How Much Actual Time Does Humanity Collectively Experience In One Second?

Feb. 14, 2013
Eric is a narrative dealer and addict currently based out of LA, and obsessed with stories, characters, and ideas ...

You know that thing scientists and mathematicians like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson do sometimes, where they throw down a bunch of numbers in reference to ideas and constants and facts that make you realize how small we are? Sometimes, they show us how big we are, too, but that’s the rarer kind– we’re almost always the single blue pixel in a sea of black or the width of a hair at the end of 1000m+ long timeline of history. Well, this is one of those, except it’s both the rare and the common kind. You’ll see how small we are, I think, but also how big we are. So here’s the first question:

How much time does humanity experience in one year?

First, some ground rules: To get the full worth out of this, well have to agree on some standards.

• When we say “humanity,” we’re talking about people currently alive — so the global population. Now, we don’t have a single agreed upon number for that, but Google shows me that 7 billion (7,000,000,000) tends to be the strong ball park, with most people going just a bit north or south of it. For the sake of this illustration, we’re going to treat this number as a constant for a couple of years instead of what it is: something that’s not even constant for a couple of seconds, and not even relatively constant for a couple of weeks or months. Also, we’re treating people sleeping, comatose, brain dead (but counted as alive), or born but pre-self-awareness as “experiencing.”
• When we say “year,” we’re cutting somewhere between “actual” years (the amount of time Earth takes to go around the sun — something like, again, according to Google, 365.242 days) and calendar years, which average 365.25 days a year (we round up for leap years, ’cause we’re lazy).
• All decimals will be rounded to the nearest hundredth.

Humanity experiences 7,000,000,000 years in one year.

Starting with the obvious: there are 7,000,000,000 people, so 7,000,000,000 people experience 7,000,000,000 years, per year. One year per person, duh. But that’s the boring version (even when phrased as “If one person lived all the time that humanity lived in a single year, they’d live 7,000,000,000 years”).

So let’s deconstruct that a bit. First, let’s go small:

Humanity experiences 221.82 years per second.

Just like years, each of us gets one second per second, so that’s 7,000,000,000 seconds to start with. Now, a year contains 31,557,600 (or 365.25 • 24 • 60 •60) seconds. So, we, Humanity, experience 7,000,000,000/31,557,600 or 221.82 years per second.

Every second, we experience almost two and a quarter centuries. But, that’s just a second, and it’s already passed several times since we started talking about this, so let’s keep scaling up from here. It’s basically just doing the math to get the number of seconds per year (365.25 • 24 • 60 • 60) backwards, so let’s keep trucking along.

All the world’s people experience 13,309 years in one minute.

In one minute (60•(7,000,000,000/31,557,600)) we all experience 13,309 years. That amount of time likely exceeds the entire historical span of written record, with the possible exception of very early, very primitive, written numbers (based on a cursory look at Google and Wikipedia).

Humanity experiences 798,539.81 years in one hour.

In one hour (60(60(7,000,000,000/31,557,600))), living, breathing people experience 798,539.81 years. That’s about twice as long as the amount of time that has passed since (Wikipedia tells me) Homo Sapiens became anatomically unique from our nearest biological relatives, like Homo Erectus.

In one day, humanity experiences 19,164,9551.51 years.

A day (24•(all that same crap written above)) equals 19,164,955.51 years – an amount of time that takes us over 80% of the way through the last two geologic periods (keep in mind, human history is less than half of a percent of the current geologic period).

And then, that brings us back (when multiplied again by that 365.25 days) to 7,000,000,000 years per year.

7 billion years per year. Now, I think, obvious though it may be, it sounds a bit more impressive. But let’s extend it a bit further with comparison and expansion in the opposite direction.

Humanity’s 7,000,000,000 years per year is 2.4 billion years longer than the Sun has ever had. So every year, we use more time than our own solar system’s experienced. Well, that’s if you think of the star and its orbiting bodies (which includes all of us, obviously) as an individual, but never you mind that.

But that’s not the coup de grâce of this thought experiment. The next bit is: Consider the universe.

The big “all-that-is-was-and-ever-will-be” thing. Counting from the Big Bang (and again, only checking with Google and Wikipedia) the universe is 13.77 billion years old.

So humanity “uses” enough time to make up the entire history of the universe every 1.97 years.

Again, Humanity experiences the entire age of the universe in a little less than 2 years.

Well, that’s all I have — and in the time it took me to figure it out, I wasted almost 90 minutes.

Well, maybe not “wasted.”

Eric Tortora Pato

Eric is a narrative dealer and addict currently based out of LA, and obsessed with stories, characters, and ideas …

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