Expanding the Definition of "Now"


“Humans are good at a lot of things, but putting time in perspective is not one of them. It’s not our fault – the spans of time in human history, and even more so in natural history, are so vast compared to the span of our life and recent history that it’s almost impossible to get a handle on it. If the Earth formed at midnight and the present moment is the next midnight, 24 hours later, modern humans have been around since 11:59:59 pm – 1 second. And if human history itself spans 24 hours from one midnight to the next, 14 minutes represents the time since Christ.”

Given the apparent minuteness of our current lives – and attention spans – in relation to the vast scales of time on which non-human histories play out, what does the concept of “now” really mean?

To help us get a better grasp of that question, the guys over at Wait But Why have created a series of scales that illustrate in graphic color where we fit in the grand scheme(s) of history. Time expands as you scroll down the page, steadily stretching your perspective as it makes a visual argument for a reconceptualization of what we mean by “the present moment.”

wait_but_why__Putting_Time_In_Perspective 2

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The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit established in 01996 to foster long-term thinking. Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.

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