Life is 1.6 billion moments

by Marcus Loane


From the perspective of a human conscious agent, life is a sequence of moments.

80years * 365days * 24hours * 60 minutes * 60seconds = 2.5billion seconds

If you are lucky, you, as a conscious agent, will experience about 1.6 billion conscious seconds. (One third of your life is spent unconscious as sleep.)

Some of those moments will be abject misery, some will be "fantastic to be alive" moments. Most will be somewhere in between. Now is it better to have some of those really supreme moments plus many more unpleasant moments, or just average moments all the way through? I would tend to favour the former. Does it matter which order the moments come in? All the great ones near the start of the sequence or near the end - does it matter which? Perhaps it is better if they are evenly dotted throughout the entire sequence from birth to death? Could a few or one, truly sublime moment be better than many mundane moments? Are mountainous peaks and deep valleys better than gentle undulations?

Best moments now or later?

Hedonists try to make moments in the present to short term future pleasurable. Goal seekers postpone pleasurable moments now for pleasurable moments in the longer term future. Pleasure to the hedonist may be sex, food, drugs or high adrenaline activities like surfing or sky diving. Pleasure for goal seekers may mean feelings of financial security, respect from peers, power, intellectual fulfilment or going with the genetic program and raising a family.

Living exclusively for the now is likely to lead to less pleasant moments at the end of life - many hedonistic activities have long term negative consequences or they fail to thrill any more if over practised. At the other end of the spectrum, always goal seeking may mean never being able to enjoy the present. The highly successful goal seeker may never be able to appreciate their accomplishments because they are always working towards some future. This future-creator may go through their entire life thinking "I will be happy when I achieve X at some time in the future" and a new X is made as soon as as the old X is attained. Every present moment for the extreme goal seeker is tainted by "I would be happier if I had X as well".

The ideal is probably a balance between living for now and living for the future. There may be exceptions. Perhaps some people have the disposition so that an entire life of hedonism works for them. Perhaps some long term goal seekers train themselves to enjoy the process of denial now for future gain, so they can enjoy the present as well. For them the anticipation becomes the enjoyment.

What length of sequence?

One thing to bear in mind is that being alive tomorrow is not something that is 100% certain. Your sequence of moments may be near its end. You can find out the probability of being alive tomorrow by looking up life insurance tables. The probability goes down as you get older. It is the certainty of life ending that makes it reasonable to appreciate the now (while keeping a watchful eye on possible future consequences of today just in case you wake up tomorrow). Appreciation of death leads to an appreciation of life. That is evidenced by personal testimonies of those who have come close to death or those who know they may not have long to go - they live every day like it is their last.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that it is not much use reaching a desired destination when you are 65, if you didn't enjoy the journey to get there.

1 to 2 billion moments - what proportion of yours are average, terrible or sublime?

Marcus Loane