Saturday, March 8, 2014

Movie Philosophy "In Time"

I thought a change of pace might be good. Today I consider a movie and some of the ideas in it, and if it does well then perhaps I'll do more in a similar nature. The movie I'm detailing today is "In Time" with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. This isn't a complete movie review or commentary on the collective as I'm sure there's a mixed bag of views on how subjectively good the movie is or not and I don't feel a need to add to it. Instead we're focusing on the focal point of the movie which is time as a currency both literally and metaphorically.

Since the metaphor is fairly straight forward it's comparatively short to discuss. The way I see it is that the movie uses it as a social commentary on how we spend our time or waste it doing everything. We all start out in life knowing that someday we die which can be equated to a fixed time of some degree. We then spend huge chunks of it doing repetitive things, some out of necessity like sleep, and others like labor as a means of survival. It could be taken a bit further that from the context of the movie we only have a couple years in our early years to truly live, suggestively in the 25 to 26 range after which a life of freedom essentially ends. Smaller notes posted throughout show some support for this concept such as the 3 minutes for coffee moment, which I know people will spend much more time in line waiting on their coffee. The time given to help out others and a subtle suggestion that the rich are stealing your life one second at a time. Quite honestly it's one of the most thought out concepts I've seen in a movie in quite some time.

Then there's the literal sense of time as currency. Early on we hear about the cost of bills and a breakdown of how much time it will cost to pay them. We then determine rent is surprisingly cheap depending on how much they get paid per shift at work which have to assume is more than the time they put in at the work itself. In terms of exact numbers it could be anywhere from 12 to 36 hours cost in rent which for their tiny apartment in a slum would be between 90 and 270$ and in my experience it's usually closer to 400$ so that's not an entirely unrealistic cost. Then we find out a single bus ride used to cost 1 hour and now costs 2. I don't know about you but I wouldn't be spending more than 3 dollars on a bus ride let alone 7 to 15 or more. So the pricing is a little out of control, going back to the 3 minutes for a cup of coffee this becomes much more extreme. If we consider the price of the coffee and compare it to a standard cost of coffee we find a minute is worth nearly a dollar or almost a direct transition. Meaning an hour is 60$ Would you spend 120$ a day for a bus ride plus however long it takes to get there, or would you just walk the 2 hours? Consider this a function of marginal utility in economics, and I guarantee you no sane person would do this on a regular basis. If we adjust rent for this pricing instead of using a sliding scale we find their slum rent is 2160$ which we don't know if that's per week or per month though I'm inclined to believe it's monthly. As an economics system this sounds so horrifically flawed.

Then we must also consider one of the most important things. This currency expires constantly and is supposedly nonrenewable. Consider how the time cop requests his "tritium /tridium" to be wired to him. This suggests that time can be transferred wirelessly and thus is not some chemical resource being introduced to the body. If this were somehow computer based as a binary countdown it'd be relatively easy to hack even if there were some genetic component to it. Stopping the timer, making it count up, changing it's values, stopping the kill switch/trigger at zero thus allowing negative values, etc. We have to then assume this somehow is not the case. That the time is static unchangeable and constantly decaying. How then does this not become a systemic crisis? Consider the cost of raising a child for 25 years, you're probably not going to have multiple kids to somehow renew the resource of time. Where and how does the time you get paid for working come from? How are there rich people in this system? If this were introduced tomorrow, firing up the "what if machine" and say everyone had these timers counting down. Billions would be dead by this time next year and that number only gets smaller each successive year even if there were a few select rich people collecting time with all of it counting down on the arm of every person this inevitably would have to kill everyone.

This is actually pretty clear to break down actually. If instituted today assuming the population is roughly 7.6 billion on the planet and that children's timers remain frozen until the age of 25 thus children born today have 26 years to live, knowing that the 1 year every person has expires one second at a time then we know that if nobody uses their time for anything and lets it expire then the majority of the population is gone by the end of the year. For people to continue to live it would become a necessity to give up time to others, or have children at much earlier ages knowing you wouldn't be able to finish raising them. The human race in order to survive would literally have to have kids when they're just hitting puberty at the average age of 13 raise them for the next 12 years in time to see them ready to have their own kids before their time starts to expire. Going the other route we see likely half of the population giving up it's time to the other half and dying out, repeated year after year assuming we don't use time as a currency we go from 7.6 billion to 3.8 after the first year, 1.9 the second, rounded up we'd have 1 billion the third year, 500 million the fourth, 250 the fifth, 125 the sixth, 67 the seventh, 38 the eighth, 19, etc with time expiring literally each person would revolve around having only that year left with everyone around them dying. That's the most people surviving as long as they can. Alternatively the majority of people could sacrifice themselves to a minor few concentrating 7 billion years into 600 million people, giving everyone an extra 11 to 12 years. Still though nobody could make it 25 years to raise kids unless that number gets concentrated down much further. It's possible some people might continue to live a bit longer, in particular children born in this timeframe will make it a bit longer but eventually all the time would expire and there'd be nobody left. If this movie worked as it claimed then that one city would be the only one left by the logic that your main characters mother is turning 50, thus 25+ years expired, and that one man is worth more than 1 million years easily betting a thousand.

By necessity I'm forced to conclude the machines they use to adjust time are just that some form of computer or machine designed with function and purpose which could be hacked to make alterations thus breaking the entire system. As an economic method it's horribly unbalanced and downright evil bordering on nonviable. As a metaphorical social commentary it's pure genius.