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Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything

Hal Harris's picture
Fri, 10/01/1999 - 01:00 -- Hal Harris

I bought "Faster" because of talent the author had shown for rendering extremely complicated science for the interested layperson. "Chaos", published in 1987 was a wonderful book, and Gleick's next one, "Genius: The Life and Times of Richard Feynman", also won a National Book Award. (I haven't read that one, however.) "Faster" is a good book, but was nevertheless something of a disappointment. It consists of more than thirty (unnumbered) chapters that can be read in any order, since there is little connection between them. Each deals with a separate aspect of the quest for speed in our lives, from television programming that has eliminated virtually all pauses, to cellular telephones, to instant "meals". In each case, Gleick comments on how the human desire for fast communication, instantaneous gratification and intolerance for "wasted" time, combined with electronic devices that can provide what we demand has led to the acceleration of "just about everything". The perspective is more often that of a sociologist than that of a physical scientist. One of the chapters most interesting to me was about tall buildings. Did you know that the limit to the height of modern buildings is no longer structural, but is the elevator system required to service the upper floors?

Pick Attribution: 

James Gleick

Publication Date: 
Friday, January 1, 1999