Friday, May 18, 2007

All About SECS

Ever wondered how the years went past so fast? You hit 40 and you think, "Where did all that time go?" It seems like just a month or two ago you were 18 or 20, and you can't believe you're actually as old as you are. And the problem gets worse the older you get, so that you turn 70 and still can't believe you're more than 25 or so. You see teenagers and you think "Man, you think you have all the time in the world, but I know that soon you'll be thinking 'where did all the years go?'" And it gets much worse when you have kids of your own, because you have no idea of what you're meant to do to raise them right, and just about that same time comes the realisation that your own parents weren't the Wise Ones you thought they were, and that they had no idea either about how to raise kids, and were winging it day-by-day just like you are doing now.

Well, I have a simple explanation for it all, which I call Significant Event Chronology Scale, just so that I can say to people (very loudly of course) "Hey, I'm the inventor of SECS" and watch their reaction.

In a nutshell, imagine you're starting on a train journey. At first, you look out the window and watch every passing house, bridge, tree and interesting sight. After a while, though, you've seen enough of them that you lose interest, and only look out the window at some new, not-seen-before sight, like a waterfall perhaps. You only mark the passage of time in your brain through the 'Significant Events' of the journey.

Now consider life. When you're 5, every day brings heaps of new events and things which you haven't encountered before. To use a computer metaphor, let's say that each time one of these things happens, your brain creates a new Inbox for that subject. As time goes on, you encounter a lot of the Significant Events you've seen before, and they are largely filed as 'been there, done that', but new events still get a new Inbox created for them.

On a graph it might look like this:

Imagine that every time a Significant Event happens, we shout out our age at that time. Obviously, it will sound like "I'm 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 20, 20, 20, 20, 30, 30, 40" etc. From this we can see that the more time goes by, the less we notice how old we're getting, because (for the sake of argument) we only notice it when we shout it out. So if we take special notice of our age every 10th time we shout something out, it will appear as if we were 10, then 30, then 90, all in the same breath.

Using this view of things, some pretty disconcerting trends emerge. Assuming that at age 70 we have 1 SE per year, a decrease of only one-tenth per year means that at age 10 we had 304, or just under 1 per day, and at age 1 we have 790, just over 2 per day. No wonder we say thats kids learn much faster than adults, that early reading, writing and maths tuition is a big benefit, and that habits learned in the first 5 years are the most formative! According to this scale, 61% of everything that you learn, and therefore every Significant Event for which a new Inbox was created, is experienced by Age 9! By the time you reach 20, you've experienced 86% of the SE's in your life, and by the age of 30, its 94%!

So that's why everyone feels old before their time, and why they still feel in their mind that they are much younger than their real age. Our brain is only shouting out our age whenever a Significant Event occurs, with all the boring bits of life in between them left out or relegated to the Junkmail box. So by age 40, 98% of your life's exciting bits are in the past, and you have the option of hanging in there for the remaining 2% in arthritic pain and agony, or finding a friendly Doctor who'll promise to pull the plug when you just can't take it any more. I know which one I'd prefer.

1 comment:

Mike Hobart said...

Oooh, that makes so much sense.

But it's not exactly encouraging.

I suspect that having hit 57, I'll have very few SEs to look forward to.