I’ve previously posted on Philip Zimbardo’s excellent discussion regarding the “Secret Powers of Time.” He has convinced me that one’s perception of time (or even a nation’s overall perception of time) affects one’s character (or the nation’s character) in profound ways. It certainly affects the pace of life.
Tonight, I stumbled upon a ten-minute cleverly animated version of Zimbardo’s presentation. Citing the work of Robert Levine, Zimbardo indicates that you can identify countries and cities by their pace of life. In those places with the highest pace of life, “men have the most coronary problems.” He proposes that the basic purpose of schools is to take present-oriented children (which he defines as our natural state – see 5:30 of the talk) and attempt to turn them into future-oriented children. In American, a child drops out of school every 9 seconds, and it’s often a boy and a minority student. Here’s the context. By the time a boy is 21 years old, he has spent 10,000 hours playing video games, and many more hours watching shows, including pornography, which they tend to do alone. This means that many hours are not being spent developing social skills. These children thus live in a world they create. Bottom line is that they will never fit into a traditional classroom, which is analogue–it is incredibly boring to them. The commonly-heard cure for our educational ills–that we need more classroom time reading, writing and arithmetic is thus a recipe for disaster for these present-oriented students. Traditional classrooms offer the lack of control and delay of gratification; this is not at all interesting compared to life in front of a video screen.
Zimbardo argues that we are “under-estimating the power of technology in re-wiring young people’s brains.” They get upset even waiting an extra minute or two booting up their computers or downloading files. We bark at our kids to avoid hedonistic addictive activities, but they are already aware of the consequences, but they are not future-oriented kids, so there is no feedback loop to alter their behavior.
Bottom line: Many of the disputes we have with other people are due to our differences in the perception of time.