Anyone who has done any hunting or fishing knows that unless you are being chased by a bear, speed is not a great asset. Hunters rely on a deep knowledge of their game and their territory. You pick a place to wait for deer because you have determined that deer walk through that area. Fishermen get good at reading the river so they can find the spots with fish. Like the hunter, the skilled angler has taken the time to learn about his quarry and its habitat. This takes patience and focus.
Given the history of man, it is safe to assume that nature has rewarded those who gain a deep knowledge of their environment. That means nature has rewarded the skill needed to gain that deep knowledge. Of course, in an environment with lots of game and lots of predators, humans were probably rewarded for their speed and reflexes, both of which are needed to avoid being eaten. When food is plentiful, it is simply a matter of catching it when you see it.
Some humans are better equipped for obtaining a deep understanding of the environment and others are best as operating with just a cursory knowledge of the world around them. This aligns pretty well with the old r/K selection theory developed back in the 1960’s. Slow organisms will have a higher investment in fewer offspring and fast organisms will have a lower investment in a greater number of offspring. This also matches pretty well with fertility in humans.
There has been a lot of analysis about what happens to humans made to live quickly in a fast environment. The human biodiversity subculture has produced libraries full of observations and theories on this. The police blotter in a typical American city offers plenty of insight into how this works. People with low impulse control and a high time preference tend to show up in the arrest records, while people built to play the long game of life tend to avoid breaking the law or being victims.
The modern age may be presenting a study of the opposite case. The explosion of technology and media turned up the speed on daily life. Half a century ago the people of Europe would get some news from America a week after it happened. It took that long for the story to get into the American newspapers and then it took a few days to get to the newsrooms of Europe. Obviously, a major event would move along the wires faster, but most newsworthy items took a week or so.
Today, a man living in Yorkshire England can keep up with what is happening in York Pennsylvania at close to the same pace as the man in York PA. One of the odd things about this age is that the British tabloids do a better job covering local news in America than the American media. It is not unusual to find out about a local event from the Guardian UK or the Telegraph. We live in an age in which news travels so quickly that it is impossible to measure. Information is real-time.
One result of this is that the people built for low time preference and focused action are in a world that rewards high time preference and poor impulse control. Look at the billionaire class and many of them got rich from things that no longer exist. Mark Cuban, who is not Cuban, got rich selling his company to Yahoo. The company and the technology it created no longer exist. He is a super-rich man who will leave no footprints behind when his time is done.
Another result is that people no longer feel like they have any control over their lives, because they are being swept along by events. Mark Twain famously said that a lie is halfway around the world before the truth gets out of bed. Today, everything, truth, and falsehood, is halfway around the world by the time anyone knows it exists. Modern man is now being swept along in a current of information that seems to be accelerating so that all he can do is keep his head above the water line.
For people built to live slow, living fast is as alien as it is for the people made to live fast being thrust into a slow world. Part of the growing agitation that is a feature of the current moment may simply be the inability for anyone to keep pace with the deluge of information that comes at them every day. It is not just politics. The workplace has become a land of reaction as well. The cubicle farms are something like a hamster wheel now, but you never get a break.
Fighting Mother Nature is always a losing game. This is the lesson of communism in the 20th century. They simply could not kill enough people to cause Mother Nature to yield to the theory. The technological age may be experiencing the same thing, with a lower body count. Instead, people are slowly beginning to adapt to the reality of their environment by reorganizing it. Cord-cutting is a way to slow down your environment, thus making it more habitable.
Social media seems to be suffering a similar trend. They lie about their membership and activity, but it is pretty clear that we are past the peak of these big platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The former is the domain of old people keeping touch with friends and family, while the latter is a holding pen for the mentally ill. A devolution to smaller, more focused on-line communities is under way. People are unplugging from the system to slow down their life.
There is also a trend where people are moving from the big sprawling suburbs to smaller more rural communities. Some of this was triggered by the Covid panic, where people found themselves at home all day. If you work at home, then your home does not need to be near the big company campus in the big sprawling suburb. Another part is people simply opting out of the fast-paced jungle to something for which they are better adapted and where they can be around similar humans.
Even so, most people remain trapped in a world that is operating at a speed that most people find hostile. At the same time the system needs those people to make it operate as the fast living people lack the other skills to operate it. This conflict in the current age may be why it feels like the system is about to shake itself to pieces. Modernity has become a doomsday device. It is killing the population that created it, but it cannot carry on without the people who created it.
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