As a runner, I have often imagined what it would be like to have super speed like the Flash or Quicksilver. Unfortunately for my super speed dreams, Kyle Hill has presented the fatal flaws of super speed. But while Hill did consider the problem of perception, he seems to have missed one practical problem with being a super speedster and that is how mentally exhausting (and boring) running a super speed could be. Naturally, Kant will be involved in this.
Our good dead friend Kant argued that time is not a thing that exists in the world, rather it is a form in which objects appear to us. It is for him, the “form of inner sense” because our mental events must occur in temporal sequence. Or, rather, must occur to us in that way. He does bring up a very interesting point, namely that other beings could experience reality rather differently than the way we experience it temporally. For example, God might experience all time simultaneously—which is a way to account for both omniscience and free will: God knows what you will do because from his perspective you done did it, are doing it, and will do it. Other beings might have a similar inner sense, but with a different perceived speed. This takes us to speedsters.
While humans can successfully operate fast moving vehicles, a super speedster would also need to perceive the world and make decisions at super speed under most conditions. Consider a simple comparison. With some training, I could pilot a jet plane going hundreds of miles per hour safely. But imagine that I had the physical ability to run as fast as a jet (about 500 mph), but my brain was unchanged in terms of my speed of perception and decision making. If I tried to run on a winding trail in the woods, for example, I would immediately slam into a tree because my physical speed would vastly exceed my ability to perceive the trail and make decisions about when to turn. But if my mental processes were also fast, then I would be able to run “normally” on the trail: from my perspective, I would have plenty of time to make my decisions and avoid collisions. My “form of inner sense” would match up with my physical speed, so I would be fine. Mostly. But there would still be a bit of a problem if I wanted to use my speed to save on travel expenses.
Suppose I wanted to visit my family in Maine. My father’s house is about 1500 miles from my house in Florida. If I could run 500 mph, I could be there in three hours. Being an experienced marathoner, I know that running for three hours is no big deal for me—it would be well worth it to save the cost of a flight and to avoid the airport. But the situation is rather more complicated than just me running for three hours. For people watching me and by my watch, it would be three hours of running. But remember, my mind would be significantly sped up to enable it to handle my physical speed.
To keep the math simple, suppose my normal human running speed is 10 mph. So, my super speed would be fifty times that (500 mph). Suppose that my perception and decision-making speed was equally increased. While this might seem amazing, it would entail that from my perspective the three-hour run would take 150 hours (6.25 days). Even ignoring concerns about sleep and endurance, that would be extremely unpleasant run. After all, I would experience it as if I were running there at normal human speed (although other people and things would seem to be moving very slowly). For me, it would not be worth it to spend 150 hours running even if it saved me the price of a plane ticket. After all, I could do that now—and I sensibly do not.
One could, of course, tweak the numbers a bit—perhaps I could safely run at 500 mph while my mind operated at slower than 50 times normal speed. But it would still need to operate much faster than normal, otherwise I would keep running into things and doing a lot of damage. So, super speed would generally be terrible for long distance travel.
One could, of course, do some comic book stuff and come up with workarounds to avoid the boredom problem. Perhaps a speedster would have multiple levels of awareness—a fast navigating awareness that guides them safely and a slower conscious mind to avoid the boredom. Going back to Kant, this would involve having two different forms of inner sense operating in the same mind—which is obviously not even very weird in philosophical terms. In that case, super speed would be a great way to travel.