The Im­pulse So­ci­ety

Paul Roberts Blooms­bury, $ 29.99

The Australian - The Deal - - Books -

Wor­ried about the num­ber of times each day you check your smart phone for SMS mes­sages, and emails, or that tech­nol­ogy might be chang­ing the way you think – for the worse? Roberts’s the­sis is sim­ple but com­pelling. Even though the con­sumer so­ci­ety has been in full flight for the past 70 years, in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy has in more re­cent times al­lowed business to “sat­isfy our de­sires more rapidly and ef­fi­ciently and per­son­ally”. The IT era has made the out­look of peo­ple, gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions more short term and more in need of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion than ever be­fore, whether it be an email from an ad­mirer, a favourable opin­ion poll or a hot-sell­ing prod­uct. The rise of the nar­cis­sist is part of this trend. In fact, Roberts says IT tends to en­cour­age nar­cis­sism. This trend is not help­ful when tough de­ci­sions need to be made, whether it be re­form­ing state fi­nances, low­er­ing en­trenched un­em­ploy­ment or deal­ing with cli­mate change. But in a world in which self­ish­ness rules, such re­form is be­com­ing more dif­fi­cult and it is mak­ing the job of run­ning democ­ra­cies all the more dif­fi­cult. And it may help ex­plain the ris­ing level of in­di­vid­ual and eco­nomic in­se­cu­rity found in western so­ci­ety. Roberts writes that the irony of the “Im­pulse So­ci­ety” is that for all of the em­pha­sis on in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, the end re­sult is more anx­i­ety.

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