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Time Compression: The Acceleration of Life

May 1, 2021 | Ubertrends

Everything is going faster these days. Life has become a blur, a trend magnified by an influx of technology that helps people do things more quickly. The world now moves at internet speed due to arcane compression technologies called codecs. In the eye of the storm lie even faster algorithms that will further accelerate life.

Here is mounting evidence of our growing addiction to realtime instant gratification:

  • Speed – Society has shown a heightened interest for doing everything faster. First came fast food, with McDonald’s leading the charge and the jet age. The 1960s brought the fax. The 1970s, FedEx. The 1980s, the internet, and the 2000s, the smartphone. All helped materially accelerate the speed of information. Today, it’s all about the world’s fastest aircraft, car, motorcycle, speedboat; you name it.
  • Multitasking – To save time, a growing number of people now do two things at once. One manifestation is hybrid travel, the practice of combining a business trip with a vacation. Another is DWT, Driving While Texting, which a 2015 Distracted Driving Survey found nearly 60% of respondents reported doing within the past 30 days, with texting (48%) and viewing maps (43%) most frequently mentioned. The word multitasking first appeared in a computer magazine, Datamation, in 1966, according to the Oxford English Dictionary: “Multi-tasking is defined as the use of a single CPU for the simultaneous processing of two or more jobs.”
  • Consumer patience – A 2012 Edison Research study reported that after complaining on social media, 67% of social media users wanted a response the same day, and four out of 10 wanted to hear from you in less than an hour. A Q2 2018 Hubspot study found that for 59% of consumers, patience wears out at 30 minutes. Both studies point to a measurable decline in consumer patience. Multitasking and a lack of patience has led to a decline in attention span.
  • Instant gratification – The 1946 invention of the microwave oven and the Polaroid camera launched a long line of products and services that exposed consumers to the seductive qualities of immediate gratification. The latest manifestation surfaced in a Google study, which found that searches between 2015 and 2017 for “open now” had tripled, while searches for “store hours” dropped. During the same period, mobile searches related to “same-day shipping” grew more than 120%.
  • Vocabulary – The “attention economy,” “blursday,” “over any minute now,” and “I want it yesterday” are common expressions of Time Compression.
  • Eye of the storm – An arcane technology, the codec, lies in the eye of the Time Compression storm. By squeezing ever more data through narrow pipes, codecs have enabled faster data transmission speeds, which, in turn, are accelerating the human experience.
  • Derivative trends – To boost their energy or help manage stress, people consume large amounts of coffee, energy drinks, and Xanax. The global coffee market has doubled in the past two decades, as has the energy drinks market.

Around the beginning of the 1980s, most people would answer “good” or “fine” when asked, “how are you?” Then the marketing department woke up in all of us, and the popular hyperbole “great” caught on. Sometime during the 1980s, a new response emerged, “busy,” which helped spawn TBD — “too busy disorder.” The state of mind had become a state of time.

“Time Compression” was originally identified by author Michael Tchong. To learn more about this Ubertrend, read “Ubertrends — How Trends And Innovation Are Transforming Our Future.”

Michael Tchong’s Ubertrends book
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