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Edited by Carlos Montemayor and Robert Daniel

The Study of Time XVI: Time’s Urgency celebrates the 50th anniversary of the International Society for the Study of Time. It includes a keynote speech by renowned physicist Julian Barbour, a dialogue between British author David Mitchell, Katie Paterson and ISST’s previous president Paul Harris. The volume is divided into dialogues and papers that directly address the issue of urgency and time scales from various disciplines.

This book offers a unique perspective on the contemporary status of the interdisciplinary study of time. It will open new paths of inquiry for different approaches to the important issues of narrative structure and urgency. These are themes that are becoming increasingly relevant during our times.

Contributors are Julian Barbour, Dennis Costa, Kerstin Cuhls, Ileana da Silva, Margaret K. Devinney, Sonia Front, Peter A. Hancock, Paul Harris, Rose Harris-Birtill, David Mitchell, Carlos Montemayor, Jo Alyson Parker, Katie Paterson, Walter Schweidler, Raji C. Steineck, Daniela Tan, Frederick Turner, Thomas P. Weissert, Marc Wolterbeek, and Barry Wood.

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Paul Harris, Katie Paterson and David Mitchell

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Volume-editor Carlos Montemayor and Robert Daniel

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Jo Alyson Parker and Thomas Weissert

Abstract

In the following paper, we discuss a sub-genre of fiction that we call time-loop fiction, texts that are predicated upon a situation of seemingly eternal recursion. Drawing upon examples taken from literature (Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life, Ken Grimwood’s Replay, Richard Lupoff’s “12:01,” and Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill) and from film/telefilm (Edge of Tomorrow, Groundhog Day, Source Code, 12:01 PM, and “Cause and Effect”), we explore the “time as conflict” between endless looping and narrative closure for both the protagonists and the readers/viewers who follow their plights. After describing the forking-paths structure of time-loop narratives, we examine a key feature of them – the emerging metaconsciousness, a character’s ability to transcend the loop in which they currently exists and to recall past loops in order to bring about a better outcome with each passage through the loop. We conclude by discussing three different types of time-loop narratives and their implications for our understanding of time.

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Kerstin Cuhls

Abstract

Foresight is the long-term view into the future or different futures, defined as the more action-oriented ‘structured debate about complex futures.’ The academic pendant is Futures Research dealing with possible, probable and desirable future developments. Even if the future cannot be predicted, major developments emerge already today in their basics. The guardrails of the possible, probable and desirable can be determined in this sense by scientific methods and in social discourses. Foresight is thus a concept to prepare for futures and avoid urgent reactions, quick and un-reflected, reactive answers to problematic situations or sudden occurrences. Methods are available to work with the different time horizons (e.g., Delphi surveys), to work with different long-term scenarios in preparation or decision-making, or even to travel in time as thought experiments. But although time scales up to 30, 40 or even more years have to be considered when e.g., investing in new infrastructures, technologies or to change the behavior of people, decision-making is often still ad hoc and does not take the time to think about the consequences. It remains in reaction to urgency. In Foresight and Futures Research, a very linear time concept is still in the forefront, although the thought experiments make it possible to go back and forth in time thinking, prepare for different futures, or even shape ‘the’ preferable future with visioning processes (mainly in innovation research but also in transformative studies). This contribution demonstrates examples from empirical research mainly in ‘government Foresight’ but also ‘Strategic Foresight’ of companies, associations or others with the aim to avoid urgency situations. It tries to explain why both long- and short-term time considerations are so important and what long- and short-term means for the different stakeholders (relativity of time considerations).

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Carlos Montemayor

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Volume-editor Carlos Montemayor and Robert Daniel

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Rose Harris-Birtill

Abstract

This essay explores the trope of reincarnation across the works of British author David Mitchell (b. 1969) as an alternative approach to linear temporality, whose spiralling cyclicality warns of the dangers of seeing past actions as separate from future consequences and whose focus on human interconnection demonstrates the importance of collective, intergenerational action in the face of ecological crises. Drawing on the Buddhist philosophy of samsara, or the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, this paper identifies links between the author’s interest in reincarnation and its secular manifestation in the treatment of time in his fictions. These works draw on reincarnation in their structures and characterization as part of an ethical approach to the Anthropocene, using the temporal model of “reincarnation time” as a narrative strategy to demonstrate that a greater understanding of generational interdependence is urgently needed in order to challenge the linear “end of history” narrative of global capitalism.