Magazine article The Futurist

Living Faster and Faster

Magazine article The Futurist

Living Faster and Faster

Article excerpt

The more time we save, the more we do.

High-speed living has become a fact of life, and the frantic pace is taking its toll, according to science writer James Gleick. It's as if the old "Type A" behavior of a few has expanded into the "hurry sickness" of the many.

"We do feel that we're more time-driven and time-obsessed and generally rushed than ever before," writes Gleick in Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything, a survey of fast-moving culture and its consequences. We may also be acting more hastily, losing control, and thinking superficially because we live faster.

Technology has conditioned us to expect instant results. Internet purchases arrive by next-day delivery and the microwave delivers a hot meal in minutes. Faxes, e-mails, and cell phones make it possible--and increasingly obligatory--for people to work faster. Gleick cites numerous examples of fast-forward changes in our lives: Stock trading and news cycles are shorter; sound bites of presidential candidates on network newscasts dropped from 40 seconds in 1968 to 10 seconds in 1988; and some fast-food restaurants have added express lanes.

High expectations for instant service make even the brief wait for an elevator seem interminable. "A good waiting time is in the neighborhood of 15 seconds. Sometime around 40 seconds, people start to get visibly upset," writes Gleick. We're dependent on systems that promise speed but often deliver frustration. Like rush-hour drivers fuming when a single accident halts the evening commute, people surfing the Internet squirm if a Web page is slow to load or when access itself is not instantaneous. …

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