The unforeseen consequences of a fast-paced world | Kathryn Bouskill

The unforeseen consequences of a fast-paced world | Kathryn Bouskill


Do you ever wonder why we’re surrounded
with things that help us do everything faster and faster and faster? Communicate faster, but also work faster, bank faster, travel faster, find a date faster, cook faster, clean faster
and do all of it all at the same time? How do you feel about cramming
even more into every waking hour? Well, to my generation of Americans, speed feels like a birthright. Sometimes I think
our minimum speed is Mach 3. Anything less, and we fear
losing our competitive edge. But even my generation
is starting to question whether we’re the masters of speed or if speed is mastering us. I’m an anthropologist
at the Rand Corporation, and while many anthropologists
study ancient cultures, I focus on modern day cultures
and how we’re adapting to all of this change
happening in the world. Recently, I teamed up with an engineer,
Seifu Chonde, to study speed. We were interested both in how people
are adapting to this age of acceleration and its security and policy implications. What could our world look like in 25 years if the current pace of change
keeps accelerating? What would it mean for transportation, or learning, communication, manufacturing, weaponry or even natural selection? Will a faster future make us
more secure and productive? Or will it make us more vulnerable? In our research, people accepted
acceleration as inevitable, both the thrills and the lack of control. They fear that if they were to slow down, they might run the risk
of becoming obsolete. They say they’d rather
burn out than rust out. Yet at the same time, they worry that speed could
erode their cultural traditions and their sense of home. But even people who are winning
at the speed game admit to feeling a little uneasy. They see acceleration as widening
the gap between the haves, the jet-setters who are buzzing around, and the have-nots, who are left in the digital dust. Yes, we have good reason to forecast
that the future will be faster, but what I’ve come to realize is that speed is paradoxical, and like all good paradoxes, it teaches us about the human experience, as absurd and complex as it is. The first paradox is that we love speed, and we’re thrilled by its intensity. But our prehistoric brains
aren’t really built for it, so we invent roller coasters
and race cars and supersonic planes, but we get whiplash, carsick, jet-lagged. We didn’t evolve to multitask. Rather, we evolved to do one thing
with incredible focus, like hunt — not necessarily
with great speed but with endurance for great distance. But now there’s a widening gap
between our biology and our lifestyles, a mismatch between what our bodies are
built for and what we’re making them do. It’s a phenomenon my mentors have called
“Stone Agers in the fast lane.” (Laughter) A second paradox of speed is that
it can be measured objectively. Right? Miles per hour, gigabytes per second. But how speed feels, and whether we like it, is highly subjective. So we can document that the pace at which we are adopting
new technologies is increasing. For example, it took 85 years
from the introduction of the telephone to when the majority of Americans
had phones at home. In contrast, it only took 13 years
for most of us to have smartphones. And how people act and react to speed varies by culture and among
different people within the same culture. Interactions that could be seen
as pleasantly brisk and convenient in some cultures could be seen as horribly rude in others. I mean, you wouldn’t go asking
for a to-go cup at a Japanese tea ceremony so you could jet off
to your next tourist stop. Would you? A third paradox
is that speed begets speed. The faster I respond,
the more responses I get, the faster I have to respond again. Having more communication and information at our fingertips at any given moment was supposed to make decision-making
easier and more rational. But that doesn’t really
seem to be happening. Here’s just one more paradox: If all of these faster technologies
were supposed to free us from drudgery, why do we all feel so pressed for time? Why are we crashing our cars
in record numbers, because we think we have
to answer that text right away? Shouldn’t life in the fast lane
feel a little more fun and a little less anxious? German speakers even have a word for this: “Eilkrankheit.” In English, that’s “hurry sickness.” When we have to make fast decisions, autopilot brain kicks in, and we rely on our learned behaviors, our reflexes, our cognitive biases, to help us perceive and respond quickly. Sometimes that saves our lives, right? Fight or flight. But sometimes, it leads us astray
in the long run. Oftentimes, when our society
has major failures, they’re not technological failures. They’re failures that happen
when we made decisions too quickly on autopilot. We didn’t do the creative
or critical thinking required to connect the dots or weed out false information or make sense of complexity. That kind of thinking can’t be done fast. That’s slow thinking. Two psychologists,
Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, started pointing this out back in 1974, and we’re still struggling
to do something with their insights. All of modern history can be thought of as
one spurt of acceleration after another. It’s as if we think
if we just speed up enough, we can outrun our problems. But we never do. We know this in our own lives, and policymakers know it, too. So now we’re turning
to artificial intelligence to help us make faster
and smarter decisions to process this ever-expanding
universe of data. But machines crunching data
are no substitute for critical and sustained thinking by humans, whose Stone Age brains need a little time
to let their impulses subside, to slow the mind and let the thoughts flow. If you’re starting to think
that we should just hit the brakes, that won’t always be the right solution. We all know that a train that’s going
too fast around a bend can derail, but Seifu, the engineer, taught me that a train that’s going
too slowly around a bend can also derail. So managing this spurt of acceleration
starts with the understanding that we have more control over speed
than we think we do, individually and as a society. Sometimes, we’ll need to engineer
ourselves to go faster. We’ll want to solve gridlock, speed up disaster relief
for hurricane victims or use 3-D printing to produce
what we need on the spot, just when we need it. Sometimes, though, we’ll want
to make our surroundings feel slower to engineer the crash
out of the speedy experience. And it’s OK not to be
stimulated all the time. It’s good for adults and for kids. Maybe it’s boring,
but it gives us time to reflect. Slow time is not wasted time. And we need to reconsider
what it means to save time. Culture and rituals around the world
build in slowness, because slowness helps us reinforce
our shared values and connect. And connection is
a critical part of being human. We need to master speed, and that means thinking carefully about
the trade-offs of any given technology. Will it help you reclaim time that you
can use to express your humanity? Will it give you hurry sickness?
Will it give other people hurry sickness? If you’re lucky enough to decide the pace
that you want to travel through life, it’s a privilege. Use it. You might decide that you need
both to speed up and to create slow time: time to reflect, to percolate at your own pace; time to listen, to empathize, to rest your mind, to linger at the dinner table. So as we zoom into the future, let’s consider setting
the technologies of speed, the purpose of speed and our expectations of speed to a more human pace. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The unforeseen consequences of a fast-paced world | Kathryn Bouskill

