to transform physical space, we see that there is a particular insight that comes with thinking of a clock as literally machining time.
In an absolutely real sense, a time machine actually machines time into a more usable form which we commonly call a schedule. In this way, a time machine operates like any other common industrial machine that converts raw material into something more useful.
This machining of a rather precise schedule out of less structured “time stuff” substrate is a hugely significant event in human history, since it is clear that the ability of individuals and societies to create and manage these quasi-structures has been an enormous advantage in creating greater economic development and managing complex systems.
Indeed, when we examine now extinct advanced civilizations such as the Romans or Mayans, we find that they often maintained rather precise and complex timekeeping systems, particularly when compared to less complex societies. In some ways, the story of human development and complexity, especially in the West, can be seen as a story about the mastering and management of time as measured and created by ever more precise chronometric technologies.
Moreover, in so far as a time machine facilitates greater spatiotemporal coordination of groups of individuals which increases efficiency in work, it effectively creates more time in addition to restructuring time itself.
When we consider clocks in this way, they become almost magical objects given there ability to both restructure and generate usable time. Indeed, this phenomenon is now such an ordinary part of our experience of reality that we hardly take notice of how strange and wondrous this actually is.
Of course, an attendant problem throughout history has been a tendency to use the extra time created to misuse resources in unsustainable ways. Thus it is clear that it is not enough to expand our available spacetime stuff via technology – we must also have a value system grounded in the wise use of that additional spacetime.
the time machine does not merely restructure time when it machines it, it also in a very real sense creates more of it
I should note that this creation of more time is not merely conceptual, rather, it is a real, and I believe scientifically provable mathematical phenomenon.
The creation of more time by time machines can be understood by applying a conceptual principle associated with fractal objects, namely that as we reduce the size of the unit we use to measure a seemingly finite structure with fractal properties, like the coastal boundary of a land mass, we end up with a changing and infinitely expanding perimeter.
Conceptually speaking, the boundary of the coastline turns out to be mathematically infinite so long as we continue to reduce the size of the unit used to measure it due to the fractal nature of coastlines. Similarly, the invention of the hour, then minute, and finally second, has, I believe, had a similar effect on time itself, whereby the amount of time has effectively expanded throughout history as our precision at measuring (or more precisely, metering) ever smaller lengths of it has been improved.
Moreover, when you further consider that we actually do hold a notion of time being infinite, the above analogy is realized to be even more apt. Even more telling is that we have clearly converted this expanded time capacity into the physical spatial dimensions via both the construction of increasingly complex physical objects, as well as the creation of machines that are capable of traveling ever farther into the reaches of outer space.
In other words, we can objectively measure the physical effects of fracturing time conceptually since it is reflected in our built environment. Our generation of more “timey” spacetime stuff via chronometry has led to the creation of more “spacey” spacetime stuff. That is, our rapid expansion as a species spatially reflects the fractal expansion of time generated by chronometers.
Precision metering of time has in fact had the real effect of actually expanding the available spacetime that is perceived in consciousness, and thus available for real work.
Indeed, the strength of this analogy indicates that time itself is perhaps best understood not as a wholly separate fourth dimension from the three spatial dimensions, but rather as a kind of fractal dimension that is somehow embedded within the three spatial dimensions, and/or perhaps generated by the relative motion of the spatial dimensions. Given that fractal objects have dimensions intermediate to the the three spatial dimensions (for example the monkeys tree fractal has a dimension of 1.8687) further adds credence to the idea that, rather than being a separate dimension, time – which is clearly fractal in our most common conception of it as something real, infinite, but untouchable – is actually an intermediate spatial dimension of some kind.
Of course, the reality is that while time itself may be conceptually infinite due to the properties of fractal geometry, by all conventional appearances, we ourselves live finite lives on a spatially finite planet with finite resources. Thus, though we may be able to generate more conceptually usable time via fracturing time into ever smaller units, because that time is attached to physical space, which is limited, there is a real physical limit to the amount of time that we can generate, particularly if the spatial dimensions are being used as a resource to generate the metering of time.
In this way, the notion that we are running out of time due to our misuse of physical resources should be understood to be a literal, physical phenomenon, rather than a mere manner of speaking – we are literally running out of the capacity to generate more time because we are running out of the spatial resources being used to generate that time.
Our gross misuse of limited spatial resources, is a situation that cannot be remedied solely by tinkering with time machines. That being said, I believe that it is far more likely than we appreciate that we can at the very least generate more usable time by tinkering conceptually and physically with our current timekeeping system.
Again, let me be very clear – I do not actually believe that reinventing the clock alone will solve the resource mismanagement problem that exists. That problem is a result of the values we hold as a civilization. However, I really do believe that in a quite literal sense, we really can buy ourselves more time to address the resource use and allocation challenge that we now face as a species.
