System Overload

“The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.” It’s what prison librarian Brooks quips, with equal parts marvel and disdain, upon his release after 45 years in Shawshank. It’s also a pretty appropriate capture for what’s got us here today. Our world is becoming harder to comprehend, tougher to keep pace with, and exhausting to make sense of — as everything accelerates seemingly all at once, at far greater speeds than our bodies and brains are meant to keep up with. But truly: Biology (attuned to nature) evolves precisely but slowly over the course of millennia; culture (attuned to socio-economics) evolves so quickly we quite literally cannot keep up.

And it’s only set to get worse; according to Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, the math looks something like this: In 2040, we’ll experience an entire year of change (based on today’s rate) in about 3 months. For those who are 10 today, by the age of 60, they’ll experience 2022’s change in just about 11 days. And none of this even factors in the accelerating disruption of climate change.


Let’s get back to basics for a moment. What we’re really saying here is that we’ve overloaded our systems in every way possible. We’re faced with too much, completely overstimulated. We’re able to give too little, expected to be relentlessly available at the expense of attention paid in full.

Our problems are too big, as we face a polycrisis unlike anything we’ve experienced in generations. And as Brooks said, everything’s moving too damn fast. Or more academically, “The constructs that form our understanding of the world are being continually out-paced by the sheer force and speed of technological, political and social change.” (Thanks, Anab Jain!).

So yeah, that’s a lot. We’re tired, and that’s not good.

As new research shows, consistent cognitive fatigue results in impulsive decisions and impeded strategic thinking. It keeps us trapped in short-term mental models, further reducing our capacity to prepare for the future —let alone think about building a better one.

If you’re trying to read this RADAR report on mobile, don’t. Just don’t.

Grab a water, grab a seat, and cozy up in front of a bigger screen — because you’re in for a wild ride