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Faster & Older

April 17, 2013

The world seems to be getting both faster and older. Older in the simple sense that the average age in the population is going up, and we have every reason to expect this trend to continue. It is more difficult to quantify how it is getting faster. In many respects things seem to have gotten rather stagnant of late. But even that stagnation can seem like a faster moving in place. Quick rhythms going nowhere, not much turned upside down but a constant jittering around.  A restlessness that may be a prelude to an overturning yet to come, or a mobile status quo that shakes off all challenges. In any case, we feel the speed.

To approach it from the other end, slowness is decreasing. The kind of slowness that we can anchor our lives in, that provides a backdrop to our adventures in life. That we can count on.

Ultimately, directly and indirectly, technology is responsible for both trends. And technology keeps moving along at an increasing rate. Though recent technological developments have not been as world-changing as the ones from the Long 19th Century, they have gotten faster.

So the point of this post is to consider a possible tension between these two trends. Because, despite all those hip grandparents tweeting from their iphones, people tend get a little stuck in their ways as they get older. We all accumulate attachments with time to elements of our world and ways of living in it. The attachments that make us and give us meaning. They are easily made when we are young and fairly blank, but as our blankness gets filled in it becomes harder. This is fine if what you are attached to persists as long as you do. But in world that moves ever faster this is less and less the case. As we age we become alienated from the times. A faster world really calls for a younger world, in which people are adaptable because they are not already adapted. But what we are getting is the opposite. And the old dispensation, in which the horrors of aging get offset by gains in experience, will weaken as that experience becomes more and more obsolete in an ever-changing world.

Both of these trends seem pretty horrible to me. Whatever spin you put on age, it is not as good as youth, and a society of the old is a depressing prospect. So too an accelerated society. I like a pace that is fast enough to keep things interesting but slow enough to dig in and savor. Not an out of control treadmill. But what happens when these two meet? Will the old duffers slow things down? Will they adapt? Will they be increasingly marginalized and alienated? Will everybody just want to take a nap, and let the robots do the living?

I am not even going to get into the Singularity wackos, who take both trends and extend them to infinity. 

I am sure why I am even writing this. I have a low opinion of this sort of pondering, of trends and mega-trends, futures shocking and otherwise. It seemed cool when I was a kid. I was enthralled by futurology, though more with the gee-whiz stuff than the sociology. But enough time has passed to show that most of that was either bullshit or banal. The only good reason to think about the future is to avoid screwing it up, because we might care for those compelled to exist in it, ourselves or others, human or non-human. And how much non-screwing-up are we even capable of? Let the unborn bury their dead, and be as the lilies of the field. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Might want to take those emissions down a notch though.


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One Comment
  1. Christina McIntyre permalink

    have you ever seen point break? yeah.

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