Concept 2: Spacetime Drill/Portal
As stated, we can think of a time machine as machining time into a more usable form from a less structured substrate, a process which actually adds value to the restructured time, a value which can itself be measured as time.
Given that the cumulative effect of this enhanced efficiency has allowed those who become masters of time to more rapidly transform their environment in a manner aligned with their vision of the future, we can also think of a clock as being a kind of time machine in the more typical science fiction sense of a time portal. That is, mastery of a time machine increases the capacity to bring one’s future vision into reality. In a sense, it shortens the spacetime distance between dream and reality.
Indeed, my creation of the tricyclic chronometer was partially influenced by my deeper contemplation of a nerd billionaire’s statement that “the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed”, particularly when I considered that the distribution of “the future” globally, strongly correlates with the availability and mastery of precision chronometric tools, like clocks and navigational instruments.
To that end, I have also come to think of the spinning hands of an old fashioned clock as a kind of literal spacetime drill that bores time tunnels through the substrate of reality as we rotate through space. This facilitates a smoother flow of information from one point in spacetime to the next. Or, perhaps it is more like a propeller, pushing through spacetime towards a vision of the future at a faster rate than would otherwise be possible without access to precise timekeeping machines.
Personally I tend to prefer the analogy of a spacetime drill because I also see these “time tunnels” created by clocks as engendering a kind of smoothing of the usual turbulence that comes with moving through less structured spacetime.
I should point out here that these notions of turbulence and smoothness are meant literally. We tend to forget that we live on a giant rotating, revolving sphere flying through space. This motion creates turbulence which inevitably increases the level of randomness in our environment, and I believe that the cumulative effects of millions of mechanical clocks in particular all moving in harmony has had the effect of reducing that physical turbulence, leading to, for a time, a far calmer and less chaotic environment for humans.
A curious question I have is whether an increase in the use of mechanical time keeping devices (with or without a corresponding reduction in digital timekeeping devices) by some threshold of the citizens of a community might somehow, over time, correlate with fewer accidents. While it seems improbable that this would be the case, I think that it very well could be.
In any case, regardless of whether you buy my conjecture that the cumulative effect of “spacetime drills” functions to reduce the ambient turbulence in the environment, it certainly is obvious that schedules create a kind of predictability that reduces the level of randomness in a system. This at the very least certainly does create a kind of metaphysical smoothness that is actually measurable as reduced stress and anxiety, fewer accidents, and other physical metrics. Of course, in so far as propellers themselves generate some turbulence in the environment as well, the propeller analogy might also be useful for investigating the impact of time machines on the ambient environment where such machines do not exist.
Concept 3: Frequency Generator
We can also think of time machines as mechanical objects that generate a background frequency which tunes our perception of reality in particular ways, similar to the way shifts in the frequency of sound waves influences what we hear.
The idea that reality has a frequency is used in new age circles to denote a variety of nebulous concepts, but here, I am using the word frequency in a robust physical way when I state that the invention and proliferation of clocks quite literally changed the frequency of reality. They did so by adding a mechanical/electromagnetic pulse to the ambient environment that was not previously there.
Every swing of a pendulum or escapement on a mechanical clock is quite literally generating a frequency, one which those raised in Western societies have undoubtedly internalized starting within the womb.
This embedded frequency in reality is far from a trivial observation when we consider what a radical change this actually is to the ambient environment when compared to the pre- mechanical clock era. And, while digital clocks are now perhaps more prevalent than mechanical clocks, the pulse of electricity associated with the change of the time display is also generating a frequency that is embedded in our perception of reality.
The metering of time in the West has becomes deeply embedded in the unconscious workings of the mind, for good and for ill. Indeed, it seems that the mental mechanism that helped enabled the kind of precise spatiotemporal management that fostered the coordinated behavior associated with economic development has increasingly left many people with heightened feelings of anxiety when they are now faced with less structured time.
The encroachment of work and work culture into time spheres that would otherwise have been relegated for self and family has meant that more people are having more of their lived experience embedded within the structured/metered time paradigm. That is, the advantage of time machines has increasingly transformed into a liability due to the mismanagement of time.
For example, in America it has become quite common to complain about how over scheduled more affluent kids are, the loss of recess in elementary schools, and how underdeveloped the creative play skills of children have become due to their increasing lack of experience with unstructured time. Increasingly adults too are plagued with the inability to deal with being bored, a psychological state which is the necessary prelude to deep and highly creative thinking.
It is hardly a coincidence that we generally associate greater relaxation with the process of eschewing clocks and watches, or that we describe being tense or agitated as being “tightly wound” and “wound up”. A careful balance between more and less structured time is crucial for healthy human development, physically and mentally, and here in the West that balance has become deeply skewed.
