"Through most of history, time was fixed by astronomical reference points — the Earth spins once, call it a day," writes James Gleick in his insightful new book, "Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything." "No more." In other words, says Gleick, we have become so obsessed with time and with the need for speed that we're getting nowhere fast. In our efforts to cram more and more life into the 1,440 minutes that make up a day, we risk losing out on the whole point of life. Here, drawn from a book filled with delightful observations, are a few of Gleick's fast takes. What is "real time"?
"Real-time oral communication is what used to be called conversation," Gleick writes. "Real-time scheduling, real-time cataloguing, real-time analysis, real-time auditing, real-time dance performance — all these mean a tiny bit more than just fast or not too late. Whatever real time is, we want it."
Time — the ultimate status symbol.
People today work more than they really need to — for the wrong reason. "It's their own fault, for treating time as a mere status symbol," Gleick argues. "And a negative status symbol at that: the less time, the more prestige. The more time you have on your hands, the less important you must be."
This time is your time.
If life at hyperspeed is absurd, what's the alternative? "Recognize that neither technology nor efficiency can acquire more time for you, because time is not a thing you have lost," Gleick advises. "It is not a thing you ever had. It is what you live in. You can drift or you can swim, and it will carry you along either way." Faster is a fast read — one worth every millisecond of your time.
Coordinates $24. "Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything," Pantheon, www.randomhouse.com
A version of this article appeared in the Prototype Issue issue of Fast Company magazine.