Everybody complains about being behind with their work. But if technology helps us spend a shorter time on other tasks, are we not supposed to have more time to do most things?
There is more to life than increasing its speed.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)
When I was a child, picnicking in Florya, Yakacık or in the Belgrad Forest was quite a big thing. We would start making our preparations early in the morning. Sandwiches would be prepared. We would call the other families that would be coming with us to the picnic at least one day before and we would agree to meet at a certain time somewhere on the way to the picnic area. We would leave the house at 11:00 in the morning at the latest so that we would arrive at our destination around 12:30. Once on the road, nobody could call to let others know that they would be late or not be coming at all because mobile phones did not exist…
When I was a child there were telex machines. I suppose the telex messages of those days were today’s e-mail messages. The machine sounded something like a cross between a sewing machine, an electronic typewriter and a scanner. For each incoming message it would punch holes through a thin paper tape. Back then I could not grasp what those holes meant. Then I learned that the machine would read these holes and print the message on paper in the form of writing. So incredible…
It is possible to add to these examples… Nowadays we are able to do everything faster. Technology makes our job easier, shortening both distances and the time we spend on doing things. But when I look around, very few people are happy with these shortened times. Everybody complains about being behind with their work and how they do not have enough time. Some complain that they do not have enough time for themselves, some say they cannot make time for their families and others claim that they cannot allocate enough time to their work. But since we spend a shorter time on many tasks, are we not supposed to have more time to do most things? Where is the problem?
David Ricardo said that “the value of a commodity depends on the relative quantity of labour which is necessary for its production”. Karl Marx introduced the concept of value added. And the time of circulation, based on the circulation of capital, is considered to be the distance travelled before a commodity is produced or until we have access to a commodity.
All the examples I have given above are related to the time of circulation. I presume it would not be wrong to claim that the time of circulation is shortened as technology advances.
I would like to continue with a quotation from columnist Mustafa Balbay’s “Time” which was published on his newspaper Cumhuriyet on December 23, 2009, which marked the 293rd day of his time under arrest:
“Imagine that you work with a bank which gives you 86.400 units of credit every morning but no credits can be transferred to the next day. Any credit unused during the day is cancelled overnight, regardless of the quantity. What would you do? You would certainly get all your credits out to the last penny. Actually, we all work with a bank like this. Time.
Every morning it cancels all the time you did not invest in good things and records that as loss on your account. It never transfers anything. It does not allow you to exceed your credit by a single penny. The bank opens a new account for you every day. Every night it destroys the day’s balance. If you fail to use your daily deposit, that is your loss. No turning back. You cannot get any advances against the next day’s credits. You have to use and live the deposit you have today. Invest in it so that it will come back to you as health, happiness and success.”
Whether you consider Marx’s value added and time of production efficiency or Mustafa Balbay’s measurement in seconds, time is a common denominator for the whole universe. But being able to identify time with life; that is, being able to become aware that one lives within time is a completely different thing… What renders time precious are those moments when we feel and make it felt that we are living, creating, producing and doing the things we love. Is it possible to measure the added value of those moments on us using the economic theories we know?
No matter how high the velocity of circulation is, the things we remember when we look back at what we have used from the safe are those with moments with real added value.
At this point I would like to go back to the matter of the lack of time from the standpoint of creating added value. How long does it take you to go to work from home and go back home from work? Is there any way you can make that time valuable or create added value for yourself or for others? Especially if you are driving, do you know what a big portion of the sum in the safe you are wasting every day?
The Internet is a medium that allows us to do many things at a very high speed. For example, it allows faster and easier research or easier access to information without even having to move. But what about the time we spend when, in the middle of doing research on something with a “high velocity of circulation”, we decide to surf some websites, check the latest weather forecast, chat with a friend for five minutes, see the new e-mails in our inbox and decide to reply to them? Do we get our work done so as to have excess time? More importantly, can we feel that we are living when we are doing all these?
How much do we live when we are in jammed up traffic; using our mobile phones to make 40 to 50 phone calls a day; when we find ourselves browsing through thousands of products in a shopping centre having no memory whatsoever of what we had originally come to buy; dealing with the 1000 e-mails in our inbox whose necessity can be questioned; zapping through channels on the television for hours?
Can any one of you remember what they did this time last week? Can any one of you tell us at least one story from each stage of your lives? How many times within a day could one say: “Yes, I captured this moment, I can feel right now that I am living”?
My intention is not to bore you with these questions when we are welcoming the New Year in hope.
I just hope that we do not use our time ungraciously – as if we have a million years to live.