[Paleopsych] BBC: Time to switch off and slow down
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Tue Jul 19 01:17:21 UTC 2005
Time to switch off and slow down
Published: 2005/07/14 10:44:27 GMT
By Kevin Anderson
BBC News website
At a hi-tech conference bristling with bloggers constantly checking
messages on Blackberries, smartphones, laptops and handheld computers,
it is odd to hear a speaker suggest an e-mail free day.
But journalist Carl Honoré told attendees of the TED conference in
Oxford they should unplug and slow down in a world that was stuck in
And for a wired world accustomed to having nearly unlimited
information and the boundless choices of online shopping, it seems
almost heretical to suggest that the infinite possibilities of the
modern world leave us less satisfied instead of more.
But author Barry Schwartz told the conference that it was better when
we had only a few choices of salad dressing instead of the 175 at his
These were just some of the suggestions to the audience at TED in
their search for the good life.
TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) brings together experts in
design, technology, and entertainment to share their ideas about our
We live in a world where instant gratification is not fast enough, in
a world of not only speed dating, but even of speed yoga, said Mr
The author of In Praise of Slowness decided to decelerate after he
found himself speed reading bedtime stories to his son.
He even found himself excited when he read in the newspaper a story
about one-minute bedtime stories.
Some choice is better than none, but more choices don't make things
But he caught himself: "Has it really come to this that I'm ready to
fob off my son with a sound bite at the end of the day?"
People point to urbanisation, consumerism and globalisation as the
cause of this "roadrunner culture", he said, but it is more
"In our society, time is a scarce resource," he said. "We turn
everything in race with the finish line but we never reach that finish
But around the world, there is a backlash against this culture, such
as the slow food and slow city movement in Italy.
Across the world, people are slowing down, and they are finding that
they "eat better, make love better, exercise better, work better".
And Mr Honoré told a crowd flush with technology that they needed to
rediscover the off button.
Technology was supposed to make us more efficient, he explained. But
our lives are often so driven by interruptions that a recent report on
"info-mania" found that the flood of e-mails was such a distraction
that it cut workers IQ by 10 points.
One department at software firm Veritas has declared Friday e-mail
free, and it found that the day has become its most productive.
More choice is less satisfying
Continuing the theme that less is more, author and scholar Barry
Schwartz challenged the orthodoxy that to maximise freedom and welfare
we should maximise choice.
It is such a deeply embedded assumption that no one questions it, said
Mr Schwartz, who explored the idea in his book, The Paradox of Choice.
He pointed to his local supermarket where he has a choice of 175 salad
dressings. 40 toothpastes, 75 ice teas, 230 soups and 285 varieties of
Choice is good, he said, but in modern, affluent societies most people
are confronted with a bewildering array of choices that leads to
He said that his students sometimes become stuck in low-wage jobs
because they fear making the wrong choice of career.
Some professors at liberal arts colleges now joke that they "take
students who would have been stuck working at McDonalds and makes them
people who are stuck working at Starbucks".
With so many options confronting us about almost every decision, there
is a greater chance that we will regret the decision we do make.
The myriad choices raise our expectations and create the anticipation
Regret after making the wrong decision or what is perceived as the
wrong decision leads to self-blame, depression and, in extreme cases,
suicide, he said.
We are bad at realising the downside of choice.
"Some choice is better than none, but more choices don't make things
better," he argued.
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