January 27, 2013

The Lines, Circles and Helixes of Time

What’s the UI of time?

Robby Shaver asked this out loud during lunch at Virtub 5 years ago. He was working on the History feature for Buzzword and was curious of the our different perceptions.

Typical of his brilliant attention to detail, he ignited a passionate discussion on how we each visualize time in our minds.

Turns out some saw time as linear: but the direction —left to right or right to left— wasn’t agreed. Others said it was a circle, with the calendar year representing its circumference.

I was surprised to realize time has the shape of helix for me, with the past at the bottom and the future going up. Any point of the constant curve directly above of the same day of the previous year.

In other words, every year we make the same trip around the calendar, but we’re never back on the same place.

This has been on my mind during on the current trip to Oslo.

In the past 4 years I’ve arrived and left this city in an almost soap-opera like permutation of life stages: not knowing anybody and employed, with great friends and unemployed, engaged/it’s complicated/single/in a relationship, and with changed perceptions about… almost everything.

After some walking around, I want share the 3 most important things I’ve learned in the last four trips around the helix of time:

  1. Caution and action aren’t incompatible.
    In almost every case I can remember, acting upon something (even when the decision turned out to be wrong) yielded better results than waiting-and-seeing.
  2. Invitations are gifts.
    When someone invites you to anything, he or she is offering you the most expensive thing we humans can share: time. I regret learning this so late, luckily some of my best friends are patient and very generous.
  3. Over-planning doesn’t fix uncertainty.
    Just like a photo or a map, if you zoom-in too much you eventually stop getting new information and just restrict your view. Find the balance, you don’t need to know where you’re going to sleep/eat/be at every point in time.

As always, standards disclaimer apply: there’s no guarantee I’ll believe any these in four more years. In fact, one more thing I’ve learned in this time is to say I don’t know, and truly mean it.

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