Remember the days when connecting to the internet sounded like a fax machine was giving birth to a smaller and even more obnoxious fax machine? Good times. Not to mention, the telephone line was also hijacked while you were online searching for that dancing baby gif on Ebaum’s World.
The pace of life is increasing exponentially. We have become addicted to instant results and instant gratification. Even a lag of a few seconds can bring about computer rage in some people.
We mostly take for granted how fast and convenient everything has become. The gradual technological conditioning that is happening, is teaching us to want everything NOW, and preferably yesterday. Is patience eroding to the point where it will become just another relic of our psyche?
Join us in this Extra Value special, as we examine the topic of speed in technology, and how ridiculously fast everything has become.
The speed of technology impacts the bottom line of businesses and shapes our minds to adjust to newer and newer standards. Perception of time is relative to our expectation. Let’s say you install some software and it steadily rises at 1% per second, but then as it hits the 70% park, it stalls, and the rate drops to 1% per 1.2 seconds. While it’s still fast, relative to the expectation that was built at that initial pace, it will suddenly seem excruciatingly slow.
In 1997 I was mesmerized when I saw that 25kb/s download speed, and today if my download speed drops below 8mb/s, I start to wonder if something is up with my connection speed. I am already building that angry script in my head on how to chastise my ISP for a lousy service.
Our base programming is to enjoy instant gratification, since every time our expectations are met our brain rewards us with a dose of dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter.
There is the Marshmallow Experiment conducted at Stanford University, the go-to place for experiments that messes with our minds (such as the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment). In the experiment, kids were given the choice between having 1 marshmallow right away or wait for 15 minutes for two marshmallows. About 70% preferred the instant reward. Now that test was done in the 60’s when technology wasn’t all that instant, and kids were not glued to their little dopamine dispensers in the form of Candy Crush type mobile games. It’s very reasonable to assume, that if the test was repeated today in a western country, the 70% would seem like a fairy tale. A kid born into the age of smartphones, will already have their mind programmed to expect instant results in most cases.
We don’t even have to travel to the 60’s to see a difference in expectations. Consider for example the curious case of Phil Evergreen.
An Unexpected Technical Difficulty
It was 2004 and Phil was updating his MySpace page when a sudden temporal shift in the space-time continuum occurred. As he blinked and reopened his eyes, his reality condensed into a single dot stranded amidst a white endless space. Time didn’t pass as there was no time in this space, only the dot. He blinked again as eternity shifted by. The dot burst open into a fractal space his mind couldn’t comprehend, as reality started to reform in his mind.
When he opened his eyes again, he was in a different room. A voice not his own was speaking in his mind:
“Dear sir, we are running some tests in the system” the voice said “Unfortunately we have experienced a technical error and you were displaced and moved across time to a different year. Currently there is no way to bring people back, only forward. We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope you have a pleasant stay in 2019.”
“Wha…” Said Phil, as a strange rectangle device manifested in his palm, pixel by pixel.
“Here is the latest flagship smartphone, as you can’t live without one in this period of humanity” The voice said. “You can contact tech support, by mediating on your mountain of choice, until you reach perfect stillness and a sense of oneness with the universe. Also, you can’t desire reaching tech support. Desire to reach tech support will result in failure.”
Great, Phil thought, Well at least, it’s only been like 15 years. How different can it possibly be? Even my friends are not that old yet.
He decided to take a walk. It was strange seeing everyone buried with their faces deep into the glowing rectangle, like the one he had received. Where were all the cool Nokia phones? How was he supposed to play Snake?
Might as well give it a try, he thought. Adapting to the intuitive touch screen UI of his smartphone was almost instant. The little device started reprogramming Phil’s mind immediately. There was still light outside when he first tapped on his screen. Yet somehow after tapping and swiping away it was already evening. How strange.
He tracked down his best friend and discovered he had been declared missing 15 years ago. Time didn’t wait for him and the world had continued to spin.
After catching up on his personal affairs, Phil learned that the standard of mail delivery was now 1-day by Amazon. He also learned he would no longer have to be stranded for 15 minutes, waiting for a cab to arrive, because an Uber can get to his exact location on demand within minutes.
