Return to Video

The unforeseen consequences of a fast-paced world

  • 0:01 - 0:05
    Do you ever wonder why we're surrounded
    with things that help us do everything
  • 0:05 - 0:08
    faster and faster and faster?
  • 0:08 - 0:10
    Communicate faster,
  • 0:10 - 0:13
    but also work faster, bank faster,
  • 0:13 - 0:15
    travel faster, find a date faster,
  • 0:15 - 0:20
    cook faster, clean faster
    and do all of it all at the same time?
  • 0:21 - 0:25
    How do you feel about cramming
    even more into every waking hour?
  • 0:27 - 0:29
    Well, to my generation of Americans,
  • 0:29 - 0:31
    speed feels like a birthright.
  • 0:31 - 0:35
    Sometimes I think
    our minimum speed is Mach 3.
  • 0:35 - 0:38
    Anything less, and we fear
    losing our competitive edge.
  • 0:39 - 0:41
    But even my generation
    is starting to question
  • 0:41 - 0:44
    whether we're the masters of speed
  • 0:44 - 0:46
    or if speed is mastering us.
  • 0:47 - 0:50
    I'm an anthropologist
    at the Rand Corporation,
  • 0:50 - 0:53
    and while many anthropologists
    study ancient cultures,
  • 0:53 - 0:56
    I focus on modern day cultures
    and how we're adapting
  • 0:56 - 0:59
    to all of this change
    happening in the world.
  • 1:00 - 1:05
    Recently, I teamed up with an engineer,
    Seifu Chonde, to study speed.
  • 1:05 - 1:10
    We were interested both in how people
    are adapting to this age of acceleration
  • 1:10 - 1:13
    and its security and policy implications.
  • 1:14 - 1:16
    What could our world look like in 25 years
  • 1:16 - 1:19
    if the current pace of change
    keeps accelerating?
  • 1:19 - 1:21
    What would it mean for transportation,
  • 1:21 - 1:23
    or learning, communication,
  • 1:23 - 1:26
    manufacturing, weaponry
  • 1:26 - 1:28
    or even natural selection?
  • 1:28 - 1:32
    Will a faster future make us
    more secure and productive?
  • 1:32 - 1:35
    Or will it make us more vulnerable?
  • 1:35 - 1:39
    In our research, people accepted
    acceleration as inevitable,
  • 1:39 - 1:42
    both the thrills and the lack of control.
  • 1:42 - 1:44
    They fear that if they were to slow down,
  • 1:44 - 1:47
    they might run the risk
    of becoming obsolete.
  • 1:47 - 1:50
    They say they'd rather
    burn out than rust out.
  • 1:50 - 1:52
    Yet at the same time,
  • 1:52 - 1:55
    they worry that speed could
    erode their cultural traditions
  • 1:55 - 1:57
    and their sense of home.
  • 1:58 - 2:00
    But even people who are winning
    at the speed game
  • 2:00 - 2:02
    admit to feeling a little uneasy.
  • 2:02 - 2:05
    They see acceleration as widening
    the gap between the haves,
  • 2:05 - 2:08
    the jet-setters who are buzzing around,
  • 2:08 - 2:09
    and the have-nots,
  • 2:09 - 2:12
    who are left in the digital dust.
  • 2:13 - 2:17
    Yes, we have good reason to forecast
    that the future will be faster,
  • 2:17 - 2:19
    but what I've come to realize
  • 2:19 - 2:21
    is that speed is paradoxical,
  • 2:21 - 2:23
    and like all good paradoxes,
  • 2:23 - 2:26
    it teaches us about the human experience,
  • 2:26 - 2:29
    as absurd and complex as it is.
  • 2:30 - 2:32
    The first paradox is that we love speed,
  • 2:32 - 2:34
    and we're thrilled by its intensity.
  • 2:34 - 2:38
    But our prehistoric brains
    aren't really built for it,
  • 2:38 - 2:43
    so we invent roller coasters
    and race cars and supersonic planes,
  • 2:43 - 2:46
    but we get whiplash, carsick,
  • 2:46 - 2:47
    jet-lagged.
  • 2:48 - 2:50
    We didn't evolve to multitask.
  • 2:50 - 2:54
    Rather, we evolved to do one thing
    with incredible focus,
  • 2:54 - 2:57
    like hunt -- not necessarily
    with great speed
  • 2:57 - 3:00
    but with endurance for great distance.
  • 3:00 - 3:04
    But now there's a widening gap
    between our biology and our lifestyles,
