Reflections on The Pace of Modern Life (XKCD)

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June 21, 2013 by michaelchanrubio


“The Pace of Modern Life”

‘Unfortunately, the notion of marriage which prevails … at the present time … regards the institution as simply a convenient arrangement or formal contract … This disregard of the sanctity of marriage and contempt for its restrictions is one of the most alarming tendencies of the present age.’ –John Harvey Kellogg, Ladies’ guide in health and disease (1883)

Every generation complains about change. Whether it’s simply nostalgia for an idealized past or just selection bias when it comes to musical tastes, there’s always some whining by adults about some difference they see in the present.

Recently I viewed Zack Snyder’s The Man of Steel and absolutely loved it, despite having grown up with Richard Donner’s Superman films through the 1980’s. Even without reading reviews I looked upon the reactions of my contemporaries (posted on Facebook) and I see the familiar discontent about the new and the pining for the old.

XKCD’s comic brought this subject sharply to mind, and while its specific topic is the pace of life, so much of it is about work in particular. I never really experienced the leisurely workdays as I’ve seen them on television series such as Mad Men, where the associates and senior officers spend the day drinking on the job.

But I want to, and I think it’s nigh impossible today when the organization needs to be competitive. There’s just so much work that there’s either really no time to be contemplatively or creatively idle, or one cannot afford to be seen as such because everyone else needs to be busy and productive (under the assumption that there is indeed a lot of vital work).

When the machines take over and if for some reason there are still compelling cases for us humans to be employed, how will we spend our days? Can we be trusted and responsible stewards of machine operations that need not keep busy, and yet are integral?

If this fantasy comes true, then we can go full retro and experience the slow and leisurely pace of life as the earliest quotes in the XKCD comic seem to pine for.


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