Subjective Passage of Time

Reflecting on my recent travels and in anticipation of the new decade I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we experience the passage of time during the various stages of our lives. While there’s plenty of thought around using science to extend life expectancy (i.e. actual number of years lived), I feel there’s not enough about how to extend the perceived length of that time. There’s an interesting philosophical question at play here — would you rather live a day as a lion or a hundred years as a sheep?

My diluted explanation of the science is that our brains are fundamentally hardwired to use extra processing power to understand unfamiliar environments. We constantly process minute new details and identify patterns in our surroundings to optimize how we react to external stimuli — similar to a cache we store unique events in preparation for future events. Repetitive events thus essentially allow our brains to operate in “autopilot” mode as we now have a natural response that we don’t need to overthink (this is basically what athletes in training / people with habits are doing). However, it is when we expend mental energy to process unique events that we experience a “temporal illusion” which is what gives us the perception of slower time (kinda like how we remember the first day of school but not individual days in between). So despite the efficiency of having a streamlined repetitive structure to the day to day it’s worth being aware of the tradeoffs against “experienced” time

Based on this understanding, what are some ways we can “hack” our minds to experience a longer subjective passage of time? We could just do a bunch of LSD. Traveling to new places would seem to work too. Whatever the fix, I believe we’re simply just looking for ways to introduce more unique events into our daily lives. Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. As romantic as it sounds, I believe extending our perceived notion of time is the closest we can get to experiencing immortality


  • What are some other “hacks” you’ve found to extend your perception of time? One example is dressing nice: if you enjoy dressing nice at special events, then dressing well on a more normal basis can make everyday feel special :)

Extended Reading: (for you extra credit types)

What I’ve been consuming recently

The Secret

The Man, The Myth, The Udon

Hustle Is Universal


Many custard tarts

Personal update

I’ve been enjoying my time in Europe — great food, fun people and a refreshingly laidback culture. I recently spent a few days in the French countryside in a small town south of Bordeaux. After some nights I’m still trying to remember in Barcelona, I’m currently exploring Lisbon (which actually feels a lot like SF — they got hills, cable cars and their own Golden Gate). Hope you’re having a great holiday!

les jours sont longs, mais les décennies sont courtes