These days, successful endeavours seem to rise and fall by the power of speed by which they can manifest. At the grand old age of 33, it seems like only yesterday that I was browsing record stores on rainy weekends in Glasgow looking for the latest albums. Now, I can find and listen to my favourite music in an instant.
I remember life pre-Internet of Things where we had to actually read books in order to find information, and organise in advance meet-ups with friends. It was a tough life, but we learned a lot through our social interactions and we lived life free from the incessant beeps of smartphones and irresistible pull of social media updates.
Advances are all very well, but the speed with which life now turns can only serve to our collective detriment, right?
According to Robert Colvile in his indispensable latest offering The Great Acceleration, not so.
Delving into a wide-ranging pool of technological and social advances throughout the years, Colvile’s book argues that not only is acceleration a necessary force of nature, but that there are many benefits that come from such speedy progresses.
Looking at millennials, older generations are quick to air their concerns about the evils of the modern age while reminiscing about simpler times when children were more respectable towards their elders and shunned quick vices in favour of a strong work ethic.
In his book, Colvile tears down a number of these rose-tinted recollections. Children these days, “drink less, smoke less, have less sex, they knuckle down”. They are also using technology, “not to abuse each other, or escape their daily life, but to enrich it”. Today’s children are, writes Colvile, less materialistic than their parents, are more socially liberal, and are at complete ease with modernity.
Refreshingly, Colvile doesn’t seek to shine the light solely on the good of acceleration. Happily he explores valid counter-arguments that explain concerns held by those wary of modern advances.
In the battlefield of language, he acknowledges complaints that, in the faster world of the Internet, language is being “stripped of meaning and complexity”. But again, this is revealed as another misconception of the reality: writing style among Facebook and Twitter users is actually getting better rather than worse. Technology, Colvile advises, is like any other utility: it’s neither good nor bad in itself, but rather the outcome lies in how we adapt to and use the tools of this great acceleration.
The book provides a valuable education into the positive side of modern-day advances and how they benefit society as a whole. It also works as a self-help guide on some level, offering sound advice on how we can alleviate our premature panic and settle into the groove of the changes we come to encounter. Such progress leads us to greater prosperity and a higher quality of life, leaving the great acceleration as an ally to be embraced rather than an enemy to be feared.
The Great Acceleration: How The World Is Getting Faster, Faster
Author: Robert Colvile
Publisher: Bloomsbury, nonfiction