Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Death of Time

I have gotten used to the Death of Distance--that I can monitor instanteiously the power output of my home photovoltaic system from Hong Kong, and that I can listen to Red Sox games rolling across the Dakota prairies. Of course, the death of distance cuts both ways. I can bring my local environment with me, but most of the time I opt to live in a generic average American culture, listening to CNN of MSNBC on my satellite radio, with no sense of the happenings or gossip in Boston.

Now time is dying too. Because newspapers are now a continuous process, and the daily paper is just a snapshot of that river at an arbitrary moment in time, the Boston Globe has all but eliminated use of the terms "yesterday," "today," and "tomorrow," which used to be mandatory. Copy editors have to retrain themselves to restore what previously they were trained to eliminate. As the Globe explains,
The one print exception to the rule applies to headlines. Constructions such as “Crucial vote on debt limit today” are a newspaper staple. The “today” conveys an immediacy and often an urgency that we don’t want to lose. We suspect that “Crucial vote on debt limit Wednesday” would not rivet anyone’s attention.
So it goes.


  1. Well, perhaps someone can parameterize the display of text such that an actual date could be dynamically displayed as "tomorrow", "today", "yesterday", "last Saturday", "September 11th", or "September 11th, 2001" when it is displayed.

    Isn't that why we invented computers?

    And when some idiot tries to patent that (obvious to all but the idiot) idea, I hope someone finds this post and has his lawyer get all prior arty up in hi... Well, you know what I mean...

  2. The Dagstuhl workshops originally had NO or little access to
    technology since you are supposed to be there to get work done.
    I think they gave up when Lance Fortnow watched the world series
    on his laptop.

    The most important device to cut time and space was one of the
    first ones- the cell phone. You can be contacted anytime,
    anyplace. (I suspect the number of people you know ho are
    under 50 and don't have one is less than 10).

    bill g

  3. I remember a few years ago I led a conversation for freshmen about diversity and shared values. It was contentious and everyone seemed to agree on only one thing, which is that the great thing about Harvard was how different everybody was from each other, black, white, rich poor, gay, straight, urban, rural, American, international, etc.

    We then adjourned outside for a picnic lunch, and everybody in my group robotically whipped out their cell phones. Probably the same cell phone, for all I know.