If Time Is Speeding up How Much Time Do We Have Left?

January 30, 2013 — 1 Comment

“It’s going to go fast,” my dad said to me on the eve of my high school graduation.  And like a typical teenager I didn’t believe him. How could I?  Judging by the experience of my first 18 years, I expected the next 18 to feel just as long.  There was plenty of time to waste.

But of course he was right and I was wrong.

I’ve found that the second half of my life has been no where near the length of the first.  And now I expect the next 18 years to pass quicker still.  At some point we each begin to feel that time is speeding up with age.

The question I now have is just how fast my life is going to pass?  How much time or more accurately the feeling of time do you and I have left?  If the theory of time speed-up discussed in my last two posts (here and here) is at all correct the answer is a jaw-dropping less than we want to think.


Why We Feel Time is Speeding Up

There are a number of good explanations for why time feels to be speeding up with age.  But the most objective and therefore measurable is found in the ratio of time to life.

As a percentage of our life, each new moment is less than the one before.  For instance a year when we were 1 was the whole of our life but at 2 it was half, 3 a third and so on.


But unlike what the multiple charts above might suggest we don’t equally rearrange every passed moment to accommodate for the new.   Newer moments are simply compressed to a greater degree.  Like a car shortening the intervals between the lines on the road, this increasing compression is what gives us the perception of time’s acceleration.

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 2.46.37 PM

See my post Why We Feel Time is Speeding Up for more.

Time Speed Up Over a Lifetime

A pie chart of this change over 99 years and overlaid by the familiar marks of the clock shows us how the transformation applies directly to our lives.

Screen Shot 2013-01-24 at 4.38.05 PM

You would think an 18 year old who’s guaranteed to live to the ripe old age of 99 would have great deal of time left to live.  But not when adjusted for experience.   They have slightly less than 20 minutes left.  2/3 of their experience has passed between birth and the age of 18.

Again I’m not saying that time is literally speeding up.   The number of things you can accomplish during a day is always the same.  At the age of 60 you’ll still be able to brush your teeth in the same amount of time as you did when you when were 20.  And depending on the traffic it will still take you the same amount of time to drive to work.

It isn’t that the clock is speeding up.  It’s the declining proportion you feel in each new experience.

Look at the clock.  The same “5 minutes” of life is experienced in the

  • 4 years between 7 and 10
  • 6 years between 11 and 16
  • 10 years between 17 and 26.
  • 14 years between 27 and 40
  • 23 years between 41 and 63

It simply takes longer and longer to match the experience of youth.  And time is simply running out.

Where We Are On the Final Count Down

The 99 year old was over the hill at the age of 8.   The first 7 years of time experience was equal to the last 92.

Count the pieces and find where you’re at.  If you live to 99, how much time do you have left?.  Chances are you won’t like what you find.  But it’s good to number your days (Psalms 90:12).

When as a child I laughed and wept,

Time crept.

When as a youth I waxed more bold,

Time strolled.

When I became a full grown man,

Time RAN.

When older still I daily grew,

Time FLEW.

Soon I shall find, in passing on,

Time gone.

O Christ! wilt Thou have saved me then?


Time Paces by Henry Twells

This post is the third in a three part series.

Part 1: Why We Feel Time Speeding Up With Age

Part 2: How to Compare Time Speed Up Between Ages

Matthew Scott Miller

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