Speed is the reflection of modernity and modernisation. Speed is the reflection of work, efficiency, utility, productivity, and competition. Speed offers exhilaration as well as stress. Speed creates as well as closes the gaps. Speed rejuvenates as well as kills. Speed gives pleasure as well as pain. “Moore’s Law, according to which the speed of computer chips doubles every two years, now seems to apply to life itself”, writes Mark Taylor. Now in nanoseconds, we want to know what we want to know. The speed of virtual assets is more than the real assets. Are big data and high-speed computers serving the purpose for which they were created? Does speed increases or decreases efficiency? Does speed add or curtail time for leisure? Does speed liberate or enslave? Is speed bringing people closer or creating deep divisions? What will happen to ideas? Can’t imaginative ideas emerge in moment of idleness?
Speed results in exponential expansion of our endless desires. “On this finite earth, when limits are transgressed, the very networks that sustain life are threatened.” Speed is distance upon time. Speed can’t be measured in time terms alone as are values. Speed is relative as are distance and time. Because of speed, people have begun to regard many useful things as ‘impractical luxury’. They can’t see the beauty in slow moving butterflies or the colours it spreads. Does slower always means less happier? Slow speed is a nuisance, cognitively speaking, but that is what is also needed for our cognitive health.
Thanks to the technology, we should have more time for ourselves, but do we? Technology promises to match the speed of our thought, but can we? The life we are creating for ourselves, with the help of technology, is rushing towards ‘a quarter of a second’. The ‘now’ time (“the minimum amount of duration which we can distinctly feel”) seems to increase as one goes up the ladder of complexity, writes Tom Vanderbilt. According to estimates, as enumerated by Tom Vanderbilt, the speed of human movement from the pre-modern period to now has increased by a factor of 100, the speed of communication rose by a factor of 10 million, and data transmission has soared by a factor of 10 billion.
But there is a difference between barely registering an image and actually seeing a thing. Does not speed bring crisis of attention? Have we “lost our ability to endure the long shot, the slow dissolve, the sustained monologue?” Are we entering into the age of shock and suspense? It is said that we feel happier seeing the faster version of life, but the paradox is life has sped up but we have not. We have opted for speed, but we are not geared to handle it. We are forgetting the fact that “During the time your eye is in transition, vision is partially shut down.” We are forgetting that if time flies, it also shrinks. Greater the numbers of events we come across per unit time, lesser become the number of experiences. Photographs invoke our memories at our convenience. Photographs make some of our memories live. It is important to enliven the memories, but it is equally important to live the moments of togetherness. Amidst plenty, we should not miss subtlety.
Everything can’t be done quickly. Acceleration is not sustainable in all situations. We read more but reflect less. The weapon of writing has changed, but there are some who still love to write with their fountain pens, and some have still not thrown away their typewriters. We are writing more. Perhaps we are making lesser errors. Perhaps we are writing less thoughtfully.
(The writer is a biotechnologist and ED, Birla Institute of
Scientific Research, Jaipur)
Purnendu Ghosh