  • 3:04 - 3:09
    a mismatch between what our bodies are
    built for and what we're making them do.
  • 3:09 - 3:14
    It's a phenomenon my mentors have called
    "Stone Agers in the fast lane."
  • 3:14 - 3:15
    (Laughter)
  • 3:16 - 3:20
    A second paradox of speed is that
    it can be measured objectively. Right?
  • 3:20 - 3:22
    Miles per hour, gigabytes per second.
  • 3:23 - 3:25
    But how speed feels,
  • 3:25 - 3:27
    and whether we like it,
  • 3:27 - 3:28
    is highly subjective.
  • 3:29 - 3:30
    So we can document
  • 3:31 - 3:35
    that the pace at which we are adopting
    new technologies is increasing.
  • 3:35 - 3:40
    For example, it took 85 years
    from the introduction of the telephone
  • 3:40 - 3:43
    to when the majority of Americans
    had phones at home.
  • 3:43 - 3:48
    In contrast, it only took 13 years
    for most of us to have smartphones.
  • 3:49 - 3:51
    And how people act and react to speed
  • 3:51 - 3:56
    varies by culture and among
    different people within the same culture.
  • 3:56 - 3:59
    Interactions that could be seen
    as pleasantly brisk and convenient
  • 3:59 - 4:01
    in some cultures
  • 4:01 - 4:03
    could be seen as horribly rude in others.
  • 4:03 - 4:07
    I mean, you wouldn't go asking
    for a to-go cup at a Japanese tea ceremony
  • 4:07 - 4:10
    so you could jet off
    to your next tourist stop.
  • 4:10 - 4:11
    Would you?
  • 4:12 - 4:16
    A third paradox
    is that speed begets speed.
  • 4:16 - 4:19
    The faster I respond,
    the more responses I get,
  • 4:19 - 4:21
    the faster I have to respond again.
  • 4:21 - 4:23
    Having more communication
  • 4:23 - 4:25
    and information at our fingertips
  • 4:25 - 4:27
    at any given moment
  • 4:27 - 4:31
    was supposed to make decision-making
    easier and more rational.
  • 4:32 - 4:35
    But that doesn't really
    seem to be happening.
  • 4:36 - 4:38
    Here's just one more paradox:
  • 4:39 - 4:44
    If all of these faster technologies
    were supposed to free us from drudgery,
  • 4:44 - 4:47
    why do we all feel so pressed for time?
  • 4:47 - 4:50
    Why are we crashing our cars
    in record numbers,
  • 4:50 - 4:53
    because we think we have
    to answer that text right away?
  • 4:54 - 4:57
    Shouldn't life in the fast lane
    feel a little more fun
  • 4:57 - 4:59
    and a little less anxious?
  • 4:59 - 5:02
    German speakers even have a word for this:
  • 5:02 - 5:03
    "Eilkrankheit."
  • 5:03 - 5:06
    In English, that's "hurry sickness."
  • 5:07 - 5:10
    When we have to make fast decisions,
  • 5:10 - 5:12
    autopilot brain kicks in,
  • 5:12 - 5:14
    and we rely on our learned behaviors,
  • 5:14 - 5:18
    our reflexes, our cognitive biases,
  • 5:18 - 5:21
    to help us perceive and respond quickly.
  • 5:22 - 5:24
    Sometimes that saves our lives, right?
  • 5:24 - 5:25
    Fight or flight.
  • 5:25 - 5:28
    But sometimes, it leads us astray
    in the long run.
  • 5:29 - 5:33
    Oftentimes, when our society
    has major failures,
  • 5:33 - 5:36
    they're not technological failures.
  • 5:36 - 5:40
    They're failures that happen
    when we made decisions too quickly
  • 5:40 - 5:41
    on autopilot.
  • 5:41 - 5:44
    We didn't do the creative
    or critical thinking required
  • 5:44 - 5:45
    to connect the dots
  • 5:46 - 5:47
    or weed out false information
  • 5:47 - 5:50
    or make sense of complexity.
  • 5:50 - 5:54
    That kind of thinking can't be done fast.
  • 5:54 - 5:56
    That's slow thinking.
  • 5:56 - 5:59
    Two psychologists,
    Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky,
  • 5:59 - 6:03
    started pointing this out back in 1974,
  • 6:03 - 6:06
    and we're still struggling
    to do something with their insights.
  • 6:07 - 6:12
    All of modern history can be thought of as
    one spurt of acceleration after another.
