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Good Magazine Asks Jamais about the Pace of Modern Life
Jan 6, 2010  

GOOD magazine asked “some of the world’s most prominent futurists”—including Esther Dyson, Bruce Sterling, and Jamais Cascio—“to explain why slowness might be as important to the future as speed.”

The Worldchanging co-founder Jamais Cascio plays computer games to slow down. “Not the ones where I’m running around blowing people up,” he says, “but big strategy games that put me in a flow state. I lose track of time. I live in the never-ending moment of the game.” To him, futurism, like video games, is process-driven: It’s about multigenerational thinking, scenario mapping, and world building.

In his work as a research affiliate at the Institute for the Future and as a fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, he helps people see that if you change the rules, you get a new world. In an era when high-frequency trading is in full effect—when computerized traders “make dog food out of human traders”—the tendency toward slowness is a reasonable response. “Recognizing that humans can’t compete with the processing speed of computerized systems, the slow movement is a catalyst for rules that support greater reflection and consideration.”

He says slower decision-making allows for greater resilience—a parallel philosophy to the slow movement dominant in the worlds of social psychology, environmental science, and international security. It refers to a system’s ability to withstand shocks, to rebuild when necessary, and to improve itself when possible. “A resilient system is not necessarily a strong system,” says Cascio. “A tree that bends in the wind is more resilient than a wall that stands still.”

And a system that allows for slack, like the slow movement, is more resilient than a system that assumes nothing ever fails. “Just-in-time manufacturing is really great when all component systems work perfectly, but when a part breaks down, the whole operation comes to a complete halt. Failure happens. So we’d better build in a way to absorb it.”

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