“Guess my girlfriend moved on” Phil said “Hope you still got OkCupid.”
“OkCupid?” His friend chuckled “Here, check this one out. It’s called Tinder. You also got Grinder in case time travel shifted your preferences” he winked and continued “You should probably also set up a Facebook profile.”
“Facebook? You mean that silly Harvard website?” He couldn’t understand. “You know I was a real music lover. I can’t wait to hear the new tunes of 2019.”
After listening to mumble rap for one hour, he started to feel depressed. He had been used to the complex and profound lyrics of the Wu-Tang Clan, so he decided to give other genres a try.
You see, Phil used to download albums for hours at a time to get his favorite music. Not click a whole album on Spotify and just play the whole thing on the spot. He also had to wait anxiously an entire week for the next episode of Lost, instead of binging an entire season on Netflix over the weekend.
Phil still had a lot to learn, but he would catch up fast enough. In a world where children use social networks, everything was designed to get you hooked as fast and easily as possible.
One week later Phil started to become irritated, because the smartphone the inter-dimensional entities gave him, was lagging with certain apps by a few seconds (he was also suspecting they were stealing his user data across the 4th dimension and selling it to some squid-like creature). He upgraded to the latest Samsung Galaxy, and complained that he got it a day later than what Amazon had promised.
All it took was just one week to change Phil’s concept of tech speed and alter his baseline patience.
The Race to Zero-Latency
Reducing latency in tech, is one of the big concerns when developing a service or website, and the patience of the average internet user is notoriously short.
Amazon found that as little as 100ms of latency cost them 1% in sales. That was 10 years ago. They haven’t released any new figures since, but it’s very plausible that this figure has changed quite a bit since.
A more recent study by Akamai, found that a 100-millisecond delay in website load time, can hurt conversion rates by 7%, and a two-second delay in web page load time increases bounce rates by 103%.
Trading firms race to reach as close to zero-latency as technologically possible, as mere milliseconds of latency in stock trading can cost firms billions of dollars.
Google has won the search engine war not just by providing more accurate search results, but by being considerably faster than their opposition.
One of the major marketing emphasis of internet browsers is how fast they can be. Chrome and Firefox have been mostly battling to show who is the fastest to their users.
Everyone is focused on making their service not just the best, but also the fastest. As SEO experts you know that first hand, since a webpage loading speed has a huge impact on SEO and marketing potential. 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. Why would your target audience wait if there is a competitor website a few clicks away that will deliver faster results?
We live in interesting times. Sets of behaviors that have been shaped for thousands of years, are now being replaced, repurposed, or hijacked by technology.
There is absolutely no historic precedent to determine if this change is positive or not. Or if patience as we traditionally perceive it, is even needed in a world dominated by convenience and readily available resources.
The consensus among social scholars and psychologists is to frown upon this ever faster world. Much of the Millennials’ misery and lack of motivation is rooted in this clash between expectations, cultivated by instant technology and the “slow” pace of reality outside technology.
For example, meaningful things like finishing a degree, getting promoted or building your brand will not happen overnight. As a result traditional progress just seems unreasonably slow compared to just about every other aspect of modern life.
Maybe having patience in the face of our hyper fast society is a healthier mindset. But the reality is, this wave isn’t about to stop (unless some kind of cataclysm takes place). Human evolution has a life of its own, and it’s leading us somewhere very fast.
How much faster will this whole thing get? What will the world look like when everything happens immediately, within nanoseconds?
The answer is in our follow-up article on the matter in 2025, when we all get data streamed directly into our minds via Elon Musk’s Neuralink. So be sure you are subscribed to our blog and stay tuned!
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The Epilogue of Phil’s Story
If you are wondering how Phil is doing. He’s doing just fine. His new smartphone was busting with Tinder notifications, and Phil became a viral sensation with his time travel story. Back in his time period, he had to write books and be on radio talk shows to get the ball rolling. But today all it took was a single YouTube video that was shared like wildfire across Reddit.