  • 6:12 - 6:14
    It's as if we think
    if we just speed up enough,
  • 6:14 - 6:16
    we can outrun our problems.
  • 6:17 - 6:18
    But we never do.
  • 6:18 - 6:20
    We know this in our own lives,
  • 6:20 - 6:22
    and policymakers know it, too.
  • 6:23 - 6:25
    So now we're turning
    to artificial intelligence
  • 6:25 - 6:28
    to help us make faster
    and smarter decisions
  • 6:28 - 6:31
    to process this ever-expanding
    universe of data.
  • 6:32 - 6:36
    But machines crunching data
    are no substitute
  • 6:36 - 6:38
    for critical and sustained thinking
  • 6:38 - 6:40
    by humans,
  • 6:40 - 6:44
    whose Stone Age brains need a little time
    to let their impulses subside,
  • 6:44 - 6:46
    to slow the mind
  • 6:46 - 6:48
    and let the thoughts flow.
  • 6:49 - 6:52
    If you're starting to think
    that we should just hit the brakes,
  • 6:52 - 6:55
    that won't always be the right solution.
  • 6:55 - 7:00
    We all know that a train that's going
    too fast around a bend can derail,
  • 7:00 - 7:01
    but Seifu, the engineer,
  • 7:02 - 7:06
    taught me that a train that's going
    too slowly around a bend can also derail.
  • 7:07 - 7:12
    So managing this spurt of acceleration
    starts with the understanding
  • 7:12 - 7:15
    that we have more control over speed
    than we think we do,
  • 7:15 - 7:19
    individually and as a society.
  • 7:19 - 7:22
    Sometimes, we'll need to engineer
    ourselves to go faster.
  • 7:22 - 7:24
    We'll want to solve gridlock,
  • 7:24 - 7:26
    speed up disaster relief
    for hurricane victims
  • 7:26 - 7:30
    or use 3-D printing to produce
    what we need on the spot,
  • 7:30 - 7:31
    just when we need it.
  • 7:32 - 7:36
    Sometimes, though, we'll want
    to make our surroundings feel slower
  • 7:36 - 7:39
    to engineer the crash
    out of the speedy experience.
  • 7:40 - 7:44
    And it's OK not to be
    stimulated all the time.
  • 7:44 - 7:45
    It's good for adults
  • 7:45 - 7:47
    and for kids.
  • 7:47 - 7:51
    Maybe it's boring,
    but it gives us time to reflect.
  • 7:51 - 7:55
    Slow time is not wasted time.
  • 7:56 - 8:00
    And we need to reconsider
    what it means to save time.
  • 8:00 - 8:04
    Culture and rituals around the world
    build in slowness,
  • 8:04 - 8:09
    because slowness helps us reinforce
    our shared values and connect.
  • 8:09 - 8:12
    And connection is
    a critical part of being human.
  • 8:13 - 8:15
    We need to master speed,
  • 8:15 - 8:19
    and that means thinking carefully about
    the trade-offs of any given technology.
  • 8:20 - 8:24
    Will it help you reclaim time that you
    can use to express your humanity?
  • 8:24 - 8:28
    Will it give you hurry sickness?
    Will it give other people hurry sickness?
  • 8:28 - 8:32
    If you're lucky enough to decide the pace
    that you want to travel through life,
  • 8:32 - 8:34
    it's a privilege.
  • 8:34 - 8:36
    Use it.
  • 8:36 - 8:39
    You might decide that you need
    both to speed up
  • 8:39 - 8:41
    and to create slow time:
  • 8:42 - 8:44
    time to reflect,
  • 8:44 - 8:45
    to percolate
  • 8:45 - 8:47
    at your own pace;
  • 8:48 - 8:49
    time to listen,
  • 8:50 - 8:51
    to empathize,
  • 8:52 - 8:53
    to rest your mind,
  • 8:54 - 8:56
    to linger at the dinner table.
  • 8:57 - 8:59
    So as we zoom into the future,
  • 8:59 - 9:03
    let's consider setting
    the technologies of speed,
  • 9:03 - 9:05
    the purpose of speed
  • 9:05 - 9:08
    and our expectations of speed
  • 9:08 - 9:10
    to a more human pace.
  • 9:11 - 9:12
    Thank you.
  • 9:12 - 9:13
    (Applause)
Title:
The unforeseen consequences of a fast-paced world
Speaker:
Kathryn Bouskill
Description:

more » « less
Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
09:26

English subtitles

Revisions Compare revisions