Speeds don't average. If we go 70 miles/hour for the first 70 miles of a trip, then get stuck in horrible traffic and only make 10 miles/hour for the next 70 miles, our average speed is not (70+10)/2 = 40 miles/hour. We've used up 8 hours going 140 miles. That comes out less than 20 miles/hour.

What happened? The true average is built upon how much time we spent on each leg of the journey, not how far we went. Slow parts of the trip count for a lot more than fast segments. The same holds for supercomputer speeds: a multiprocessor machine that does trillions of operations per second in parallel parts of a computation, but only gets 1% of that pace on non-parallel code, won't really average anything near its maximum performance (except on special problems that are more than 99% parallel).

And the same holds for us. We focus on peak experiences --- vacations, final exams, weddings, births.... We forget about the long stretches before and after --- home, school, marriage, growing up.... But those "slow" parts of existence are where we spend most of our time. It's fine to remember the view from the summit; that doesn't mean that the climb and the descent are less important. They're critical. They add up to the stories of our lives.

Wednesday, October 27, 1999 at 20:36:01 (EDT) = 1999-10-27

TopicScience - TopicLife

(correlates: FreudianParalysis, DetectiveWork, RunsInTheFamily, ...)