M.G. Siegler isn’t a monster, he’s just a mutant

He thinks of people as data sources, which is true but out there

M.G. Siegler confesses that he’s a monster, because he wants people to talk faster. Like two times faster. Like the settings on the podcast apps he uses. Because people are too, too slow in their baseline talk mode. (Yes, I too am a nerd who thinks of people as data sources.)

This reminds me of my freshman physics class. Unlike almost every other course I took in college, in Physics I sat way in the back, with my headphones on, listening to music and reading my Chemistry and Anthropology text books. My norm was to sit up front, all ears.

After the third or fourth class, the professor approached me and asked me what I was doing. Why was I not paying attention during his class? I told him that he spoke way too slowly, and so there was more than enough time to listen to his (very few words per minute) speaking, capture whatever he wrote on the board, as well as reading non-Physics texts, reviewing notes from other classes, and listening to The Cars and Elvis Costello.

He looked at me like I was crazy.

I said ‘Let’s see how I do on the midterm.’ I got an A. And he never bothered me again. But he never could speed up, either.

source: Sonja Langford via Unsplash

So the answer for M.G. might be to take an opposite tangent. Instead of wishing others would step on the gas and talk (and think) faster, he should focus on his end of the equation: he should multitask.

I recently wrote a post called Are phone calls obsolete?, where I described (among other things) why I dislike phone calls. Phone calls — and face-to-face meetings — are ‘foreground’ activities that make it hard or impossible to multitask. There is a good argument for face-to-face meetings (or video calls) when there are multiple participants, and when natural multitasking occurs: like people interrupting each other, talking over each other, indicating their thinking through gesturing and body language. But in general, I’d rather conduct 1:1 ‘discussions’ with people via chat, so I can mull what’s being said — stretching time for me— or to do other things at the same time — doubling or tripling time.

We need to rethink the time asymmetries in communications, so that people can be more effective, can be more time aware. Just like we all benefit when companies support a work wherever/whenever model, it may be just as beneficial if we accept stretching and compressing time through the intelligent use of communications media. Making everyone communicate at the same baseline speed is just a waste of time. And I mean ‘waste of time’ in both senses. So, talk faster, or let’s take it offline.

Yes, I’m a mutant, too.

Written by

Work ecologist. Founder, Work Futures. The ecology of work and the anthropology of the future.

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