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The Rate of Change


There have been many discussions and grumblings in the Western world about the ever increasing pace of change and the ability of the brain to accept it. The Internet (something uninteresting that the American Military was developing) suddenly became a required household feature. Digital Mobile Phones suddenly give new meaning to taking photographs and all those gimmicks from James Bond Movies have long since been incorporated, accepted and forgotten about in daily life.

When in 10 A.D., Roman Engineer Julius Sextus Frontinus said, "Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further developments" he never knew that his words would be repeated. Mr Charles Duell, The Commissioner of the United States Patent Office said nearly the same thing in 1899: He said:

"Everything that can be invented - has already been invented".

The rate of change is moving upwards at an ever increasing pace. We no sooner buy a computer than it becomes obsolete with outdated programs, chips and hardware installed. We no sooner buy a mobile phone than a newer and better looking one becomes the latest in fashion. There is no appreciation of electrical goods; there is instead a rapidly reducing value on any item purchased as to make it worth almost nothing from the moment that it is bought.

The Human Nature

It is in our nature to keep up with life, to be on top and to be one step ahead of our peers, neighbors and friends. It is natural to want to be at the leading edge of the game, to know and to understand what another is talking about, to have the answers available and ready and on the tip of the tongue. The average worker does not want to be seen as slacking or lacking in knowledge and the fashion conscious do not want to be caught wearing "old hat" clothes. The Bankers and Insurance agents do not want to be caught unaware and the salesmen need the latest in shock patter.

To read magazines and news reports, press-releases and advertisements in a vain attempt to keep up with latest trends, ideas and on-the-market availability is time consuming and exhausting. To have endless newspapers delivered to the door, to have magazines pouring in at the office and to always talk about the 'latest' in an effort to not be caught out is damaging to family, friends and health. This though is what current society makes us do: to push out and reduce contact with social friends, to work overtime in an attempt to be on top and to read product magazines whilst the squash court remains neglected. Life, relaxation, enjoyment, socializing and hobbies become secondary to a constant search for updated knowledge.

The issuance of News has become one of the worst culprits in throwing information at the brain. And in such a way that the brain feels that it needs a constant update of this news even if it has just been heard. Breakfast starts with CNN blasting out over the cornflakes and the children become relegated to enforced silence incase an important news item is missed. This carries on throughout the day with endless repetitions of the same news being blasted out in a different way - through meetings, lunch in the canteen, in the office and dinner in the evening. Watched by thousands of goggled eyed desperados desperately looking for a nugget or change - so that they may not be caught unawares.

Through this requirement to be up-to-date children are ignored, conversations are minimal and relaxation and enjoyment are relegated to a harried five-minute episode before bed.

The Staggered Approach

For a human to cope with such change and newness it is necessary to cope in stages. To take onboard change and newness in a staggered manner and to only accept change when it is either required or wanted. To buy a personal computer at great expense only to find that within six-months new software is now available, that surpasses the configuration or ability of the machine, is heart breaking. To find out a mate has bought a better machine than you is soul-rendering. How much can a human take?

When the clippers docked in Liverpool after a lengthy two-month voyage from the Far East they brought tea and the latest in fashionable goods for the high society in Britain. They also brought news of people, events and happenings in far flung places. This news may have been four months old (if not more) before it reached the ears of a 'not very interested' cobbler plying his trade on the high street. He might not get around to mentioning it to his wife for another three weeks or so and she may or may not mention it to the neighbors - all depending on the state of her bunions at the time.

The next update that the cobbler might or might not hear about might be when the next clipper arrives in town a month later. Hopefully from the same port in the Far East and assuming that those onboard were sober enough to have taken note of life around them. It is quite safe to say that events before the turn of the nineteenth century existed for most in a staggered manner. Declarations of war were made, armies sent, battles fought, surrenders made and hands shaken before news of anything untoward arrived back home.

Yet today this summarizing of world events does not exist. The ability to know everything within five-minutes of it having occurred is readily available to everybody. An ongoing and smooth road takes society from the beginning to the end without hiccup or falter and as it unfolds.

All this though is so unnecessary and the time spent listening, reading and catching up with trends, fashion, news, etc could be better spent. This is where the staggered approach has to be enforced and by self-policing can become a part of a good and enjoyable life.

For Example: To go out and buy the latest in modern technology requires the buyer to be at the top of current events and trends. This requires allot of reading and conversations with the experts. The machine is then bought and it is at this point that further research, talk and listening can be dispensed with. At the point of payment, the need for the latest information on technology and software becomes superfluous and attention can now be turned to something more worthwhile.

At the point of payment it is very important that the mind can now accept that from this moment forth it will always fall behind with regard to future innovations and changes. It is necessary that the buyer can accept that the recent purchase will slowly become obsolete and that his own knowledge will decrease during the time that he has that machine.

The buyer has in effect put is first foot up the staircase. He has researched, become knowledgeable and wise on the subject and made his purchase. There is now a waiting stage, a time lapse where the quest for knowledge becomes pointless. For the next few years or so the buyer can seriously enjoy using his machine for the value and output that it can give. It will only be necessary to place another foot on another stair when the machine fails: when it is blatantly obvious that it cannot keep up with modern trends or when someone points out that it is from Noah's Ark. At this point and after three or so years of abstinence the magazines can be bought, the talks restarted and the quest for information can be instigated and again up to the point when the next machine is bought.

This approach to keeping up with trends can easily be applied to the receipt of news. Instead of watching the news on television, all day and everyday a half hour summary would do either in the morning or evening. The need to have newspapers delivered every morning to be faithfully read before work can be replaced by the Sunday edition which suitably summarizes a week's events. Magazines like the Times, or Newsweek become priceless in their ability to subjectively give important news over a month period, without all the clutter, useless and unfounded opinions and errors that work through in daily news.

This staggered approach will save money on newspapers, magazines, clothes, and telephone bills. It will give that much needed time for a conversation with the wife, a play with the children or a beer whilst watching the sun go down.

To tackle life like a set of stairs rather than a steep path is the only way to accept the rate-of-change that exists around us and it would make for a far calmer and more rational human than the one that never has the time.

About The Author

Author and Webmaster of Seamania. As a Chief Engineer in the Merchant Navy Ieuan Dolby has sailed the world for fifteen years. Now living in Taiwan he writes about cultures across the globe and life as he sees it.


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