The Algorithm Challenge!

David Cowles

May 17, 2022

…We do not experience ‘objective time’, we only experience ‘subjective time’. In subjective time, a minute never ends but entire years go by in a flash.

How does time fly?


“…We do not experience ‘objective time’, we only experience ‘subjective time’. In subjective time, a minute never ends but entire years go by in a flash.

Tempus fugit, time flies! Who among us has not made that observation (even without the Latin); and who has not gone on to note that time seems to be ‘flying’ ever faster (i.e., the ‘speed of time’ seems to be increasing, and it seems to be increasing at an increasing rate)?

When I was in grade school, a year seemed like a lifetime; now the years race by and I barely notice them. As soon as one Thanksgiving’s leftovers have been eaten (or tossed), it’s time to begin thinking about the next year’s celebration.

Now in my 70’s, it seems as though a week has about the same duration that a day did years ago; a month is like a week, and a year is like a month.

Of course, we take it for granted that the units of time itself have not changed. Ignoring the marginal effects of relativity and quantum mechanics, ‘a kiss is just a kiss’ and a second is just a second. Objective time flies, but it flies at a steady pace.

Then why don’t we experience it that way? Because we do not experience ‘objective time’, we only experience ‘subjective time’. In subjective time, a minute never ends but entire years go by in a flash. Like the Tardis in Doctor Who, the inside (minute) can seem bigger than the outside (year).

We have generated many mathematical models to illustrate the properties of objective time. Could we develop a mathematical model to illustrate subjective time?

Let’s oversimplify! Suppose I live from my birth to my 85th birthday. In my first year, the life I’m living is all the life there is: subjective time and objective time are nearly the same.

But at the start of year 2, I have year 1 in the bank. I can compare my year two experience with my year one experience. Subjectively, my year 2 experience is only half as long as my year one experience.

By my first birthday, I have lived 1 year, both objectively and subjectively, but by my second birthday, I have lived 2 years objectively only 1.5 years subjectively.

Applying this algorithm 84 times will give us a smooth distribution of points; we should be able to write an equation that will include (approximately at least) each of those points.

If we carry out this function through my 84th year of life, we get some surprising results. Here are just a few of the necessary conclusions:

  • By the time I reach my 85 birthday I will have lived, subjectively, the equivalent of only 5 ‘objective years’.

  • I lived 20% of my ‘subjective life’ in my first year.

  • I lived 60% in my first 10 years.

  • 70% in my first 20 years, 80% by age 30.

  • So, at age 30, I only have 20% of my life left to live

No, this is not an ad for ‘Universal Pre-K’, though it does make you think; but if our algorithm is correct, we all have a heck of a lot less time left to live (subjectively) than we had imagined. The years from 70 to 85 account for almost 20% of my objective life span but only 3% of my subjective life.

Conclusion: Memento mori! “…Pray for us now - at the hour of our death - Amen.”

But is our algorithm correct? The results seem too extreme. So, if my algorithm wrong, where is it wrong? And if it’s wrong, can we come up with a superior alternative, one that generates a more intuitively satisfying result? (If so, the nuts and bolts of that algorithm could tell us a whole lot about how human consciousness works.)

Challenge #1: See if you can develop a better algorithm! Then submit your solution to Aletheia Today (editor@aletheiatoday.com) . No need to get bogged down in the math; just tell us how you would approach the problem. The best submission (in the judgement of our editorial board) will win a $100 cash card and will be reprinted (with permission and attribution of course) as a future ‘Thought While Shaving”.

The deadline for all submissions is midnight, 5/31/22.

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