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In the movie In Time, people transfer time to each other just by gripping each other's hands.

It seems to have some sort of mental component, as in one scene characters grip hands and have a battle of wills to see who gets the time. Also of note is that time can be stolen from people who are sleeping or unconscious.

How would this transfer system work?

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According to this:

You can transfer time by grasping another person’s hand. The person with the hand on top gets the time.

After re-watching it definitely looks like the author is right. It looks like whoever has their hand in the top position gets the time. This also explains the success of the time thieves: Since there are 4 or 5 of them, all they have to do is hold someone down and force his wrist down and they will always get the time, no risk. The only reason Hamilton is able to beat the time thief at the end is that he agrees to a fair fight, this explanation also explains why a fair fight was required. Hamilton would have had no chance if 4 men bent his wrist down.

What "Time" is doesn't really come into play for the answer here, but since this is interesting to me: If I were going to design a post-human system, I would install a battery into human beings and use it to power the nanomachines that are certainly a requirement of how the post-humans in this story worked. As soon as the machines that govern the activity of the heart, lungs, perhaps the subconscious parts of the brain, etc., ran out of power you'd die. The amount of time left on a battery is the display, and the transfer of that charge is what is exchanged.

  • I saw the whole time thing as strictly a currency, not an actual physical requirement. The thing in your arm just kills you when your time runs out. It's a means of population control, since normal aging has been removed. – Scott Whitlock Sep 2 '15 at 16:19
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I think it may be as simple as reading bio-metrics along with some brain mapping to dictate the amount of time exchanged. That is, the person who has the higher blood pressure, faster heart beat, more skin impedance, greater brain activity, or whatever else that might indicate which person had "more will" would end up getting whatever amount of time they wanted. I know this sounds stupid at first, because why would one introduce a system that promotes crime when one could create an equally functional system that eliminates it. Given the social structures of the "In Time" universe, such a system makes sense for at least two reasons. First, it gives the lower class people a common enemy (thieves) that shift anger away from the higher class people. Second, it may act as a form of social Darwinism; because everyone is a perfect physical specimen those who choose to get drunk/high and pass out or simply those of "weaker will" may be purposefully weeded out for the betterment of the society.

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My guess is that the transfer of 'Time' is just a very accurate representation of the transfer of something else, probably some sort of positive or negative charge to something in a persons DNA.

It seems that to take some Time from someone, you need to have your arm on top, palm facing down like winning an arm wrestle. To receive time, you need to have your arm on the bottom, palm facing upwards like if receiving something in to your palm.

The amount transferred and the speed it transfers at is probably related to physical grip and not will. A stronger grip would transfer more charge and at a faster pace. The closeness of the grip would allow the positive or negative charge to be conducted through the conductivity of the skin.

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