But it’s also a marker of our strange relationship with time. The facts are settled, i.e., the votes had been cast. But, until they’re counted and announced, they’re rather like Schrodinger’s cat: neither dead, nor alive until we open the box, resolving the superposition. This was the basis of the (convenient) Trumpian analysis that initial vote counts in his favor were—somehow—the right answer to be preserved against being overturned by the later-counted (and therefore presumably fraudulent) votes.
We live in the world that we know. Unknown information doesn’t, in a sense, exist (yet!).
You can see the same time dilation if you watch a sports website spewing statistics about a live game. The data stream sometimes gets ahead of the nominally “live” broadcast of the actual event (e.g. Game Channel shows the Lions scoring a third touchdown (remarkable in itself!) while on the NBC broadcast, the score is tied at 14).
It is a hallmark of our 21C age that we live in that we expect instantaneous information, no matter the source or location. In earlier times, information would flow, in due course, with little to be done about it since horses/ships could only go so fast. The Rothschild banking house in London apparently made a pretty penny on getting the news of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo a bit faster than anyone else. Japanese soldiers isolated on obscure islands in the Pacific for years and decades still believed that WWII was ongoing. They didn’t know any better. Satellites (and later trans-oceanic fiber optic cables) brought it all home apparently “as it happened.” It was the wonder of simultaneity that made watching the Olympics “real-time” from Tokyo in 1964 the epitome of modernity. Stuff was happening in Japan tomorrow, but we could sit in our living rooms in the evening and watch Joe Frazier win the Gold Medal in Boxing. Time zones became tangible in a new and different way. CNN started its 24-hour news channel in 1980, so there was no more downtime; we could be plugged in continuously. About the same time, satellite-based telephony allowed for cheaper global calling, but it came with a price: quite apparent latency as the signal bounced off the satellite, making conversations stilted.
It's a sign of our times that this all seems ordinary now. Calls run on perceptively instant fiber cables. Cotton traders in Chicago and cotton farmers in Egypt learn almost instantly of a bad monsoon affecting Indian growers and they can both react in terms of the prices at which they buy and sell. We are used to conference calls (zoom/skype/teams/facetime) with participants in multiple times zones (and continents). What time is it, anyway?
We can say that “the world is getting smaller,” interpreting this phenomenon in geographical terms; pundits have been talking about the “death of distance” for decades. Or, we can say that the nature of time is changing. It’s not just the acceleration of events and the constant pummeling of “breaking news,” it’s not just the ever-faster modes of transportation (sorry, Concorde!) or the pace of tech (iPhone 23, anyone?).
The end of the differential of time/space is disorienting. It makes location less important (take that, real estate magnates!) and, since we literally orient ourselves by where we are, this can be upsetting. It makes clear that we are small pieces of a larger puzzle with little to do but plug into our corner of the WWW and forget that we have little control over our world.
And yet, as demonstrated by the voting tallies and the sports statistics, there are glitches in the system. We’re not actually in the stadium, nor in the office of the Georgia Secretary of State releasing precinct results. Our de facto distance varies by what means and channel we learn of what is happening there.
Does it really matter? The latter-day version of the Rothschilds getting the news from the Continent is the placement of stock-trading computers. When you’re pushing billions of dollars around, then a couple of micro-seconds can mean a real difference in the price you pay. Those micro-seconds can be minimized if you put your computer in Lower Manhattan as compared with Jersey City. Even at the speed of light, there’s a difference. But, just as Newtonian physics is more than adequate for most of us (leaving Einstein and quantum as curiosities); for most of us those micro-seconds don’t matter.
We may well get used to the fully-interconnected universal time in which the “infosphere” operates. The current rough edges will likely be smoothed away. Still, for those who might recall a certain cult film (1975), often marked by the tossing of toast, all I can say is: “Let’s do the ‘time-warp’ again!”