Our lives are performed in dramatic arcs that intersect and reflect and repulse and reflex:  Are we divinely predestined or merely reflexive?  The other day, I was thinking back on when I was a young child and, feeling alone and frustrated, I would climb a cherry tree in our backyard to get away from all the noise and hubbub of earthly living.  From my vantage point 20 feet in the air, I could smell the wind and get a sense of a horizon that was far and above my current station.

As I became that lonesome child in the tree again, I began to wonder what my beloved wife was doing at that same moment in time in her childhood.  She was living only 60 miles away from me, but it would be another 20 years before we would meet and fall in love.  I realize now that, back then, in that tree, I was dreaming of her.

What was the young Janna doing way back then on that hot summer day with the breeze promising better things to come?  Was she in despair as well?  Was she out running and laughing in the sun as is her wont today?  I wanted to somehow go back in time and pinpoint that identical moment of precipice and sync our lives together from that instant onward to see how dramatically our life arcs wandered away from each other, and then finally came together, to meet in a moment of serendipity that repeats on a daily basis.

I have an idea I am calling — “The Asynchronous Lives in Parallel Project” — and it goes a little something like this: What if we were able to go back in asynchronous time and then sync our lives against the behaviors of others for reasons of compatibility, friendship and danger avoidance? We could pick a parallel intersection and then follow the unfolding of our lives in a historic, real-time arc, that might reveal moments of bright opportunity or loss. We could truly learn from ourselves and, each other, and, I wager, even begin to predict the future.

The most obvious way to achieve this forced synchronicity momentarily, and in spurts, is through the timeline features of Facebook and Twitter.  The only problem, other than a technical one of actually syncing live together in parallel, is that there isn’t yet enough empirical evidence to make my idea truly cross the Uncanny Valley.  Twitter and Facebook simply haven’t been around long enough for  an older man to reflect back decades to a moment stuck on nigh in a high cherry tree.

As time expands, and as the universal coil unreels, there will be many opportunities for this sort of retroactive introspection, but I am concerned about the quality of the record that is being created.  Do we really want to know what a person ate every day for 20 years, or do we need to ask more of them in recording these, now timeless, timeline events?  How can we go back in time and learn our thought processes without inference, but with facts and references, if we are not prescient enough in active time to only put down what matters in the longer stretching of our lives?

Having lives in parallel be matched and evaluated in asynchronous time — that becomes a newly created real-time — is a useful compatibility tool and invaluable enemy identifier; but then the whole idea becomes ruined when you realize that law enforcement will start tracking your timeline life in order to predict how you will act and behave in the future as a threat to society.  The irrational threats against nature and man-made by a temperamental child will come back to haunt the elder — and so we are left where we began; longing for a better life, and an escape from the inevitable, 20 feet up in the air with only a view from the cherry blossoms for comfort.

39 Comments

  1. Love this idea , but I have the usual thoughts about being where I am and with whom I am as a reault of what has gone past. If I now go back and change this – spot and avoid an enemy or two – ie change my past – I many not end up where I am today and I quite like where I am today – in spite of anything that has occured in my past.

    I am fascinated by the idea of what you are suggesting – I also slightly envy the enduring relationship that you and Janna have .

    food for thought.

    1. I guess the crux of this project is do you believe people are capable of change or are we who we are from the moment we are born and never really change our beliefs or behavior patterns?

      The real power of this sort of asynchronous parallel arcing would be not just for couples, but for groups of people. Where their lives were crossed and apart and in sych over a long period of time would tell us a lot about environment and social mores the world over.

      Some say opposites attract — so finding someone who is never in a parallel arc might be just what you’re seeking. In my experience, the most important thing two people must share in the least is a similar moral philosophy, then situational control and decision-making can diverge because the core is whole and never questioned. Having different POV and solutions is an important, parabolic key, for ever rightful relationship.

      1. I believe people the potential of growth so therefore I would argue that they have the potential to change. Not all of us realise that potential – not everyone can change or want to change either, We have the opportunity to change everytime we make a choice.

        I am fascinated by the potential of such a project – it reminds me in some ways of the film Sliding Doors – but taken to much more depth and at a higher level.

        Mind working overtime here to keep up

        1. Some might call this project the epitome of the “Big Data” movement — aggregating all our posted content across all the social networks and then making decisions for people based on their past decisions. You can “look up” someone based on a date and time and a username and have their life play out before you in compressed “real time” like a movie. That’s why there’s such a massive push to get people to share and link their lives online. Those datapoints are worth a bunch of money!

          Services like Klout are trying to do that today — but in crude and rudimentary and somewhat cruel ways. Klout is extremely narrow and limited and easy to game, but that’s the sort of future companies like that want for us. They look at your online life and “score you” and that becomes your “reputation number” in their index. Scary stuff when you think about the long-term ramifications. Who the hell are they to decide anything about any of us?

