Sometimes you read an article that powerfully says something you were already thinking, but had trouble putting into words. This is one of those articles for me. I am admittedly addicted to the same craving for speed that afflicts the rest of us. But more and more I am feeling cheated. I am feeling like I want to raise a protest. I want to “stick it to the man” that keeps yelling “SCHNELL!”
Mark Taylor has done a good job showing the deleterious effects of a lust for “more and more, faster and faster” on several dimension of our culture. He specifically discusses the impact on capital markets, communication, and education.
“The faster we go, the less time we seem to have. As our lives speed up, stress increases, and anxiety trickles down from managers to workers, and parents to children.”
Our ability to do things faster has had exactly the opposite effect that thinkers and politicians predicted. We thought that being able to finish a job sooner would allow us to clock out and go home. That we would now have time for recreation, art, and family. Nope. Instead, “Contrary to expectation, the technologies that were supposed to liberate us now enslave us.” He writes:
“With the emergence of personal computers and other digital devices in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many analysts predicted a new age in which people would be drawn together in a “global village,” where they would be freed from many of the burdens of work and would have ample leisure time to pursue their interests. That was not merely the dream of misty-eyed idealists but was also the prognosis of sober scientists and policy makers. In 1956, Richard Nixon predicted a four-day workweek, and almost a decade later a Senate subcommittee heard expert testimony that by 2000, Americans would be working only 14 hours a week.”
The quest for speed has been paired with our desire to measure success with numbers. This has destroyed or dismissed hard-to-count virtues like creativity, reflection, and problem solving. And Oh, yeah, what about happiness? There is a difference between “rapid information processing,” the kind of thing we do when reading and writing online, and “slow, careful, deliberate reflection.” By the way, when was the last time you read anything about “slow, careful, deliberate reflection.” Yeah, me too. Probably in too much of a hurry. We are too busy to ask whether our pace is actually good for us.
By the way, when was the last time you read anything about “slow, careful, deliberate reflection.”
One of the other bad effects of speed is that it tends to diminish complexity in favor of simplicity. Now, simplicity is a good thing. But not everything is simple. And paradoxically, arriving at the kind of simplicity that is truly valuable takes a LOT of time. Greg McKeown has argued for this in his book Essentialism. If you are going to figure out what is truly important you will need time and space to do it.
Life is moving too fast, and we are NOT better off because of it. Read this article and take another step toward deliberately slowing down.