Speed thrills and speed kills. Feeling connected to the world, and finding out about every new event that happens anywhere right away, is certainly thrilling. It also feels overwhelming, it’s too much, too much at once as well as too rapid. It’s the speed AND the volume. I imagine a street. It’s a two lane road lined with trees and houses. If one person drives very fast, and no other car is on the road, perhaps they can negotiate all of the turns, remain in control of the vehicle, and arrive safely. But when the road is chockfull of cars, each going as fast as it possibly can, crashes WILL happen with absolute certainty.
To me it feels like that is what’s happening with our lives. Speed by definition remains shallow, because depth requires time. Driving through a landscape at 75 miles an hour is a very different experience from walking through the same landscape. We are essentially rushing through our lives.
In one of his books Neal Stephenson describes agencies that filter information for their clients. A client profile is created and, with the use of AI and human selection, the information that is delivered to the client is filtered down from an avalanche to a manageable trickle.
Scientist have looked at how quickly topics change, I read in “Stolen Focus”, by Johann Hari. At first they looked at trends on Twitter and discovered that while topics stayed in the top fifty most discussed subjects for 17.5 hours in 2013, they only lasted for 11.9 hours in 2016. Well, that’s Twitter, perhaps it was an outlier. After studying Google Books, which has scanned millions of books, and analyzing the content, they discovered that the same curve that was found on Twitter, has in fact existed for more than 130 years. For all of that time, between the 1880s and today, topics have come and gone faster.
That’s the speed part, but what about the volume? Johann Hari uses the example of reading a 85-page newspaper. In 1986 all of the information coming from TV, radio, and reading, amounted to 40 newspapers a day. By 2007 that number had increased to 174 newspapers per day. I shudder to think what that number is in 2022.
Somewhere, perhaps also in Johann Hari’s book, I learned that our speech has been accelerating, too. We apparently talk much faster than our grandparents. That makes sense to me: if the data input flows heavier and faster, so will the output.
No wonder we feel like we are being hurled through life. Speed is addictive, too, like a sugar rush, so part of our brain wants to keep going. Let’s face it, our brain doesn’t often KNOW what’s good for us. For that answer we will have to turn to our heart and gut brain – let’s call those the body-brain as opposed to the head-brain.
That reminds me, time to meditate. There will be more on this subject, I am sure. Take it easy, take it slow… :-)