Day 351 of the Calendar Year

Are you familiar with the phrase “real time?” If I say it is happening in real time, what does that mean to you? Does that mean it’s not happening in “fake” time? If there is real time, then there must be fake time. However, no one ever uses the phrase “fake time.” Well, what is real time? According to most definitions, real time is happening now, not later, yesterday or tomorrow. It is happening in the present.

The term real time derives from its use in early simulation. While current usage implies that a computation that is ‘fast enough’ is real time, originally it referred to a simulation that proceeded at a rate that matched that of the real process it was simulating. Analog computers, especially, were often capable of simulating much faster than real time, a situation that could be just as dangerous as a slow simulation if it were not also recognized and accounted for. (

So why don’t we just call it present time? The catch is that some things that can happen in real time can also happen at some other time pace. For now, let’s call the other time “fake” time. In fake time, something that will happen in twenty-four hours in real time can be compressed to 1 hour or even 1 minute in fake time. Game simulations often take place over years but play out on computers in minutes or hours.

Now what if we applied both these terms to “real” life? We shall speak of real time and fake time. Real time would mean that I was working, thinking, playing at a pace that matched that of the real world. Fake time would mean I was daydreaming, goofing off, being unproductive, zoning out, watching TV, on drugs or otherwise getting out of the present reality. Many people spend a great deal of their lives in fake time and avoiding real time. In real time, I must face the real world. In fake time, I only have to deal with a pretend world. In fake time, I travel to Hollywood with the stars. I participate in “reality shows.” I cheer for the Survivors and I live vicariously with the next Hollywood Idol. I can pretend I am Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Angelina Jolie, or Sarah Jessica Parker. In fake time, I can even make my very own video and post it on YouTube or MySpace and hope that someday I will be viewed and worshipped by the multitudes. To paraphrase Andy Warhol, “In fake time, everyone can have their 15 minutes of fame and glory.” However, Andy was pre-computers. He did not foresee that in today’s computer world, everyone can have hours and hours of fake time. Fake time is only limited by the amount of time you want to put into escaping real time. You can spend hours or days in fake time and only come out to eat and sleep.

What do you do with your real time? How much real time do you use in a day? How much of your day do you spend in fake time? Which time do you enjoy more? Why? Do you think you need a better balance in your life? Should you have more real time or fake time? What difference do you think it would make?

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