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Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything Hardcover – August 17, 1999
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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 Dibbell
From Publishers Weekly
Technological advances in time measurement and time-saving devices have been fueled by the ever-quickening pace of our lives. Or is it the other way around? Gleick, twice nominated for the National Book Award (for Chaos: Making a New Science and Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman), offers a refreshingly contrarian view of the notion of time management and of the instantaneity ("instant coffee, instant intimacy, instant replay, and instant gratification") of everyday life. Many of us exhibit what doctors and sociologists call "hurry sickness"Aarriving, for example, at an airport gate at the last possible minuteAan obsession ironically matched by endless waits on expressways and runways. "Gridlocked and Tarmacked are metonyms of our era," writes Gleick, "...to be stuck in place, our fastest engines idling all around us, as time passes and blood pressures rise." This paradox, and the "simultaneous fragmentation and overloading of human attention" that results, he contends, can be traced to a wide variety of everyday conveniences: microwaves and automatic dishwashers, express mail, beeper medicine, television remote control, even speed-dialing telephones ("Investing a half-hour in learning to program them is like advancing a hundred dollars to buy a year's supply of light bulbs at a penny discount"). Funny and irreverent, Gleick pinpoints the dilemma underlying many of today's technological improvements: that time-saving now comes more from "the tautening net of efficiency" than from raw speed, meaning that any snag in the systemAwhether a disabled airliner or one or two drivers unaccountably hitting the brakeAcan spread delay and confusion throughout the network. Paradoxically, too, the increasing pace and efficiency of our lives leads not to leisure and relaxation but to increased boredom: "a backwash within another mental state, the one called mania." This is a book to be studied... slowly. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
Looking for reasons why the people around you seem so spacey and disconnected at times? Read this book...
Seeking an answer to the question "Why do I have less and less time every year, despite a proliferation of "time-saving" devices in my life?" Read this book....
Want to understand why there is so much angst and aggression on the highways, city sidewalks and aircraft cabins of the world? Read this book....
I'm not telling you Gleick is a master pyschologist, but I am telling you he has some very interesting observations to make - observations that should be summarized on the editorial page of every newspaper in America so they can be discussed at large. Some of the insights made may not be very popular with the jet-set, but the truth hurts sometimes.
This a good book when all is said and done. If you have the attention span of a chipmunk on No-Doze, you won't like it. Otherwise give it a shot....
very deliciously written, jumping from one point to another, sometime meaningless, sometime difficult to dicern, but often very shocking and MOST ENJOYABLE.
i jump page and just go with my mood, finish in a week (okay my english is -rather- limited!), and now seeking his other book, chaos maybe...
read this one! tanadi santoso, indonesia.
Faster is several hundred pages of complaints. He decries the speed of society on one page, and complains about how slow it is in others. He doesn't actually explain or educate like his other books. He just rants and whines, and expects the reader to enjoy it.
It isn't worth it. Treasure that book you loved, and skip this one you won't.