May 08, 2020

Credit: Francesco Carta Infografa / Getty Images

Our world is fast, and, while it may feel that it’s always getting faster, we’re actually slowing down in a lot of ways. That’s according to Danny Dorling, a professor of geography at Oxford University and author of Slowdown: The End of the Great Acceleration – and Why It’s Good for the Planet, the Economy, and Our Lives. He says that, even before this pandemic, there was a global slowdown in population, technological advancement, and in the economy.

Main Takeaways 

  • It may feel as though we’re still progressing quickly, but the rate of innovation is slower compared to recent eras. The changes that our grandparents experienced in their lifetimes were huge compared to the differences we’ll see in ours. For instance, the progression from horses to tractors, and the invention of the telephone, radically changed the world. Incrementally faster download speeds don’t quite measure up.
  • Some experts believe our speed of innovation peaked in the 1930s, but it’s hard to quantify. One metric we can look to in recent decades is what computers are up to. Increases in computing power were once used for increasingly complex tasks. Now, we’re using that power to store more and more pieces of media. This is a big change from, say, using computers to help people land on the moon.
  • When we’re accustomed to the world growing by leaps and bounds, a slowdown may sound like we’re losing momentum  —  but there are huge potential upsides to a slowdown. Namely, a decrease in growth may mean a decrease in consumption, and that could spell gradual wins for us in the face of climate change and pollution.

More Reading 

  • It’s hard to notice a slowdown this gradual when you’re in the middle of it, but that’s why Dorling says this pandemic could be the wake up call the world needs.
  • Our technological advancements have nearly ground to a halt in comparison to previous decades, but there are still problems to be tackled in this era. 
  • South Korea became the first country in the world where the average number of children a woman will have in her lifetime dropped below one. Read more to learn what this means for the country.

slowdown, population, technology and innovation, growth, Danny Dorling

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