Consideration of Time
What will time mean to aliens?
Consideration of time
What do we mean by the passage of time?
Time passes at a constant speed, this is almost a definition, part of what we consider a basic principle of time. However we measure time, it always passes at the same rate. The measurements we make of time are constructs to simplify communication about time. Imagine if every nation used a different term for the passage of time: if England used 60 seconds per minute and 60 minutes her hour but considered a day was ten hours long and not 24: then if France thought there were ten seconds in a minute and ten minutes in an hour and 100 hours in a day. Both would be measuring the same amount of time but communications involving time would be very difficult.
In the past, before the invention of mechanical clocks, they divided the period between sun rise and sun set into a fixed number of hours, so in summer, away from the equator, an hour was longer than it was in the winter. Since time-sensitive communication between nations did not exist this did not really matter. Since most labour was agricultural and so dependent on daylight, everyone simply worked longer in the summer. The amount of work needing to be done was also greater in summer and so this made sense.
The need to standardize the measurement of time and to do so accurately came about because of exploration by ships that sailed out of sight of any land. Without the reference to the coast that you could see, it is much harder to know exactly where you are. You can only measure speed, by reference to distance traveled in a given time. The distance traveled, relative to the water you are on, can be measured by use of a knotted rope and the approximate direction, by reference to sun, moon, and stars; but in order to know where you were, you needed to know how long you had been traveling at that rate of knots, in that particular direction.
Once a mechanical clock had been perfected the definitions of how long a second, a minute, and an hour became relatively the same all around the globe and the 24-hour day was generally accepted by most.
When we connect with sentient beings from non-Earth origins, we will have to be prepared for many differences. Some of these beings may not be carbon-based and will be physiologically very different from ourselves. They will also be psychologically different, with different understandings of right and wrong, life and death. One big barrier to understanding will be the concept of time and the measurement of it. We view time as a constant straight line, a point that moves along a straight path at a constant speed forever. Yet astrophysicists and Einstein view time as being capable of being bent when in a space/time continuum. The speed of travel affecting time itself. Non-Earth scientists may view time as circular, they may measure time and consider the speed at which time passes, as a variable, one that changes with the speed of movement. They may not have our present understanding of past and future. They may consider time to be circular and that means you simply step off the circuit at any moment and step back on at a different place, at a different time. This will make it very difficult to reach an understanding about life, death, and such things as responsibilities. Cause and effect will be thought of differently.
Future humans who make contact with such variations of thought must ensure they let go of notions of right and wrong. What is right here on Gaia may not be right for non-Earth beings. If we are honest, we have to accept what we humans consider to be truth may not be actually real truth in an absolute sense. Our whole concept of what is life is based on ourselves. We are carbon-based structures with a short cycle from inception to decay and we view life as being that part of existence within this short period. Other forms of existence may view life as simply that which exists, and they may not preclude ethereal existence from this. Because of this, they may consider the measurement of time as an unnecessary waste of effort. If the life cycle of a star is your basic measurement of time, then a human life lasts such a tiny part of that unit, it becomes insignificant, not worth recording. The passage of time is relevant when you have a short lifespan, it becomes far less so if your lifespan lasts millions of years.