The Future of Time – Introduction

5 Jan

From our first moments we are thralls of time …

If we survive the dangers of our helpless infancy, then we begin to discover that, according to our taste and powers of observation, we are either lords of creation or mites on the surface of a minute planet, situated in a space so vast that we can only describe it in terms of light years. We discover too that our stay here is likely to be brief.  Humankind is thus forced to confront that great invisible and intangible fact of existence-time.

In recent centuries we have become skilled in certain aspects of science and engineering which have on one hand endangered our very existence on the earth, and on the other have enabled us to reach the surface of our satellite, the moon. The latter event has been received with admirable modesty especially by those most involved in the great effort. Not everyone has avoided, however the silly bumptiousness of predicting that we will now begin a “conquest” of space and time, and that this ‘conquest” will in some way ease the perplexities of the human condition.

Mankind (possibly much more than womankind) has been inclined to believe that there were geographical solutions to our social and political problems. Atlantis, Ultima Thule, the Northwest Passage to far Cathay, the Atlantic crossing to the Indies, the opening up of the frontier in the American West, Darkest Africa and even Siberia, have all been seen in their time, not simply as enlarging commerce or increasing our knowledge of the world surface but as means of transforming humankind. Yet when these distant places have been reached, the new people who emerge do not seem so very unlike those who stayed behind. True some old vices do not flourish as well on the unfamiliar soil, but new ones soon emerge to fill the ecological gap. new virtues might evolve too, but if so, the list is not yet a long one.

Time and space will not yield either to bumptiousness or to piety. by diligent efforts we may enlarge our understanding of ourselves and our fellows a little, and by so doing make our stay either on or off earth longer, more interesting, more enjoyable, and, just as important, more fun. Planning expeditions to such parts of the universe to which we might one day aspire, or perhaps be forced to attempt, having fouled our earthly nest so that we can no longer inhabit it, is one way of preparing ourselves for the future. Books like this are another!

The Future of Time Man’s Temporal Environment

Edited By Henry Yaker, Humphry Osmond AND Frances Cheek(Anchor Books Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, New York, 1972) pp. 3-4

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