Scales of time

Asked to comment on the rhythms, frames, loops and organisation of time in machines and between people in communities, Quillinan emphasizes that
scale is the most important difference between those two.

Computers operate on very, very, very, very short periods of time, microseconds, nanoseconds. Humans operate on a much longer scale, don’t really notice where an hour goes, don’t remember every hour and every day. People only remember the parts that were important to them, they take time as being very small memories about a specific time, but can hardly remember what they did this morning. Computers in contrast remember everything they are told to remember, but they also operate on things in byte size chunks and never very long. Computers are programmed to have rhythms; they do certain operations happen every minute, every hour, every day. And they have the clock which cycle defines exactly how often things happen. Hertz defines a time cycle, so Kilo Hertz is a thousand cycles a second.

Compared to humans computers do not create knowledge, they compute very fast while dealing with knowledge. And they do this faster and faster and every new version replaces earlier ones. This ‘lack of respect for ancestors’ in computing is not a problem for Quillinan: “Do we really want to go back to doing things the way they were done at first?” he asks.