Written by Kyu Park
Equality is a key value of humane societies. Yet, its achievement is illusory. Resources are not evenly distributed. Individually, the inequality is mainly discussed in terms of money and power; socially, economics and politics. It is no secret that there still exists a huge gap that centuries of conflicts have not been able to bridge. In an attempt to offer hope to this deject reality, there is an overly optimistic view towards time. People tend to believe that time, at the very least, is a fair resource to everyone. But, this has never been true, and presumably would not be true as long as inequality exists in any other form.
There are several means in which the haves accumulate time and the have-nots exhaust time. In our society, labor is compensated with money. A person’s earning capability is mainly about how much money one could make in accordance with time. Each person’s time has a different monetary value. People often say that time cannot be bought. But in a world that convenience is a main product of service industries, money can buy not only comfort but also time. If one’s time is more valuable than a cook’s, a driver’s, and a housekeeper’s time combined, one could potentially hire a cook, a driver, and a housekeeper. This freedom allows the haves to focus on more meaningful ventures. However, there is another form of time trade that is less obvious and even more dangerous.
Nothing, at least in the market, is free. Numerous online contents that we conceive to be free is traded for personal information. With the acquired information, we become much more vulnerable to the attractive advertisements. The time consumers spend on watching advertisements, and the money people spend on the advertised products are parts of a perfectly designed social machine. Its byproducts are great profit and exclusive information for the capitalists. Every ad we watch, every news article we read, every coupon we use, are schemes that attach us to this system. As we take part in this convenient world, we are conveniently manipulated. The danger of this time trade is that we do not know what we pay. Individuality is lost as we become mere customers to the marketed products.
This system is nearly impossible to break. The haves not only have more time and money, but have now accumulated critical information of the mass. This is the most powerful factor that separates the haves and have nots. Social behaviors and trends could be accurately predicted with sufficient data. Especially in this quickly shifting world, the ignorant is bound to become a follower, and the knowledgeable could easily become a leader. Even with the same amount of time and effort spent, the results are polar. Information changes the efficiency of time. The disparate quality of time acts as an impenetrable wall. Whether effort, or any quantity of time, could overcome this disadvantage is highly questionable.
Realistically, we could not give up the perks of various online services. To stay connected and to gain access to various tools, we must choose to surrender much of our privacy. However, it is important to be aware of the costs of comfort. What changes the macro scale economics and politics is indeed the collusion of individuals. Each individual should make the most out of what one has. One could not simply complain about having less money, less power, or less time. There clearly exists inequity in time as well, and this recognition should lead to wiser decisions regarding time.