In 2005, I sent a snarky e-mail to Ryan commenting on his usage of the phrase "velocity of time" in a Freeplay column at GameSpot. I was surprised not only by how quickly he replied--but the effort that he took to compose a nuanced response. His closing, "If my use of the word 'velocity' was a misnomer, I apologize, though it pleases me to no end that it elicited your response," always stuck with me, because it showed how genuinely appreciative he was of his readers. Although it was a fairly mundane exchange, I always thought of it fondly. I'll always remember Ryan Davis as travelling near the speed of light.
Greetings Ryan Davis,
In your most recent Freeplay column, you introduced the concept of "the velocity of time." At first I thought the phrase was a bit nonsensical, as velocity is generally defined as the rate of change in position with respect to time. The existence of a velocity of time would thus require that one be able to define a position of time. To the best of my knowledge, time can not be readily assigned a spacial position, which led me to postulate that perhaps the position of time could be defined with respect to itself. If this was the case, however, the velocity of time would at all times be unity, because the rate of change of any variable with respect to itself is one. The velocity of time would therefore have to be constant to avoid a contradiction. Interestingly enough, your column suggests that the velocity of time could somehow be increasing. Clearly, for this to be the case, you must be observing time with respect to some reference frame that is getting increasingly closer to the speed of light. How fast are you going Ryan Davis, and how did you get going so darn fast?
The concept of the velocity of time, or in another phrase, "time compression", was something introduced to me by an old philosophy teacher, and technology was used as its point of reference. Let's take military hardware as an example. The very first piece of military hardware ever was, ostensibly, a rock or a stick that some form of pre-man picked up and used as a weapon--bludgeon, projectile, whatever. To get from the stick to, let's say a sword, it literally took millions of years. But then to get from sword to gun was maybe ten thousand years. And from gun to atomic bomb was just a few hundred.
Granted this is a highly simplified summary of the history of weapons, but if you look at just about any kind of technologically driven human endeavor--transportation, medicine, whatever--this concept remains basically true. We're constantly accelerating. The longer that time "goes" for, the faster this pattern seems to become. I think this concept applies neatly to consumer technology, and I felt it worth mentioning in passing in the article. If my use of the word "velocity" was a misnomer, I apologize, though it pleases me to no end that it elicited your response. Thanks for reading.