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Synchronize your watches.
We have reached the epoch of the nanosecond. This is the heyday of speed.
If one quality defines our modern, technocratic age, it is acceleration. We are making haste. Our computers, our movies, our sex lives, our prayers -- they all run faster now than ever before. And the more we fill our lives with time-saving devices and time-saving strategies, the more rushed we feel.
In Faster, James Gleick explores nothing less than the human condition at the turn of the millennium. He shines a light of enterprising and analytical reporting -- as well as sly wit -- on the newest paradoxes of time. His journey takes us through the bunkers and trenches of a war we barely knew we were fighting: to the atomic clocks of the Directorate of Time, to the waiting rooms that focus our impatience, to the film production studios that test the high-speed limits of our perception, to the air-traffic command centers that give time pressure new meaning.
We have become a quick-reflexed, multitasking, channel-flipping, fast-forwarding species. We don't completely understand it, and we're not altogether happy about it. Faster is a mirror held up to our times -- and a mordant reminder of why some things take time.
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Never in the history of the human race have so many had so much to do in so little time. That, anyway, is the impression most of us have of civilized life at the end of the millennium, and Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything only sharpens it. Elegantly composed and insightfully researched, Faster delivers a brisk volley of observations on how microchips, media, and economics, among other things, have accelerated the pace of everyday experience over the course of the manic 20th century.
Author of the pop-science triumph, Chaos, James Gleick brings his formidable writing skills to bear here, creating an almost poetic flow of ideas from what in other hands might have been just a mass of interesting facts and anecdotes. Whether tracing the modern history of chronometry (from Louis-François Cartier's invention of the wristwatch to the staggeringly precise atomic clocks of today's standards bureaus) or revealing the ways the camera has sped up our subjective sense of pace (from the freeze frames of Eadweard Muybridge's early photographic experiments to the jump cuts of MTV's latest videos), Gleick manages to weave in slyly perceptive or occasionally profound points about our increasingly hopped-up relationship to time. The result is the kind of thing only an accelerated culture like ours could have come up with: an instant classic. --Julian DibbellFrom the Publisher:
A conversation with James Gleick, author of Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything
Q: You actually met the Director of the Directorate of Time. What is his job exactly, and was it as surreal as it sounds?
A: I hope I didn't make Dr. Winkler sound too surreal. He's recently retired. He was head honcho of the official U.S. government bureau that keeps track of the time. They say what time it
is (with a little help from other countries). Whatever time they say it is, that's the time. So he was in charge of the scientists and engineers who manage, calibrate, and interpret the atomic clocks.
These days (maybe they thought "Directorate of Time" did sound too surreal) they tend to call it the Time Service Bureau. I like the original name better.
Q: What is "hurry sickness," and is there a cure?
A: The dirty little secret of my book is that I don't really think there's any such thing. Except we all think that there is, and that we've got a terminal case. Some of our fears of hurry sickness show up in the whole Type A idea -- the notion that people who drive in the fast lane and pound the Close Door button on elevators are heading for heart attacks. That doesn't really turn out to be true, or at least no one has ever proved it. But we do feel that we're more time-driven and time-obsessed and generally rushed than ever before, and that IS true, and if it's a kind of disease, it's a social disease.
Q: What were some of the strangest examples of time obsession that you encountered while writing Faster?
A: Some of the strangest examples were encountered in my very own household. Occasionally I would catch this guy about to heat up his lunch in the microwave oven, punching 8-8 instead of 9-0 to save the millisecond it would have taken him to move his finger from one button to the next. Then I would catch the same guy looking for something to read, or calculating the roundtrip time to the bathroom, so he wouldn't feel the pain of actually wasting 88 seconds standing and doing nothing.
And this same guy is trying to tell you there's no such thing as hurry sickness!
Q: You write that we are "bumping against a speed limit" and "have finite cruise speeds." What is our limit, when will we max out?
A: I'm sure I meant to write, "maybe." Who knows? There must be a limit to how fast a human being can run 100 meters or 22 miles, but somehow the records keep getting broken. They get broken by tinier and tinier intervals, but that's OK, because we have better and better technology to deploy at the finish lines -- another example of how finicky we've gotten about tiny intervals of time.
Anyway, there must be a limit to how quickly we can process information. How many different frames can we handle in the 30-second television commercial? We certainly feel as though we're pressing against a limit. But then a new season comes around, and the music videos are faster, and the news cycles are shorter, and stock trading and instant foods and TV game shows all seem to have sped up yet again.
Q: You explain that our speed is as much in how we see as how we move. How are future generations going to see and move and react differently, given that they grew up in speedy times?
A: It does seem clear that the younger we are, the more comfortable we tend to be with a multitasking, channel-flipping, quick-reflexed existence. Then again, the younger we are, the less comfortable we seem to be with long periods alone with our thoughts. These are generalizations, of course, and highly suspect. Still, you know what I mean, right? Have we lost our capacity for deep concentration, or have we gained a capacity for fast and flexible visualization?
Maybe a little of both.
Q: What's the downside of an increasingly fast paced existence?
A: Get rushed. Lose control. Act hastily. Think superficially. Feel stressed.
Q: Do you feel more connected since the advent of email, or do you think it also creates a sense of disconnection?
A: I wish this were a difficult question. I feel more connected. I think that's completely clear. However, connectedness is not necessarily an unalloyed good. It is intimately related to acceleration, or so I try to argue in Faster.
Q: With all of the time saving technologies we have devised, where does all of the saved time go?
A: Where indeed! When we press the Fast Playback button on the telephone-answering machine, or use a laser printer to accomplish in one minute what formerly took typists a day, we imagine that we're saving time for some mythical thing called leisure, which presumably involves doing nothing at all. Somehow it doesn't work that way. The more time we save, the more we do. Even leisure has become a very busy, fast-paced business.
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Book Description Pantheon. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0679408371 Ships from Tennessee, usually the same or next day. Seller Inventory # Z0679408371ZN
Book Description Pantheon, 1999. hardcover. Condition: New. First edition, first printing, mint, new/unread in a flawless dust jacket. 1999 NY: Pantheon. Seller Inventory # GLEFAST11
Book Description Pantheon, 1999. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0679408371
Book Description Pantheon, 1999. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110679408371