August 17, 1999
If one quality defines our modern, technocratic age, it is acceleration. We are making haste. Our computers, our movies, our sex lives, our prayers – they all run faster now than ever before. And the more we fill our lives with time-saving devices and time-saving strategies, the more rushed we feel.
In Faster, James Gleick explores nothing less than the human condition at the turn of the millennium. He shines a light of enterprising and analytical reporting – as well as sly wit – on the newest paradoxes of time. His journey takes us through the bunkers and trenches of a war we barely knew we were fighting: to the atomic clocks of the Directorate of Time, to the waiting rooms that focus our impatience, to the film production studios that test the high-speed limits of our perception, to the air-traffic command centers that give time pressure new meaning.
We have become a quick-reflex, multi-tasking, channel-flipping, fast-forwarding species. We don’t completely understand it, and we’re not altogether happy about it. Faster is a mirror held up to our times – and a mordant reminder of why some things take time.
James Gleick is the author of Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman (available from Vintage Books) and Chaos: Making a New Science, both of which were National Book Award nominees. He lives in New York.