Time Is Money. No Really.

I watched In Time over the weekend. It’s not a new film, but we’re trying to clear the digibox of things that we’ve recorded in readiness for all the treats we’re going to have over Christmas*. I’d not seen Justin Timberlake in anything other than a music video before, so it was interesting to see how he got on with a feature film. I have to say, he didn’t do badly up against a cast of people who act for a living – Amanda Seyfried (whose eyes are too wide, we’ve decided), Johnny Galecki (Leonard from Big Bang Theory) and Vincent Kartheiser (from Mad Men). Even so, Cillian Murphy acted everyone else off the screen. Did he need the money that badly?

Anyway, the central conceit of the entire story is that time quite literally is money. It is the new currency as everyone, at birth, is genetically altered so that they cease aging once they reach the age of 25. They are given one year and a clock linked to their DNA (the actual science is lost on me, so I’ll stick with the general principles for now). Once their clocks reach zero, they “time out” and die.

Now, people can gain or lose time in the same way as we do money – because time is now the new currency – so salaries are paid in time, fares are paid in time, loans are made of time (and paid back with interest). Millionaires are those with so much time they are effectively immortal. The ghettoised poor are literally living from day to day, with just enough time in the bank to get them to the next payday. As Will Salas (Timberlake’s character) points out “We tend not to sleep in round here”.

It’s an interesting concept, but not a new one. Benjamin Franklin was the first to make the point that “time is money” and in the service industries, where people charge their expertise by the hour, that’s exactly it. I did once hear an anecdote about a man who had his appendix removed by a surgeon and queried the bill. The surgeon replied: “To remove appendix: £2,000. To spend seven years at medical school to learn how to do it properly: £20,000.”

I liked In Time. Like all good science fiction, it was thought provoking whilst remaining entertaining enough for me to want to revisit it again in the future. But I just can’t help shaking the feeling that there’s a reason why I’m always in a rush….

* Said in the spirit of optimism, because last year we didn’t record anything.