I once heard the actor Tom Hanks – probably the first time he’s been referenced in these pages – describe a brain game he plays with friends. The challenge, he explained, is to define a concept in as few words as possible. The example he offered was “time,” which he characterized as “progress.”
Now, it’s easy to find physical and historical examples that disprove Mr. Hanks’ conceptualization.
More than a few readers probably studied physics in high school or college. Einstein’s relativity theory of time, of course, states that time changes depending on your frame of reference, and that the faster you travel the slower time moves.
And the ecologist and author Jared Diamond argues that there’s evidence some populations such as Austronesians began to use metal tools – an obvious improvement over rocks and bare hands – only to later shed them.
Much, much earlier, the Greek philosopher Aristotle surmised that change is distinct from time because change occurs at different rates, whereas time does not.
Where these ideas converge, however, is around the notion that progress means change.
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