The Short-Short Long

From a new speech by a Bank of England official on the vanishing idea of long term:

Is the world becoming short-sighted?  As individuals, it sometimes feels that way.  Information is streamed in ever greater volumes and at ever rising velocities.  Timelines for decision-making appear to have been compressed.  Pressures to deliver immediate results seem to have intensified.  Tenure patterns for some of our most important life choices (marriage, jobs, money) are in secular decline.1  Some have called this the era of “quarterly capitalism”.2

These forces may be altering not just the way we act, but also the way we think.  Neurologically, our brains are adapting to increasing volumes and velocities of information by shortening attention spans.  Technological innovation, such as the world wide web, may have caused a permanent neurological rewiring, as did previous technological revolutions such as the printing press and typewriter.3  Like a transistor radio, our brains may be permanently retuning to a shorter wave-length.

More here, and worth reading in its entirety.



  2. one of my favorites for the last few years has been the long now foundation: stewart brand, kevin kelly, et. al., to discuss / consider this type of issue.

  3. So, I have a long term orientation because I don't remarry each quarter!

  4. Cool! …but rather a long speech about such a short point.

  5. Very interesting read – Can't we justify the short-term orientation on the basis of business dynamics changing at a more rapid pace than before. Just because we are projecting cash flows out x-number of years doesn't mean that the ways of doing business/technology will allow those projections to hold true. And I think that that plays just as large a role as the desire of managers to see short-term gain (keep their job, bump the stock price up, etc.)

    Seems like it was easier when you could say "build this car plant and we're pretty sure it'll be good (with a few changes) for a long period of time." For that reason, I can understand a myopic approach.

    I feel like a large outlay of capital now is more risky than ever before and can totally understand the need to see some sort of financial gain in the near term. Business environment is super-competitive in almost every industry and 25-year projects aren't feasible for most companies any more.

    Sorry – long post but I'm waiting for a Genius Bar appt. here at the Chicago Apple Store and have worn out every gadget they have here!