I recently upgraded my computer. The new hard drive resides in a box the size of a deck of playing cards. When my installer finished his work, he stood back, with his arms folded. “You’re going to love this,” he assured me. “It’s so much faster.”
Sadly, “faster” isn’t what I want. If I had my druthers, the world would slow down. With this new computer system, if I so much as hover over my keyboard, the screen blinks with anticipation. I’ve always found meeting expectations stressful. Why do we humans prize speed, anyway? It didn’t work in the race between the rabbit and the tortoise. Does no one read Aesop anymore?
What’s more, I don’t need a book I’ve ordered within 24 hours, or my next bottle of Ketchup, either. I’m adapted to the real world, not the virtual one. Try seeing a dentist within 24 hours if you have a toothache. Or reaching a human on the phone at Social Security. Or buying a book of stamps from the post office. In the last case, bring a cot.
Dot.com retailers love speed, I suppose. Speed is the handmaiden of instant gratification. A recent survey reveals, “88 percent of Americans admitted to spontaneous impulse buying on-line, blowing an average of $81.75 each time.” (“Slow Software,” by Clive Thompson, Wired, September 2018, pg. 38.)
One enterprising computer engineer has tried to discourage our speed addiction. He’s created an ap called Icebox. When you hit a buy button, the order isn’t filed for a week and not before a pop-up message appears on your screen. “Do you still want to buy that item?”
Three cheers for deliberation, for time set aside to stop and stare. But if one imagines the Icebox entrepreneur will become as rich as Bill Gates, think again. People aren’t flocking to his site. Buying seems to be more fun than deliberation.