  1. The subconscious is faster than anything you could imagine. Learning to merge your consciousness and sub-conciousness in creative ways can get around the speed of what you experience. @fitzroyjoshua for content on Instagram 😊🕉☯️⚛✌

  2. I have said this for years life isn't really becoming easier just more complicated more bureaucracy bullshit paperwork when we are all on our deathbeds are we really going to care about any of that.

  3. Yeah, hurry sickness… I call it capitalism. Decisions made to maximise profit not wellbeing, they would tell you anything to sell anything really.

  4. Does anyone remember a white male giving a talk on TED? Me neither, only see white women. Thought TED was all about diversity.

  5. Self-realization of our own human speed pace is amazing!! If set correctly it may actually create VERY effective treatment against anxiety and depression 👍👍

  6. Somebody get her a job as a voice actor in video games to play androids and AI computers. This ain't a speech; it's an audition.

  7. We definitely need (to be) these "slow thinkers" in controversial positions dealing with governance, our economy, and employee welfare decisions. These thinkers definitely excel in dealing with the grey areas in our lives so they MUST exist!

  8. In addition to this, we might consider choice a source of anxiety. Years and years ago buying a shirt might have meant cotton or wool, white or black, but nowadays, how many different types of cloth are there to choose from? How many different fittings? How many different colors and designs? A decision we could have made in moments, now can take days or weeks to make by the sheer volume of options. Does it really matter what your shirt looks like most of the time though? This to me seems to be the source of much of our anxiety.

  9. Anyone ever hear of a book called Future Shock by Alvin Toffle. Published the first time in the "70's.

    Anyone have any anxiety or panic attacks or know someone who has? Guess why . . .

  10. Why does every TED talk have to begin with the same canned "applause"….it's so fake, just skip it, or perhaps include the real applause.

  11. So basically, eliminate everyone who is a threat to me being able to relax and slow down? For science?

    That's a lot of lives taken, but if you say so…

  12. Interest? in saving time, to make precise decision's will impact how society functions, time is so valuable the laws of kinetic energy is a constant reminder that speed is why we all exist…

  13. Please thumbs up if you generally watch/listen to youtube at or around (>1.5) X2, for my own personal, and potentially significant, research.

  14. This talk reminds me of MoMo by Michael Ende and 451 Fahrenheit. The faster humans are, the more depressed we become.

  15. Y’all are crazy. Her voice is amazing. Excellent diction, warm speaking tones, and great enunciation. Like a female Derek Sivers. I could listen to her talk all day long. She should consider doing ASMR videos 😉

  16. There is a place for speed, but it is only one variable in life, and over valued. You can fly over any of creation's wonders quickly, but you'll never experience them this way. Relationships and everything else suffer when speed is priority one.

  17. It’s not speed in of itself the way I see it, it’s opting for the path of least resistance (yes, at times Competition is a means to Less Resistance) that is forming the illusion of ‘speedy’ life. It is the way things are, even the way Water traverses land. The speedy stressful lives you speak about are mostly an American big city thing. I am an American living in Europe and life on this side is vastly different. Not to say there are European locations which are immune to fast-pace. However, in my experience — having lived a little more than half my adult life in the States, there is a marked difference in the way Europeans handle this …situation. Competition is not the end-all be-all here (perhaps w exception to UK) and that goes further/deeper into explaining many other things.

  18. What Kathryn is saying is unbelievably important today. Into the new decade, I see a societal shift in which we begin to seriously regulate our use of technology, we don't want to abolish it: we want to co-exist with it. We miss out on so much when we view our lives as a competitive rat race fueled by pseudo realities like social media. I hope that this video goes viral, so fucking useful today!

