Session Summary

The Historical Significance of Clocks  

Worldwide, the clock tower serves as the symbol of the city and the people’s identity. Citing Chioggia, one of the world’s oldest working clocks that has witnessed the survival of the town through deadly pandemic and warfare. It is a monument symbolising hope and long view.  

The clock tower is an essential infrastructure carrying historical stories. It was usually built in a public square that is easily accessible. In former colonies, clock towers were built on Western ideas of order and discipline.  

Atomic clocks keep the entire modern world functioning. Their roles span agricultural, religious, financial, and other essential human activities. Information is also largely derived from time signals of global satellites, but they are weak and are easily spoofed. Therefore, we are becoming increasingly reliant on high-precision clocks for our daily lives. 

Tyranny of Time 

Time zones have been used as an exercise of political power. For example, the GMT used as the main reference point for standardised time zones .

Clock towers were used by the colonial authorities as a physical representation of the ruling colonial class by proxy and as a tool of control and oppression, they were designed to operate at a slower pace to keep labour working for longer hours of the day. 

Clocks have been used to regulate the financial market since 1611 but there are risks associated with the increased sophistication of modern clocks; firms with better computing systems have an inherent advantage in computerised trading as their machines can process and perform financial transactions at a faster rate. Currently, 50% of stock trading in the United States are conducted through high-frequency trading. 

Clocks and the Long View 

Civilisation brought about pathological short attention spans. Technological advances allow time to be measured up to femtosecond, which may narrow our view of time and the future. There is a growing need to focus on the long view and to be more forward-thinking. 

Clock is a tool for humans, and we must not be beholden to them. Timekeeping is not limited to human activities but is also relative to the natural clock. This means the synchronisation of artificial time and the natural time cycle. 

Society must decide the future concept of time. What messages do we want to pass on to our successors? What do we say to our descendants as we steer and navigate ourselves through the perfect storm.