Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything

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Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything

by James Gleick

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | September 5, 2000 | Trade Paperback

Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything is rated 5 out of 5 by 1.
From the bestselling, National Book Award-nominated author of Genius and Chaos, a bracing new work about the accelerating pace of change in today''s world.

Most of us suffer some degree of "hurry sickness." a malady that has launched us into the "epoch of the nanosecond," a need-everything-yesterday sphere dominated by cell phones, computers, faxes, and remote controls. Yet for all the hours, minutes, and even seconds being saved, we''re still filling our days to the point that we have no time for such basic human activities as eating, sex, and relating to our families. Written with fresh insight and thorough research, Faster is a wise and witty look at a harried world not likely to slow down anytime soon.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 352 pages, 8.03 × 5.22 × 0.73 in

Published: September 5, 2000

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 067977548X

ISBN - 13: 9780679775485

Found in: Current Events, Science and Nature

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hurry up and read it!...kidding (I think) It's probably just my own private neurosis...but all the while I was reading 'Faster' I had this compulsion to finish it rightawayNOW, before I flunked some unspecified speed test. One of the many, many such tests that, as Gleick proves here, have woven themselves into daily life without our even realizing it. Not, mind you, that I wasn't being hugely entertained in the meantime; the author has a fun knack for weaving bits and pieces of the pop-culture experience into his scientific treatises. (Very few physics books take in quotes from Richard Feynman AND 'Mystery Science Theater 3000.') His style is that of a tourist visiting daily life, flittering from aspect to aspect, pausing to bemusedly examine whatever time-related absurdity catches his eye. It's a complex ride, but worth it...now, if you'll excuse me, I have ten more pages to go before lunch, and that's only five minutes from...
Date published: 2001-03-10

– More About This Product –

Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything

by James Gleick

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 352 pages, 8.03 × 5.22 × 0.73 in

Published: September 5, 2000

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 067977548X

ISBN - 13: 9780679775485

Read from the Book

You are in the Directorate of Time. Naturally you are running late. You hurry past a glass-paned vault in which the world''s number-one clock is soundlessly assembling each second from nine billion parts. It looks more like a rack of computers than a clock. In its core, atoms of cesium vibrate with a goose-stepping pace so sure, so authoritative, so humbling--but your mind wanders. There is not a moment to lose. Striding onward, you reach the office of the director of the Directorate of Time. He is a craggy, white-haired man called Gernot M. R. Winkler. He glances across the desk and says, "We have to be fast." The directorate, an agency of the United States military, has scattered dozens of atomic clocks across a calm, manicured hilltop near the Potomac River in Washington. Armed guards stand watch at a security gatehouse down below, mainly because the Vice President''s residence occupies the same grounds. Once past their scrutiny you can walk alone up the long drive to the stately 150-year-old Naval Observatory, the first national observatory of the United States. Long ago a four-foot ball of Charles Goodyear''s Gumelastic rubber hung from a mast atop the observatory dome and dropped daily at noon to signal the time. Now the signals come more quickly. The Master Clock consults with fifty others in separate climate-controlled vaults--cesium clocks and hydrogen masers powered by diesel generators and backup batteries. They check off the seconds as an ensemble and co
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From the Publisher

From the bestselling, National Book Award-nominated author of Genius and Chaos, a bracing new work about the accelerating pace of change in today''s world.

Most of us suffer some degree of "hurry sickness." a malady that has launched us into the "epoch of the nanosecond," a need-everything-yesterday sphere dominated by cell phones, computers, faxes, and remote controls. Yet for all the hours, minutes, and even seconds being saved, we''re still filling our days to the point that we have no time for such basic human activities as eating, sex, and relating to our families. Written with fresh insight and thorough research, Faster is a wise and witty look at a harried world not likely to slow down anytime soon.

From the Jacket

From the bestselling, National Book Award-nominated auhtor of Genius and Chaos, a bracing new work about the accelerating pace of change in today''s world.
Most of us suffer some degree of "hurry sickness." a malady that has launched us into the "epoch of the nanosecond," a need-everything-yesterday sphere dominated by cell phones, computers, faxes, and remote controls. Yet for all the hours, minutes, and even seconds being saved, we''re still filling our days to the point that we have no time for such basic human activities as eating, sex, and relating to our families. Written with fresh insight and thorough research, Faster is a wise and witty look at a harried world not likely to slow down anytime soon.

About the Author

James Gleick (www.around.com) was born in New York City in 1954. He worked for ten years as an editor and reporter for The New York Times, founded an early Internet portal, the Pipeline, and wrote three previous books: Chaos, Genius, and Faster. His latest book Isaac Newton is available from Pantheon. He lives in the Hudson Valley of New York with his wife.

From Our Editors

This observant treatise, by James Gleick is about how time seems to be speeding up into today’s world. Faster The Acceleration of Just About Everything analyzes what the author describes as “hurry sickness.” He points out the irony of how such alleged timesaving devices such as fax machines; computers, remote controls and computers have only served to shave more precious moments off our free time. Gleick is also the author of Genius and Chaos.

Editorial Reviews

"Fascinating and disturbing, amusing and informative, Faster is an eclectic stew combining history, academic research, and anecdotes drawn from the popular media." --The Boston Globe

"Well written and enjoyable. . . . A book that demands your attention." --The Christian Science Monitor

"Nimble, smart, often funny, and--best of all--fast." --The New York Times Book Review

Bookclub Guide

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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