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The Great Acceleration: How the World is Getting Faster, Faster Paperback – 6 Apr 2017

4.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (6 April 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408840219
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408840214
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 2.6 x 13.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


A must-read. The effects of acceleration are real, and we need to start taking them seriously (Steve Hilton, author of 'More Human')

In a run, run, runaway world, Colvile's The Great Acceleration is an indispensable guide to keeping up. A book that raises eyebrows and questions in equal measure. A meticulous, thoughtful, candid, sometimes stark and yet ultimately optimistic study of humanity, and our breath-taking desire for change (Boris Johnson)

A punchy and wide-ranging book about how our lives and our society are speeding up, when to apply the brakes and how to enjoy the ride (Tim Harford, author of 'The Undercover Economist')

It's true - life is speeding up. But don't despair, overall that's a good thing for prosperity and quality of life, though it may not feel so as the emails pile up. This book is as fast-paced as its subject matter, and well worth making time for (Mark Lynas, author of 'The God Species')

Colvile is never less than engaging. Not a paragraph passes without an appealing factoid . It is also inflected by a healthy sense of humour . Given how easy it is to accentuate the negative, this is a book well worth reading, especially for the technological naysayers (Daily Telegraph)

An alert and readable survey of the effects of "the great acceleration" on tech firms, social media, art, news media, politics, banking and the environment. Its statistics are certainly striking (Sunday Times)

Despite the intriguing theme, I picked up this book with a heavy heart. There are now so many books inspired by Malcolm Gladwell that they've become formulaic. I needn't have worried. Colvile, a journalist, has done a very good job indeed. It's an interesting idea and he manages to persuade the reader that it matters. It's rare to go for a whole paragraph without learning something unexpected, funny or disturbing. The amount of research he has done is impressive. The Great Acceleration is really an excellent book (Daniel Finkelstein, Book of the Week The Times)

Colvile is an entertaining writer and his subject is a fascinating one (Evening Standard)

Compulsive, illuminating and ever-so-slightly terrifying (James Delingpole Mail on Sunday)

Excellently researched and thoughtful (Spectator)

Provides food for thought (How It Works)

Looking for a seriously good summer read? The Great Acceleration is a brilliant take on how our world is changing (Daniel Hannan)

A very smart book by Robert Colvile on the fact that things are getting (William Leith Evening Standard)

Book Description

A revelatory account of how our society is speeding up, The Great Acceleration is a fascinating insight into the science and promise of the modern world from a brilliant new writer

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very broad sweep quoting most everyone. Too much doom and woe soothsaying. Not enough recognition that human life is improving all the time. Nevertheless it makes you think.
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By Clare O'Beara TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Nov. 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
I enjoyed this well-written, fact-packed book which looks at how our modern lives are being speeded up in many ways. We cram more in but feel that we have no time.

An interesting survey looked at how fast people walk. City people always walk more quickly than rural ones. I could add that city people talk more quickly. A Californian psychology professor, contrasting Brazil with America, spent three years in the early 1990s visiting 31 cities worldwide. The more industrialised and advanced the economy, the more fast-paced the culture. Western Europe and Japan hurried, Asia, Africa and Latin America dawdled. East Coast America was faster than West and the heartland ambled. In 2006 a UK psychologist revisited the experiment and found that worldwide, people were covering the same length of ground in ten percent less time than in the 1990s. Asia in particular had speeded up so that Singapore and Guangzhou matched the hastiest Western capitals.

Media and politics, inextricably connected now, get a chapter; when a message doesn't have to go to print and then be distributed, but can be tweeted and retweeted and published on a news website, politicians are on the spot to react quickly and issue statements which can be analysed, reacted to and responded to in a short space of time, leaving the rest of the day for the world to comment. No wonder political leaders age quickly these days.

Journalism now means filing three stories of some kind a day, we're told, with phone film clips and soundbites added. While the author glosses over how much copy is now written by computer, it's a lot, especially where sports results are concerned; brief quotes are plugged in to make it look personal. More stories are entirely from PR sheets with no journalism involved.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I felt the thesis behind this lengthy book - that our lives in the rat race are moving at an ever faster pace (and that, in the author's view, the advantages to this outweigh the disadvantages) - could have been pruned down to a short pamphlet, published by a niche Think Tank. Of course, it is foolish to try and emulate King Canute and Robert Colvile posits the many ways the pace of our lives is speeding inevitably ever faster - but to where or what? Heart attacks all round? Nevertheless, Colvile is universally positive, despite fairly setting out each 'down side'. I would beg to disagree with this no-exceptions sunny picture. In particular, the pace we lead our lives today requires each of us to have razor sharp and nimble minds in order to succeed. Good people, hard-working people - yes, intelligent people - born with a more methodical outlook and/or requiring some certainties, reference points and structure, are likely to be spat out by this speedy society. The Great Acceleration will make us more ruthless, less mannered, and society will (already is) become increasingly focused on an elitist "winner takes all" excluding and brutal future.
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Format: Hardcover
With the subtitle 'how the world is getting faster faster', this is a Gladwellesque exploration of the way that, primarily driven by information and communication technology, we are getting increasingly frantic. And yet, somehow, Robert Colvile (or Collie as my spellcheck insists on calling him) argues that this is a good thing. Arguably, the mark of the book is how persuasive he is in his cheery acceptance.

In echoing the books of Malcolm Gladwell, I am referring more to a fast paced (appropriately) throwing in of examples, overwhelming the reader with context - but I'm glad to say that Colvile is much better at acknowledging sources as he goes.

In each of the main chapters, Colvile takes an area of life - socialising, art, news, politics, finance etc. - and looks at the way that our increasingly high speed, always on, connected world has radically transformed the nature of each area. The format tends to be very much the same chapter to chapter - so much so that it was getting a little samey by the end - in each case we first discover all the scary and worrying implications of acceleration... then Colvile tells us why it's actually okay, or, rather, better than okay because the benefits outweigh the risks.

One big message is something the publishing world has been aware of for a long time - but Colvile makes a convincing argument that this will be the case in all fields - the squeezed middle. In publishing, there used to be a healthy living as a midlist author. Now you are either a bestseller writer or earning peanuts. (And that mostly means earning peanuts.) The same applies all over, Colvile suggests. One side effect of the acceleration is the tendency to have megaplayers and tiddlers and very little in between.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a brilliant overview of the way our lives are speeding up - everything from politics to media to business, to the food we eat, the art we consume and how we relate to other people. It is full of thought-provoking facts, studies and anecdotes, spanning a range of subject areas but all linked by the overarching theme of speed.

Colvile has a pacy, engaging style and I found myself carried along by his enthusiasm for the technologies that are changing the world. He is not a Panglossian optimist - he makes it clear that while there are many advantages to living at a faster pace, there are also significant dangers and disadvantages (the impact on political decision-making, for example, where the focus seems to have become increasingly short-term, or the destabilising effects of high speed trading on the financial markets). But the overall tone is one of cheerful acceptance - if we can't stop the relentless acceleration, we need to embrace it and adapt to it.

An appropriately exhilarating read.
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