The second reason I find this trend intriguing – if not tragic – is what it reveals about our attitude towards time. During most of the past century, it has often seemed as if a hallmark of modern “progress” is that our planning horizons, as a society, have expanded. Unlike peasants or herdsmen in the pre-modern age, who lacked the ability to measure the passage of time or calculate future risks with precision, 20th-century man appeared to have so much control over the environment that it was possible – and desirable – to take a long-term view. No longer were people destined to scramble in a reactive manner; they could plan ahead, mastering time. The fact that people were no longer foraging for food each day, but were able to visit a supermarket proactively at pre-planned intervals, was a good metaphor for a much bigger social and cognitive shift.
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