Cover image for
The great acceleration : how the world is getting faster, faster / Robert Colville.
Colvile, Robert, author.
New York : Bloomsbury USA, 2016.
First U.S. edition.
390 pages ; 25 cm
Colvile inspects the various ways in which the pace of life in our society is increasing and examines the evolutionary science behind our need for constant acceleration, as well as why it's unlikely we'll be able to slow down--or even want to.
Includes bibliographical references (pages 329-374) and an index.
163286455X (hardcover)

9781632864550 (hardcover)


Material Type
Call Number
Book HM846.C65C727

On Order



The Great Acceleration is an energizing account from a brilliant new writer of how our society is speeding up--and why we should embrace it.

In this revelatory study of modern living, Robert Colvile inspects the various ways in which the pace of life in our society is increasing and examines the evolutionary science behind our rapidly accelerating need for change, as well as why it's unlikely we'll be able to slow down . . . or even want to.

Exploring theories surrounding the effect of this speed on our minds and bodies, Colvile reveals how, contrary to gloomier predictions, living in a faster age might be beneficial for us, both physically and mentally. In addition to the universe of social media, he examines the opportunities that faster communication and operation could bring to everything from music, film, and books to transportation, politics, and government.

Comparing developments in cities and villages, advanced economies and underdeveloped countries, East and West, The Great Acceleration explains how the positives outnumber the negatives and, if this acceleration is truly inevitable, why we should rush to embrace it.

Author Notes

Robert Colvile is a regular commentator on politics, culture and technology. He has been UK news director at BuzzFeed, and head of comment at the Daily Telegraph and He has a master's in international relations from Cambridge, and previously produced an acclaimed report on the Internet's political impact.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* In the way that almost $1 trillion of stock value disappeared in five minutes during the Flash Crash of 2010, Colville finds a compelling illustration of the perils we face in a world where everything runs at dizzying speed. Those perils extend well beyond Wall Street. Readers see incautious adolescents ruin their reputations in minutes through cyberdistribution of nude photos, movie-industry executives sucked into the sterility of comic-book blockbusters churned out hurriedly, journalists sliding into sensationalism and inaccuracy to meet tight deadlines, and politicians addicted to hyperspeed technologies powerful in campaigning but useless in governing. Perhaps most worrisome are the descriptions of Third World cities rapidly filling with displaced villagers, cities whose demands are swiftly depleting the planet's natural resources. Yet with surprising optimism, Colville affirms his belief that wise use of initially disruptive technologies can protect and actually improve social and political relationships, cultural creativity, and even the environment. Looking to a glowing future, Colville even anticipates a time when the rapidity of artificial intelligence will endow the human species with astonishing new powers. Traditionalists aligned with Jacques Ellul or Josef Pieper may find Colville implausibly cheery-minded, even utopian. But anyone worried about our increasingly frenetic lives will find food for thought.--Christensen, Bryce Copyright 2016 Booklist

Kirkus Review

A well-paced consideration of the effects of technology on lives made ever busier by itand whipping by in a whirlwind as a result.Consider the younger cohort of the millennials, who have grown up digital, date online, buy online, and live online. They are likely to become "fragile, narcissistic young adults," disconnected to others and disaffected overall. Or are they? By another gauge, these digerati are "less materialistic than their parents, more socially liberal, completely at ease with modernity." Which view of them is correct? Both, writes U.K. columnist and commentator Colvile: technology enables both anomie and activism. One thing is certain, however. Among the social effects of this technology are the increasing fragmentation of time and the sense that there's never enough of it, wherefore we attempt to juggle too much, even though, "hummingbird mentality" notwithstanding, we know that multitasking is a fraud. There's little new in the author's description of the modern scene and plenty of the we've-heard-it-before variety. James Gleick got to the heart of the argument 17 years ago in Faster. Where Colvile's account is useful is in documenting what has happened in the years since in terms of our mores and expectations. Most of the British author's examples come from Wales, Scotland, and the files of David Cameron; when he writes of our material desires, he includes among them the ability to get "fruit and veg" in every season. The prescriptive part of the program gets a little fuzzy: technology can be destructive, sure, but if it accelerates to the point that it can solve climate change, then it will be good, right? Generally optimistic, Colvile closes with the hedged observation that it will take far-seeing, imaginative leaders to be sure that "techno-Utopia for the few does not become dystopia for the many." A familiar argument but with interesting twists and a rosier forecast than many other books of social/technological criticism. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1 Permanent Revolutionp. 11
2 Quick Reactionsp. 38
3 Fast Friendsp. 75
4 The Art of Accelerationp. 109
5 Tomorrow's News Todayp. 141
6 The Pace of Politicsp. 171
7 Time Is Moneyp. 215
8 Planet Expressp. 255
9 Racing to Destruction?p. 280
Conclusion - Fast Forwardp. 313
Acknowledgementsp. 327
Notesp. 329
Indexp. 375