Hurry Sickness: Causes, Symptoms, & Solutions

Big Idea

  • Diseases are nested within each other.
  • This is a big deal. The closer you get to the root disease, the more leverage the solution has to cure every disease under it. The further away from the root, the more you're putting on band-aids.
  • Let's take aging as an example. If we were to cure cancer, the average longevity increase would only be 3 years according to research. We'd simply fall prey to another disease of aging.
  • On the other hand, if we reduce or reverse aging we improve all of the diseases nested under it. This is why the top researchers in the longevity field are coming together to lobby the government so that aging can be considered a disease and receive government funding.
  • Similarly, there is a constellation of hundreds of diseases (see below) that we currently think about as completely separate, which all fall under the disease of hurry sickness.
  • Hurry sickness happens when technology evolves faster than our ability to cope with it.
  • There is a deeper fundamental disease of modernism that's impacting everyone that's not being talked about enough.

Technology Is 51% Good And 49% Bad

For every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage.” —Neil Postman
Technological change is not additive; it is ecological. . . . A new medium does not add something; it changes everything. In the year 1500, after the printing press was invented, you did not have old Europe plus the printing press. You had a different Europe. —Neil Postman
“In the past, we experienced technological change in the manner of sleep-walkers. . . . This is a form of stupidity, especially in an age of vast technological change.” —Neil Postman
“We need to proceed with our eyes wide open, so that we may use technology rather than be used by it.” —Neil Postman

New technologies, even technologies that almost all people would say are positive, have side effects. The bigger the technology, the bigger the side effect. In his work, futurist Kevin Kelly puts this in perspective and makes the case that technology is 51% good and 49% bad. And that that 1% delta compounds over time to become a net positive for civlization.

Yuval Harari, author of Sapiens, tells a similar story of human progress in his book, Sapiens:

Scholars once proclaimed that the agricultural revolution was a great leap forward for humanity. They told a tale of progress fuelled by human brain power. Evolution gradually produced ever more intelligent people. Eventually, people were so smart that they were able to decipher nature’s secrets, enabling them to tame sheep and cultivate wheat. As soon as this happened, they cheerfully abandoned the gruelling, dangerous, and often spartan life of hunter-gatherers, settling down to enjoy the pleasant, satiated life of farmers. That tale is a fantasy. There is no evidence that people became more intelligent with time. Foragers knew the secrets of nature long before the Agricultural Revolution, since their survival depended on an intimate knowledge of the animals they hunted and the plants they gathered. Rather than heralding a new era of easy living, the Agricultural Revolution left farmers with lives generally more difficult and less satisfying than those of foragers. Hunter-gatherers spent their time in more stimulating and varied ways, and were less in danger of starvation and disease. The Agricultural Revolution certainly enlarged the sum total of food at the disposal of humankind, but the extra food did not translate into a better diet or more leisure. Rather, it translated into population explosions and pampered elites. The average farmer worked harder than the average forager, and got a worse diet in return. The Agricultural Revolution was history’s biggest fraud.

The bad from technology comes multiple places:

  • Time to adapt
  • Deliberate abuse
  • Unintended side-effects

Time To Adapt


It Takes Years To Adapt To The Negative Consequences Of Technology

The table below shows how technologies lead to a cascade of negative symptoms that society mobilizes to solve.

Primary Symptom
Secondary Symptom
Flat feet
Back pain
Orthotics, therapeutic massage, chiropractor
Smart Phones
Blue light exposure
Buitt-in blue light blockers
Internal Combustion Engine
Increase in CO2
Global warming
Solar panels, carbon markets
We are chewing less
Our jaws aren't as large

Technology side effects are kind of like the pharmaceutical ads that list all of the side effects at the end. For example, here's my disclaimer for computers.

Computer Ad Disclaimer This computer may cause you to... 1. Stare at a screen for hours and become near-sighted. 2. Not move for many hours, therefore, not exercise, and gain weight 3. Have back pain from sitting all day 4. Stay up late from blue light and get insomnia 5. Spend less time with people in the physical world.

Typically, it takes years and decades to collective recognize side effects, get clarity on their cost, and mobilize new products or regulation to fix the problem.

For example, with CO2, it has taken many decades to come to a consensus that it's actually happening and that it's serious, and that we should collectively mobilize. Even now, we are polluting more now than we ever have and the consequences could be more extreme than our worst nightmares.

This time lag between the introduction of a technology and solutions that help us adapt to its side effects is known as adaptive lag. Adaptive lag is a key concept. Here's why...

