That’s Newtons formula for acceleration, the converse of his formula for force, F=ma.
The variables are a for acceleration, F for the force applied to the object, and m for the mass of that object.
Of course, there are a lot more equations that can explain acceleration in more detail, and account for its varied forms (dynamic, constant, centripetal, etc), but this is the one I’m going to use for today’s random thought.
The speed of events in the world is increasing. That’s an irrefutable facts. Things are happening faster, everything, anything, what ever you can think of, it happens faster than it did a century ago, a half-century ago, a decade ago, maybe even a year ago. This is the acceleration of modern life.
We’ll refer to it as aml.
That leaves two parts to the equation, the force and the mass.
The force, is, at the root, the advancement of our knowledge. Both in the breadth of what we know, and the depth of what we know about what we know. The rule of thumb for knowledge is that what we know is doubling every ten years. So, linear growth. That’s not to say that we’re going to make twice as many brilliant discoveries as we did in the last last decade, because a lot of what we’re learning is pointless mundane shit. We’re learning tons about how people interact with digital devices right now, but that’s not going to solve the world’s problems or give us limitless clean energy. It will just make the next generation of iPhone more attractive than last year’s model. But, there are some real advancements, and they compound on existing knowledge.
Discovering lighter alloy metals makes airplanes faster and more fuel efficient, so they can travel farther for less money. Discovering new ways to increase the density of batteries increases the usefulness of everything from electric vehicles to laptop computers to vibrators. And I don’t even know where to begin with the Internet. Things are moving so much faster every year that it is only a matter of time before the entire industrialized world is blanketed under a sheet of high-speed wifi. Right now, from my $99 iPhone, I can download an app that lets me call Korea, for FREE, over the Internet. For less than the price of a nice pair of sneakers, I can talk to some one literally on the other side of the planet.
We’ll call our force the force of knowledge.
That leaves mass.
The average weight of a human being is around 160lbs. That’s taking both men and women into account. All of the force of knowledge built up by the summation of human existence, and it only has to move less than 200lbs.
I’m not meaning that as a piss answer, either. The reason that Gutenberg printing press was such a big deal was because it enabled more people to have copies of a book, in most cases a Bible. Give a missionary a Gutenberg Bible, a direction and send him off to spread the Word. He’s dead? Eaten by cannibalistic Slavs? Oh well! Print another Bible and get another acolyte!
It only takes one person with an idea to tell another person about that idea. From there, you’ve got the magnifying effect of word of mouth. Bloggers are the modern day Gutenberg presses. They are the individual advocates of ideas that spread them to the masses, who in turn spread word about that blog. Professional news sources are turning more and more to individual bloggers for editorial and news content. Just like a missionary wandering into a town, a single blogger, at the right moment in time, with the right thing to say, can change the world for everyone.
So, for our mass, let’s go with the mass of a human.
Making our final formula aml=Fk/mh
The acceleration of modern life is equal to the force of knowledge divided by the mass of a human.
And the point and impetus to all of this?
The Massachusetts senatorial election last night. Where a Republican swept the Democrats out of a seat that had been under their control since World War II. There is potential for this to be the harbinger of a Democratic slaughter come the 2010 midterm elections. I’m not going to go down the political rabbit hole right now, but I do wonder what is going to happen as the political pendulum speeds up. Just this time last year we were all screaming our undying love for Obama (ok, those of us not decrying him as a demon Muslim socialist), and now we’re already predicting his ideology’s imminent doom. If changes in the political wind can happen this fast now, what happens as they get faster and faster? What if the country can go from Red to Blue to Red in a single week? Or day? Or hour?
Think about this economically, too. The economic collapse of the last three years is more or less over, and we’re digging out from under it right now. Three years it lasted, on the outside. The Great Depression? Oh, about a decade. It might have lasted even longer if the war hadn’t happened. This is entirely due to the speed at which financial transactions can happen now. No more waiting for wires from across the Atlantic. You can have real-time satellite connections to any bank in the world from any place in the world. Give me a satellite phone on the top of Mount Everest and I can apply for a Visa card. There’s an entire business model that revolves around banks of supercomputers making billions of stock transactions a day, buying and selling on marginal increases and decreases in the value of the stock, slowly but surely inflating the market with machine trading instead of human trading. Which is only possible because of the speed at which information moves these days.
What makes me wonder what’s going to happen as things keep speeding up, but our biology doesn’t. Eventually things happening so fast are going to have a detrimental affect on us. We’ll be overloaded with information and be completely unable to function because we’re drowning in data. You can’t decide if the choice keeps changing, you know?
Just something to muse about. The math of change. The formula for progression.