In much the same way that we are running out of the raw materials to make products, I believe that we are also running out of the “timey” raw material required to make well structured spacetime, namely unstructured and less structured spacetime.
The parallel here is no accident. A 24/7 economic system allows no down time for regeneration and renewal, a problem which attacks us at even the most basic level of our physical bodies and consciousness in addition to taxing the planet’s own systems of renewal.
If we consider that our bodies are a kind of time-space converter, whereby we alternate between conserving space to harvest unstructured time (sleeping) which we then expend as we harvest structured space (waking life), we start to more deeply appreciate the deeper effect that chronic widespread lack of restful sleep is having on American society and other similarly overworked cultures.
The time harvested during sleep is converted to both physical and mental energy, both of which are inevitably diminished with ever increasing consequences when an individual is unable to capture enough unstructured time to convert into structured waking life. Add in the distractions created by smart phones and other addictive technology, and what you have in a real sense is the fundamental unraveling of structured consciousness.
In addition to the balance between structured and unstructured time being skewed, it is also, increasingly bifurcated – alternating between overly rigid hyperstructures (think long rigid school schedules or the regimented activity of prisoners) and unmitigated chaos (think unpredictable zero hour work contracts and war torn environments), both of which sharply reduce the quality of human life and the human capacity to create and maintain structures, all of which is a symptom of the common collapse hypothesized by the researchers who wrote The Limits of Growth nearly 50 years ago.
By now, I hope that I have convinced those who can be convinced that our time keeping systems have deeply shaped reality in ways both subtle and profound that are worth interrogating much more deeply. As anyone who has worked or traveled cross-culturally knows, the perception of time is a part of the deep culture of a people, and thus shapes their perception and experience of reality on a fundamental level that we usually do not appreciate until we encounter or are immersed in a culture with a radically different concept of time than ours.
Indeed, from a ten thousand foot perspective, we can see that many of the global, cultural conflicts that we face as a planet boil down to our differing valuing systems about the use of time. Analyzed through this lens, it actually makes quite a lot of sense to consider how intentionally shifting our perception of time might precipitate or support shifts in our perception of reality more generally, and the underlying value systems which attend those perceptions.
the perception of time is a part of the deep culture of a people, and thus shapes their perception and experience of reality on a fundamental level
And, while I do believe that the widespread adoption of an alternate timekeeping system could have a very real and measurable impact on reality by quite literally changing the amount of time we perceive and therefore experience as a relatively simple (though thoroughly surprising) consequence of physics and math, it is also quite clear from the present reality that any extra time generated by a new time keeping system will be of no use if the underlying values of endless growth and over consumption are not addressed.
We must as a species learn how to make productive use of the extra time we generate via technology without resorting to profligate spending and resource misuse.
And, here too, I believe that an alternate time keeping system could potentially prove to be truly valuable. This is because time systems do not operate merely on a functional level, they also function on a symbolic often unconscious level (consider the notion of a “New York minute” or “the witching hour”, “24/7”, or even the meaning of the time 4:20 for lovers of weed). There are stories explicitly and implicitly attached to the time keeping systems that we use, and these embedded stories are not value neutral, though they may appear that way superficially.
Indeed, my own invention of an alternate timekeeping system, though highly cerebral, was far from a value neutral process. Moreover, the strange events that I experienced after its invention seem to be directly connected to the deeper implicit meaning that I derived about reality itself and the nature of spirituality that I explored while working through this conceptual task.
In other words, the process of inventing the clock precipitated a paradigm shift in my consciousness at a deeper level which effectively altered the course of my life by, in part, permanently altering my sense of time as a fixed metric. When I saw that there was a different, fully legitimate, and arguably more sensible way of thinking about time as a metric, I also realized that this expanded capacity for reinterpretation and reimagination extended to every facet of my life as well.
Indeed, the unusual and novel insights about time and time machines that I have shared in this essay are all a direct consequence of the months of musing I enjoyed as I worked to conceptually, and, unbeknownst to me at the time, physically re-engineer time.
Given the severity of the problems we face as a globe and how deeply connected they are to the cultural values we attach to time and its use, I believe that it is worth exploring any and all strategies, even seemingly esoteric ones like this one, which might help to precipitate the paradigm shift in consciousness we desperately need to transform and transport us from an extinction timeline to a survivable one.
In a very literal sense, we are in desperate need of additional time to address the unfolding reality of global systemic collapse, and creating that additional time as a physical reality will require us to engage in new and sometimes radical forms of thinking and action that are beyond our current conventions.
My experience of inventing a new timekeeping system showed me unequivocally that the human mind operates via a complex form of symbolic logic whereby real world objects exist on a sensory continuum with conceptual ones. To that end, manifesting a shift in human consciousness to a new paradigm might very well require an actual physical shift to a new timeline as well.