I have a slightly odd habit when it comes to wishing people Happy Birthday. I look up their age, and rather than giving a generic greeting, congratulate them on how many millions of seconds they have lived. This is partly because in the age of Facebook, birthday greetings need to have something to their form marking them as coming from you, or they’ll be overlooked, and this is my gimmick. But there’s something broader than that.
Even before I gave people good wishes in Msec, I had planned that, when I approached 31.71 years of age, I would have a big party. Because toward the end of February in 2023, I will pass 1 billion seconds old. In some ways it’s just a big milestone, a nice round number about a third of a the way through my expected lifetime. But it means more to me.
Because we live on Earth, with it’s moon, days, months, and years are the most reasonable measures of the passing of time. This has been true and will be true for a while yet. But not forever. Sometime soon, we will be a cross-planetary species. Eventually, we may even be an interstellar one. And for people who are no longer tied down to any single planet’s cycles, years, months, and days cease to have reasonable meaning. At that point, it’s unit inertia vs. lack of context to decide when we will switch to a more universal system, tracking time in pure seconds. (The spacefarers in A Deepness In The Sky do this, which is where I got the idea.)
So when I congratulate you on the millions of seconds you have lived, or offer to plan a large party for your “Gsec birthday”, I am not just looking to stand out or for an excuse to party. It carries a wish that you will live to see the day when years are old-fashioned and these are the times that are commemorated.