“How long is now?
Yes, that dog is moving, but not that tree. Plants don’t move.
Well, yes, they actually do. Trees grow and then they decay. It’s just that we can’t see it happening now. It happens over a longer span. Which means it is happening now, just not in a way that matches our frame.
Getting our time scale right is essential. It affects how we perceive the growth of our organization, or the changes in our planet. It changes the way we invest in education and how we react or respond to the news media.
Do we need a sweep second hand on our wrist watch or merely a page-a-day calendar to mark the passage of time?
Alan Burdick’s new book goes into the history of how we think about now (as compared to before and after) and one particular example stuck with me: What would happen if we were creatures that lived for only 28 days? Or for 300,000 days? And if our attention span compressed or expanded along with that outcome?
Often, people who are happier or more effective than we are are merely seeing things in a different (and more appropriate) time window.
And one last example, I’ll call it Dash’s Twitch: It turns out that the insanely stressful ticker that the New York Times had on their home page on election night, the one that kept flicking back and forth, taunting everyone who saw it, was actually using “real-time” data that only updated a few times a minute.
Which means that the twitch was faked. Yes, the data was moving over time, but it wasn’t moving now.
If our now gets short enough, everything is a twitch.
And twitches, while engaging, aren’t particularly useful or productive.”
[Anil Dash is the CEO of Fog Creek Software. He also founded Makerbase, Activate, and the non-profit Expert Labs, a research initiative backed by the MacArthur Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which collaborated with the Obama White House and federal agencies.]