Adaptive Lag: The Root Cause Of Hurry Sickness

At this point, we know that the speed of technology is accelerating at an exponential rate. I go deep into this topic in Google Director Of Engineering: This is how fast the world will change in ten years. Not only is new technology being developed faster, it is also gaining mass adoption much more rapidly.


The other graph we need to be thinking about is our individual and collective ability to adapt. Is that staying the same? Is it growing? Is it growing fast enough to keep pace with the change of technology?


The shape of the second graph is important to understand. In the most extreme case, if the adaptive lag is too long, it could mean that we cause ourselves or the planet irreversible harm. It also causes us to see wonky things like:

#1. Decreasing longevity in developed countries.

Source: World Bank

#2. Plateauing Happiness


The hopeful news is that if we can better understand the root problem and its symptoms, we can mobilize resources to come up with better solutions.

Over the last year, I've become fascinated on the topic of Hurry Sickness and read dozens of studies and books on the topic. Here is a collection of symptoms that I've brought together. When you see them all in one place, you start to see the severity of the deeper problem more clearly.

Symptoms Of Accelerationism

Physical Effects On The Body


  • Chronic pain
  • Flat feet
  • Bad posture
  • Obesity
  • Biome depletion
    • Allergies
    • Autoimmune diseases
    • Inflammation-associated cognitive disorders(autism to migraines).
  • High blood pressure
  • Near-sightedness
  • Diabetes
  • Reduced testosterone
  • Earlier puberty and later brain maturation
  • Low bone density


  • Sleep deprivation
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep depth
  • Sleep apnea
  • Screens keeping us up


  • Chewing less hard food
  • Smaller jaws
  • Increase in cavities
  • More crooked teeth

Effects On Social Relations

  • Higher divorce rates
  • Elders not living with family
  • Population decline

Effects On The Earth

  • More droughts
  • Species extinctions
  • Global warming
  • More floods
  • Reduced biodiversity

Mental Effects


  • Increase in deaths of despair
  • Increased addiction

Information Overwhelm

  • Comparing our beauty and achievements to the best in the world.
  • Decision fatigue
  • Triggers competitevness


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Over-Stimulation
  • Post-Partum Depression
  • Eating disorders in women

Key Stats


  • 50% of people over 50 have chronic pain.
  • Sixty million Americans or 25% of the U.S. population have flat feet. [source]
  • 3 to 6 percent of adults in the general population have carpal tunnel syndrome. [source]
  • 45% of people get orthodontic braces. [sources]
  • "Around 70 percent of all illnesses could be prevented if we all exercised more regularly and ate more healthily." —Daniel Lieberman (Harvard) in The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease
  • "Today, around two-thirds of all adults in the developed world are overweight." —Daniel Lieberman (Harvard) in The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease
  • "There was a seven-fold increase of cases of fatty liver disease between 1975 and 2005." —Daniel Lieberman (Harvard) in The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease
  • Autism and schizophrenia each affect about 1% of industrialized populations and lifetime depression affects 16% of the population [61], the impact of these and other hyperimmune-associated diseases on human health and quality of life is potentially one of the greatest challenges ever faced by medicine. [source]
  • "Approximately 40 percent of people living in the United States are vitamin D deficient." —Endocrine Society
  • "We are 4.7% of the world's population, and we take 80-90% of the world's oxycoton and hydrodone."
  • "Brief exposure to just 10 photos of physically attractive female faces reduces men’s commitment to their long-term mates and women’s self-perceived desirability." (e.g., Kenrick, Neuberg, Zierk, & Krones, 1994).

Increased Liquidity


  • Membership in associations
  • Insurance providers
  • Banking institutions
  • Automobile brands


  • Reduced life goal setting
  • Situational self
Without a doubt, this way of “letting oneself drift” ought not to be misunderstood as a lifestyle of passivity: the situational self can make tremendous context-dependent efforts to achieve its goals and/or fulfill social demands, but it does so without setting long-term, authoritative, context-transcending “life goals.” Nevertheless, that means—and this is the point I am driving at—that the biographical course of life as a whole loses its direction. It can no longer be understood as directed motion and narratively reconstructed in the sense of a history of progress or development. Life doesn’t head anywhere; in the end, it goes nowhere (very fast). This is the sense in which the temporalization of time implies the detemporalization of life and hence displays a tendential return to the static, situational form of life of premodernity,78 even though the contingencies and vicissitudes of life today are of a different, namely, societally endogenous, reflexive kind. The “events” that determined the course of the day and the unfolding of life in premodernity were embedded in a broadly stable, static natural and social-institutional fabric. While they were often not concretely expected, they were understood to be continuously present possibilities (as is still true of, for instance, droughts, wars, and famines). Their relevancies were laid down in routines and/or by tradition. In contrast, possible events in late modernity are often unpredictable and are themselves subject to rapid change within a horizon of possibility that is no longer determined by routine and tradition, but instead has been escalated into unforeseeability. Within this horizon relevancies are no longer there to be recognized but must rather be set by actors for themselves.