  19. "Think carefully about the tradeoffs of any technology, will it allow you more time to express your humanity?" Beautiful saying

  20. Speed will kill humanity. A wise man said to me one day that death occurs faster as everything is getting faster.

  21. if she pretty hot, if she would only give me 60 seconds i could give her the world. but she'd want it in 30 and that's too fast for me LOL.. we seek speed because of the fear of death.. we want to cram all we can in our life because we are totally aware of our morality…oh and i did "fast forward" to see how this ends LOL

  22. Makes me glad to be a Baby Boomer. Wonder where I left my Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, and Peter, Paul and Mary albums? Another same old, same old. Come on TED and bring back speakers with genuine content. Be cool.

  23. That Ted is mazing. I want to watch more interesting Ted in 2020. The new year stand before ú, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be writer.

  24. May the New Year give you the courage to triumph over your vices and embrace the virtues. May the new year bring to you warmth of love, and a light to guide your path towards a positive destination.

  25. Your success and happiness lies in you. Réolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against dificulties.

  26. Today , Saturday, 11th, January, 2020. I watching this Ted and supposting and lovely Vietnam. Wish Vietnam always Peace and Happy.

  27. It's killing me. Literally. Every. Single. Day. And it didn't come about from a desire for greater convenience, but a push for greater efficiency and profit. You just grew up in a world that was already in the accelerator. Einstein could not have developed his Special Theory of Relativity in this world, Shakespeare could not have written…. well, anything. And the Mona Lisa? No way. Hollywood blockbusters take 3 years with teams of people working hard. But Hollywood isn't about to churn out anything approaching genuine like that. And I keep hearing young people talk about the ""new style" of fiction (one in which they laud underdeveloped characters and superficial stories as "good" and wordy, thought-provoking, deeply developed fiction as "old" and outdated, the ones that believe J.K. Rowling is a genius). Sad that they can't slow down enough to actually learn to appreciate great art.

  28. But, isn't RAND Corporation telling us technology is bad and we need to get away from it like Monsanto coming out against GMOs?

  29. Al-Isra’ : 11:

    وَيَدْعُ الإنْسَانُ بِالشَّرِّ دُعَاءَهُ بِالْخَيْرِ وَكَانَ الإنْسَانُ عَجُولا

    "And man supplicates for evil as he supplicates for good, and man is ever hasty."

  30. Good morning and welcome to the Black Mesa Transit System. This automated train is provided for the security and convenience of the Black Mesa Research Facility personnel. The time is 08:47 AM. Current topside temperature is 93 degrees, with an estimated high of one hundred and five. The Black Mesa compound is maintained at a pleasant 68 degrees at all times. This train is inbound from Level 3 Dormitories to Sector C Test Labs and Control Facilities. If your intended destination is a high-security area beyond Sector C, you will need to return to the Central Transit Hub in Area 9 and board a high security train. If you have not yet submitted your identity to the retinal clearance system, you must report to Black Mesa Personnel for processing before you will be permitted into the high security branch of the transit system. Due to the high toxicity of material routinely handled in the Black Mesa compound, no smoking, eating, or drinking are permitted within the Black Mesa Transit System. Please keep your limbs inside the train at all times. Do not attempt to open the doors until the train has come to a complete halt at the station platform. In the event of an emergency, passengers are to remain seated and await further instruction. If it is necessary to exit the train, disabled personnel should be evacuated first. Please stay away from electrified rails, and proceed to an emergency station until assistance arrives. A reminder that the Black Mesa Hazard Course decathlon will commence this evening at nineteen hundred hours in the Level 3 Facility. The semifinals for high-security personnel will be announced in a separate Secure Access transmission. Remember, more lives than your own may depend on your fitness. Do you have a friend or relative who would make a valuable addition to the Black Mesa team? Immediate openings are available in the areas of Materials Handling and Low-Clearance Security. Please contact Black Mesa Personnel for further information. If you have an associate with a background in the areas of theoretical physics, biotechnology or other high tech disciplines, please contact our Civilian Recruitment Division. The Black Mesa Research Facility is an equal opportunity employer. A reminder to all Black Mesa Personnel: Regular radiation and biohazard screenings are a requirement of continued employment in the Black Mesa Research Facility. Missing a scheduled urinalysis or radiation check-up is grounds for immediate termination. If you feel you have been exposed to radioactive or other hazardous materials in the course of your duties, contact your Radiation Safety Officer immediately. Work safe, work smart. Your future depends on it. Now arriving at Sector C Test Labs and Control Facilities. Please stand back from the automated door and wait for the security officer to verify your identity. Before exiting the train, be sure to check your area for personal belongings. Thank you and have a very safe and productive day.

  31. 5:12 Eilkrankheit… That's not really a German word…. It's a mash (which is okay to do in German) between "eilen" (to hurry) and "Krankheit" (Illness)… But it's not a real German Word…

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