If I’m very tired in the evening, the first thing I do is to check the time. I want to know whether I’m allowed to go to bed. If I’m hungry, the first thing I do is to check the time. I want to know if I’m allowed to eat. And if I’m at a party and I’m bored, the first thing I do is to check the time. I want to know if I’m allowed to go. The clock gives me permission to do stuff.
In prehistoric times we didn’t have any clocks. How did we experience time then? What determined whether we would eat, sleep and leave a cave party? I will experience this by living 2 weeks without a clock.
How I will do the experiment
I put away the clocks in my house, I put some tape on my computer clock and I changed my iphone to the time zone of Kuala Lumpur. No way to tell the time! Once a day, I will send an email to a friend to tell them what time I think it is – so I can see how I’m estimating this. I’ll make one exception: I have to pick up the kids that I babysit from school. I’ll put a reminder in my calendar so I’ll leave the house on time for that.
I just checked my calendar and I have seven appointments this week, interviews for my work and meeting friends. I will see how this works out.
It has been done before
Living without clocks has been tried in a different way by Michel Siffre. He lived witout any clocks for 3 months under the ground and contributed a lot to the science of chronobiology by doing that. He discovered, for example, that if you live without any clocks, time seems to go a lot faster than you think. My experiment is different in the sense that I do have the day and night rhythm that hunter-gatherers had, and that I still have to function in a clock-driven society.
I have one question for you before I start: do you think cavemen would estimate the time of the day by looking at the sun – would that benefit them in some way?