In late modernity, finally, family cycles display an unmistakable tendency to take on an infragenerational lifespan, for which increasing divorce and remarriage rates as well as the rearrangement or disintegration of households are the clearest evidence.11 Today the life period partner is tending to replace the life partner. —Harmut Rosa In Social Acceleration


For instance Richard Sennett finds that “today a young American with two years of college education must reckon on changing positions eleven times and retraining three times within forty years of work.” [The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism]

So, the question is... What happens from here? What can we do about it?

Knowledge Work Root Problems

More variation in the end output

  • People aren’t creating the same exact widget over and over.
  • At the same time, they are repeating similar processes each time.

Harder to see and measure

Whereas in the 20th century, industrial engineers could do motion studies where they viewed the physical movements of employees, there is no way for others to video record the mind and get an objective perspective . Furthermore, it’s even hard for us to be aware of what we do unconsciously. This has a few implications:

  • Manual work is public by default. Knowledge work is private by default
  • Management. Harder to see what workers are doing, which makes it harder to manage them. Harder to linkages between actions and results.
  • Documentation. Harder to create an assembly line.
  • Apprenticeship. Harder to correct what people do.

Variable definitions of quality

Individuals responsible for it rather than the system

Knowledge Work Problems

#1: Receiving constant interruptions

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Slack

#2: Growing number of technology tools

  • In the past, it was easier for knowledge workers to specialize and outsource stuff to secretaries.
  • Now, people are using tons of low weight tools.
  • It’s Jevons Paradox.
  • On the one hand, tools make things easier. On the other hand, there is a proliferation of tools.
  • Tools have hidden costs:
    • Training
    • Switching tools
    • New features
    • Interoperability
  • On an individual level, a tool is helpful. It’s more efficient than hiring someone else. On a macro level, having a huge number of tools is overwhelming.
It’s amazing how much the computer software available today simplifies clerical work. It’s also amazing to what extent this sophisticated software doesn’t help us solve the real problems. —Eliyahu Goldratt

#3: Overload


  • Hidden work
  • Under-estimating project length
  • Variable project length
  • Variable productivity (energy level / distractions)


  • Burnout
  • Project Delays


  • Amount of work
  • Energy of work

#3: Overload

Root Causes

  • More disease as we go deeper into natural habitats
  • Increased population density
    • Humans
      • Someone living in Manhattan or Tokyo may walk past more attractive possible mates in one city block than their ancestors saw in a lifetime of wandering the savannah.
      • The total number of partners for the most sexually active moderns obviously exceed any in prehistoric times. This translates into higher rates of everything from jealously to venereal diseases.
      • Faster spread of ideas
      • Faster spread of disease
      • Faster rate of life
    • Animals
      • And at least one venereal disease comes from crowding not with other humans, but with livestock. Zoo animals confined to unnaturally crowded conditions mate with other species, which they do not do in the wild.29
      • Agricultural humans are no exception: syphilis entered the human population from sexual contact with sheep.
  • Increased caloric intake
  • Less discomfort
    • Temperature
    • Hunger
    • Tragedy
  • More ego depletion
    • Accommodating to more stimuli
    • Accommodating to unchosen alternatives
    • New vistas of choices
      • Where to live
      • What career to pursue
      • What
  • Capitalism
    • Pro: More and more effiicent
    • Con: More and more efficiently hitting our buttons that cause us to pay money
  • Overstimulation. Over-prescription and marketing of concentrated versions of things that give us the most pleasure and reduce pain the most, which cause addiction
    • Drugs (pain killers, fentanyl
    • Food (salt, sugar, fat)
    • Porn
  • As things become digitized, we move our body less and stay indoors more
    • We are chewing less, so our jaws aren't as large, which leads to cavities
    • We are eating more and move less, which leads to surplus calories, which leads to obesity, which leads to heart attacks
    • Vitamin D Deficiency
  • Solids becoming liquid
  • Reducing the physical
    • Manufactured

Coping Mechanisms

Some of our coping mechanisms are being eroded

  • Family
    • Women with higher levels of family support are more resistant to the negative health effects of life stress [source]
    • Family support moderates the effects of daily stress on health and mood for married couples [source].
  • Social relations
  • Exercise

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Mental Models