Don’t Stress About the Decade’s End, Time as You Experience It Is Not Real
A conversation with theoretical physicist and bestselling author of ‘The Order of Time,’ Carlo Rovelli
The decade is drawing to a close — the decade, everyone’s favorite big soggy oblong time unit — and you are probably feeling pretty anxious for one or all three of the following reasons:
- You did not exactly accomplish everything you might have wanted to over the last 10 years.
- You are thinking about the next decade, especially considering the not-unlikely prospect that it will look a lot like the last one, and/or:
- You are thinking about what lies at the end of that next one. Namely, perhaps, the deadline, 2030, at which point the world’s climate scientists say we should be shifted, full gear, into an all-hands-on-deck transition away from fossil fuels if we hope to avoid runaway climate change.
We always have deep anxiety about how we spend our time, but it is especially acute now, with a litany of events to measure our experience against and an onslaught of incoming goalposts to consider. The decade-in-review takes are flooding our feeds, with best of the decade lists exulting more cultural products than we will be able to consume in a lifetime, let alone a handful of years. So are the “next 10 years” prognostications for a future that seems in so many ways pretty terrifying.
At decade’s end, we think: Are we spending our time wisely? Are we spending our time in the right ways and places, doing the right things? How much time do we have left?
Well, I am here to tell you to stop worrying so much. Time, as we experience it, is nothing more than a piddling human construct. The future is almost certainly predetermined on the basis of the extant contours of space-time. And there is no such thing, from a physics perspective, as “ordered time,” anyway. There’s nothing in physics that says the past comes “before” the future, or that the last decade came before the next one.