          Where it really gets interesting is trying to forge alliances of people based on a criteria. “Show me all the people in Asia and Europe who were thinking about eating a peanut butter sandwich twenty years ago on this date and time.” You can then instantly start to weave and winnow your search results into forming the perfect group of right-thinking people across a wide stream of cultures and ages.

          The trick is to get people to share what they don’t want known: Their uncensored bad thoughts. What’s missing today is the, “I want to kill my neighbor with a knife.” and “I plan to drive off a cliff and kill myself tomorrow.” Sure, some people share that sort of horror online, but not naturally and seamlessly. That moral ticking is what will really make this project sing, and I frankly think the current key to logging those longings is found in long-form blog posts with bost post-qualitative and quantitative analysis! You get much more information from that sort of sharing than from a 140 character Twitter burp.

          When you can add the moral animal to the innocuous codes and the aesthetic memes, you can really begin to build relationships in time that can span decades and then families and then generations all based on a single, but shared, datapoint.

  2. I have had similar thoughts to my early life and wondering what Elizabeth was doing at various points in my life — love this project! I sometimes go back to what I have written in my journal one or more years ago and wonder what I was thinking when I wrote it! I then think of what Elizabeth was doing that day and compare our parallel lives. 🙂

    1. We can always get a general, assumable, idea of what someone was doing when — but getting down to the timestamped specific is actually a thrilling idea.

      Yes, these timelines tend to be event based — “I did that” and “This happened to me.” — but what if there were some way to insert the moral core in these recorded memories, so one could watch the arc of duty and cowardice and cruelty and compassion filtering through the unspoken arc of a life? Then you’d really know who and what you were dealing with before you even met them.

  3. This is a great, wide-sweeping idea. It almost sounds like the plot to a sci-fi movie. I love pondering about the technicalities of messing around with time (although in every sci-fi movie it ends badly!). If this ever became possible, it would be hard to really defend the idea of predetermined fate. I could see some backlash against it for that reason.

    1. Predetermination is important to a lot of people, Emily. SuperSmart people I know believe their life is not one of free choice, but of God’s predetermined pre-birth path for them. I don’t really understand that sort of thinking, but a project like I am suggesting would be a pathway to discovering how and why people act and react based on the influences of their lives. I do believe people can change and modify their will and make their own way, but in many circumstances, that thought is not the shared default.

  4. @David The dichotomy here is that we warn everyone of how we are being tracked, how we should guard our privacy and that Big Brother is watching us and how we can miminise the amount of data that we unwittingly share.

    On the otherside the sociologists and anthropologists in us are eager for that very same data.

    It would be a fantastic opt in experiment for a group of 18 year old starting colledge – using 18 year old as a base to start weith as that is the age of consent .

    Maybe we should suggest life mapping too google glass ………………………. maybe that is the idea behind google glass ???

    1. I see a day in 20 years where you will have to present your “Life Story” in data form from age 18 that follows every ounce of the arc of your life — before you will be considered for a job.

      If you choose to opt out of that sort of close following, you will not be hired. We’re seeing some of that even now with some IT employers demanding Klout scores be included with employment applications.

  5. well from what I saw on Klout yesterday – they can be easily skewed – I guess for those working in IT or more specifically social media/communication a Klout score would at least be an indication of activity.

    1. I found Klout ridiculously limited. When I tried it out my score was 11. I’m all over the internet and I was an online pioneer publisher and author. I have thousands of published articles. I’ve written lots of books. Yet, I’m a nobody to Kout — because I don’t blab around on social networking sites and “participate.”

      Sure, I can game their system by spewing out comment after comment on Twitter and Facebook and in conversation streams, but just blabbing doesn’t mean I have any influence. Sometimes the watchers have more influence than the performers.

  6. It is going to be an intersting one ……………. we are in Lisbon the previous weekend to see Depeche Mode on Friday night – not sure who on the Saturday night – we may have a night off – late Sunday we fly to Venice – stay near the airport overnight then drive from Venice to Vienna on the Monday. We are staying at one of the converted Military riding schools which we got for a silly – cheap- price as we booked so early – we see Mr Williams on the Wednesday – drive back to Venice on the Friday to catch a late evening flight back to Lisbon. We got the whole thing for less than half the price of going back to the UK for a weekend to see him ……………. we got cheap advance flights, cheap hotel, cheap car hire and cheaper tickets and they are balcony tickets as well !

    Hotel – http://www.booking.com/hotel/at/the-imperial-riding-school-vienna.en.html

    1. Me too! You’re so much closer, though! It would be so neat to see all the places in history that you’re taught about and have read about but have never seen with your own eyes. I guess that’s why so many people travel in their retirement — you have lots of time to plan and walk!

      1. I am now and it is so easy now …. There is so much history here – I love standing in places and remembering what has happened there in the past – glimpsing moments in time. They also have more disposable income as well as the time !