Archive for April, 2006

The pace of modern life

Monday, April 10th, 2006

Why do people keep going on about “the pace of modern life” and saying things like “nowadays people have less and less time for xyz”?
In the past century we’ve invented computers, production lines, white goods, cars, trains, planes etc.. etc… – all justified as time savers. In theory we should have stacks MORE time. And yet people talk as though they have less and less time. Either there is something seriously wrong in our obsession with “labour saving devices”, or the stuff about the pace of modern life is made up.
My own view is that when people say they are “saving” time or labour saving, they don’t think about “saving for what?” While my washing machine is washing my clothes for me, what am I going to do instead? Something supposedly more exciting and important fills the gap, so that I do more and more things rather than having more time to do the same set of tasks. Also, the tendency is for those things to be more exciting and stimulating, otherwise I wouldn’t employ the labour saving device. Expectations and gratification thresholds can increase infinitely, so this can lead to a vicious circle which gives the impression of having less and less time rather than more and more. Perhaps it’s fair to say then that people have more time but less patience. I think one can get out of this circle by putting value on down-time and doing nothing, as in the philosophy put forward by the idler.