For someone who is not working a 9–5 job, time takes a very different meaning than for someone who is still on the clock. Moving from one frame of mind to another can be very challenging indeed.

Since the mechanical clock was invented and work was scheduled—about 300 years ago—we have gotten so used to dividing time into equal segments that this has become almost invisible.

I was reminded of this yesterday when we were discussing the weather forecast. We consider forecasting important first and foremost in terms of the timing. What will the weather be like on Thursday? We consider this vastly more important than the fact that “soon it will rain” or “temperatures will hit 100F.” Now, it so happens that (as far as I know) timing a dynamic system like the weather is much harder than getting the ranges right. If we weren’t so focused on looking at the clock, we would find the weather forecast more useful. To wit, from a retired or time-independent point of view, all I need to know is whether I should get my ice-skates out or whether it’s time to bring out the sunscreen. If it rains today, I’ll simply go tomorrow instead; no particular need to plan a given day.

A similar perspective on time is found in the world of investing. It is often said that market timing is impossible. This may or may not be true. From my perspective, it doesn’t matter. I simply need to find a business which is stable and pays a dividend or a business that is undervalued. Who is to say when the market realizes this? It may take a day or it may take a year. All I know is the range—the “climate” so to speak; I don’t care about “the weather.”

Another way of thinking about this is that certain things operate in “compressed time.” This is the case for the stock market, where we have long periods of “no activity” which is interrupted by bursts of “much activity”. The long periods of no activity can be considered compressed as the long interval contains as much information as a short burst of frantic activity.

The same holds for creativity. If work is not routine, it is likely characterized by short periods of frantic activity (like writing this blog post) and long periods of inactivity.

This, however, only appears to be the case for someone who plots activity as a function of linear time. If it is plotted as a function of neural activity, the processing is more likely to be constant. The apparent inactivity of the creative person is merely due to not observing the (re)building phase of new ideas. The inactivity of the stock market is due to ineffective or discontinuous information distribution.

Time-perception is a curious little meme. It can be fairly developed—some people will be able to tell you, fairly accurately, what time it is without looking at the clock. I think that the elimination of time[-perception] ranks as high as the elimination of the ego in terms of personal development. It will eliminate “waiting”, where “waiting” is just mapping activity to time an being annoyed by the apparent lack of activity.

Waiting is simply due to plotting the wrong variable. A variable that has been trained into most people all their lives.

Originally posted 2010-09-06 15:37:27.