I’m normally pretty fluid about time. I’m aware of it passing, and I’m even capable of getting to appointments on time, but I don’t normally think too much about the concept itself. Time just is. The only exception to this is when I’m playing MMO’s [multiplayer online games in digital worlds].
As a gamer, I’ve played in worlds where a full day can pass in the space of a couple of hours. And no, I don’t mean that I become so immersed in the game that I spend a whole day playing without being aware of it! What I’m talking about is the deliberate manipulation of in-game time so the game world goes from ‘day time’ to ‘night time’ and back again many times during the course of a real day.
Some MMO’s, [FFXI springs to mind] make the cycle very quick, and a full game day can pass in the space of two hours. Other games allow time to be more relaxed, cycling through a game day in say 6 hours instead of 2. But whatever the game designers do, you, the gamer, are always subliminally aware of the passage of ‘real’ time because the cues are all around you – you get hungry, or thirsty, or have to go to the loo, etc.
But what if you lived in a digital world where all external cues were controlled? Would you experience time differently then? Or would a part of you always know how much real time was passing by ‘outside’?
When I started writing Innerscape, I knew I wanted time in the digital world to be faster than real time so Residents would feel as if they were living far longer than they actually were. The idea was that by being isolated from the real world, Residents would quickly become ‘brainwashed’ into believing the artificial cues given to them – i.e. the clocks, the day/night cycle, schedules, time-tables blah blah.
In theory, the idea was, and is sound. But there are problems with it. Physical people have internal body clocks, and they get sleepy and hungry according to a complicated system of biofeedback cues. For Innerscape Residents to truly believe in Innerscape time, those internal cues would have to be manipulated very carefully. You wouldn’t, for example, set the system so every Resident became sleepy at exactly 10pm. That would be a dead giveaway.
I did some pen biting until I realised that each Resident was already in their own, tailor-made chemical bubble, so a sophisticated AI should be able to monitor activity levels and tweak them in subtle ways.
In today’s terms, such sophisticated manipulation would be unthinkable, but I’m banking on the progress of technology over the next 90 years.
Unfortunately, another one of my time related problems was not so easy to solve. It involves the ‘staff’ who come to Innerscape with Miira [the main character] in order to help her settle in. These staff members are effectively living in both worlds because only their avatars exist inside Innerscape. How then would these staffers sleep, or eat, when their body clocks were still set to real world time, not Innerscape time?
And that, dear friends, is what brings me to this post, and its odd title. You see, I’ve
wasted spent most of the day trying to come up with the best Innerscape to real world time ratio.
That Excel spreadsheet is my mathematically challenged attempt to work out what would happen with different time manipulations. I think I’ve worked out how much time Residents would ‘gain’ by having anything from 58 to 30 seconds in every minute. Over the course of 15 years [which is how long Innerscape has been live], Residents might gain only half a year in subjective time, or they could gain up to 7.5 years of subjective time.
Obviously, the closer Innerscape time is to real time, the less jarring it would be for outsiders. Unfortunately, it would also be rather futile for the Residents. However if Residents experienced only 30 [real] seconds in every minute, the staffers would only get to sleep once every two, Innerscape days, and they would sleep for far longer than the Residents.
I suspect I’m not seeing something obvious here so I’d appreciate some outside perspectives. Oh, and I’d be really grateful if some mathematical Whiz checked the numbers/logic.
And now, before I go for a well-earned cup of coffee, I have an announcement to make – this is my 365th post! One whole year of posts [not counting Leap Year]. It’s taken me over a year and a half to get here, but I let’s not split hairs. 😉