Monday, October 20, 2014

Speed Kills

Fascinating article by Mark Taylor, chair of the department of religion at Columbia, in the Chronicle today.  It's titled "Speed Kills".  It takes a metaphorical cue from two-year-old op-ed in teh New York Times by Jared Bernstein, former chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.  The op-ed, entitled "Raise the Economy's Speed Limit", makes an analogy between the rate of GDP growth and the "speed limit" for the economy.  In other words, it confuses velocity with acceleration.

Taylor takes issue with the resultant vision of endlessly accelerating churn and what it does to human community.   Here are a couple of quotes:

In the past 50 years, two economies that operate at two different speeds have emerged. In one, wealth is created by selling labor or stuff; in the other, by trading signs that are signs of other signs. The virtual assets scale at a speed much greater than the real assets. A worker can produce only so many motorcycles, a teacher can teach only so many students, and a doctor can see only so many patients a day. In high-speed markets, by contrast, billions of dollars are won or lost in billionths of a second. In this new world, wealth begets wealth at an unprecedented rate. No matter how many new jobs are created in the real economy, the wealth gap created by the speed gap will never be closed. It will continue to widen at an ever-faster rate until there is a fundamental change in values.
and the final paragraph

Within the long arc of history, it becomes clear that the obsession with speed is a recent development that reflects values that have become destructive. Not all reality is virtual, and the quick might not inherit the earth. Complex systems are not infinitely adaptive, and when they collapse, it happens suddenly and usually unexpectedly. Time is quickly running out.

Read the whole thing here.

Photo by Kevin Kasper.  Public  Domain/Creative Commons License

No comments: