Updated: Nov 24, 2019
We live in a world of scarce understanding and abundant information. We complain that we never have any free time yet we seek distraction. If work can’t distract us, we distract ourselves. We crave perpetual stimulation and motion. We’re so busy that our free time comes in 20 second bursts, just long enough for us to read the gist and assume we understand.
With a glut of digital channels and devices there is research out which highlights we have shorter attention spans and worse memories. While digitisation has given us convenience it has taken away our ability to enjoy the here and now as we constantly planning ahead, distracted in our thoughts. Carl Honore in his book In Praise of slowness : challenging the cult of speed explores this constant need for rush.
We have forgotten how to look forward to things, and how to enjoy the moment when they arrive. Restaurants report that hurried diners increasingly pay the bill and order a taxi while eating dessert. Many fans leave sporting events early, no matter how close the score is, simply to steal a march on the traffic. Then there is the curse of multi-tasking. Doing two things at once seems so clever, so efficient, so modern. And yet what it often means is doing two things not very well. Like many people, I read the paper while watching TV and find that I get less out of both.
In a way, we are all fast thinkers now. Our impatience is so implacable that, as actress-author Carrie Fisher quipped, even “instant gratification takes too long.” This partly explains the chronic frustration that bubbles just below the surface of modern life.
I don't think it is all doom and gloom and that we have lost control to all these apps and channel vying for our attention. It is the art of conscious think , being aware that whilst all these inputs can hit our senses we consciously decide and think what is relevant now and what can be discarded or blocked. It is not simply a matter of being able to turn notifications off or put the phone face down as that is not solving but banking up that information.It simply defers the decision to a future time where you would have to arbitrate between consumption of that digital payload versus another moment of being present.
The conscious part of that journey starts with realisation - realisation of value , realisation of what matters, realisation of what is finite and temporary and the moments that might never come back. It is being able to enjoy what is real. Carl Honore succinctly describes Slow as a philosophy of life.
Slow does not always mean slow.
Fast and Slow do more than just describe a rate of change. They are shorthand for ways of being, or philosophies of life. Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity. It is about making real and meaningful connections— with people, culture, work, food, everything. The paradox is that Slow does not always mean slow.
Fast eats time.
One consequence of fast is that we make poor decision after poor decision. Those decisions don’t go away never to be seen again. It’s not like we make a bad decision and we’re done with it. No, the consequences are much worse. Poor decisions eat time. They come back to haunt you. They create issue after issue. They feed into the perpetual motion machine of busyness. And in a culture where people wear busyness as a badge of honor bad decisions actually lead us to think that we’re doing more.
Thoughtful and considered over shallow and fast is easier said than done particularly when you are constantly being bombarded with information in this omni-present omni-channel digital world. Technology is not to be blamed here, it has been a big enabler and provided us means to connect to anyone in the world, access information at the click of a button, with common interest , enterprise and research being able to connect from opposite ends of the world, the list goes on. It is not technology but how we use it, or rather how we are being coaxed to use it by preying on our behavioural biases by constantly nudging to log back in. We need technology to help combat technology applications that has taken away our agency. At Human-e we are building such solutions with a hope that rather than take away more time from you , we give you back that time to spend on what is more meaningful.