Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Deep Time Thinking

Image source: phys.org

Every now and again I’ll come across something that really surprises. This time that something was an article about ‘deep time’ thinking, which explores our understanding of time and how our collective experience of it is being transformed.

In many ways, in many places around the world, projects and initiatives are challenging our notion of time and encouraging us to extend our thought’s reach back – way, way back – into the past, and way, way forward into the future.

An on-going research project in New Zealand, A Walk Through Deep Time, invites people to walk along a fence line of 457 metres to represent 4.57 billion years, as part of a discussion and walk-through of deep time. In the US, the National Academy of Sciences has an exhibition Imagining Deep Time, which explores a common interest in the vast timescale through art.

Deep time thinking is about the big picture. It’s about thinking about our very distant future and our multi-billion year past. As the name implies, it’s about thinking about time – moving beyond our own artificial construct of time and its associated hours, days, weeks, deadlines and dates – and thinking about something that’s outside the realm of human experience.

Climate change and sustainability are crying out for us to think across generations, and to engage with thoughts across radically long time spans. Deep time thinking is no longer just the domain of the ‘ists’ among us – astrophysicists, palaeontologists, geologists – it is our collective responsibility.

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