I was giving a speech recently and among other things, talked about how significantly electronicization has altered power consumption. There was this article I read in 2003 that said the average freshman at the University of Miami needed 18 power outlets in their dorm room! As part of a renovation of residences, the University actually had to add new power substations to accommodate the students' hunger!
I'm guessing today's student may need less plugs but more power - if it were me, I'd need 6 - iMac (music, video, work), external speakers, laptop, iPhone/iPod (shared), headset, oh and my toothbrush.
Overclocking is the equivalent of giving your computer steroids to increase its throughput. If you go too far, you can harm the circuitry, and potentially trash the PC. What's the human equivalent?
You know you're overclocked when you're wishing you had your phone so you can check email or play a game while waiting in line, or at the gas station filling up your car. You know you're overclocked when you have to check texts and emails when you're having a drink with a friend and they've popped off to the bathroom. You know you're overclocked when you dim your phone so you can play without disturbing others while watching a movie.
I admit to the first two, but not the third :-).
Are our bodies able to cope with the increased electro-magnetic radiation? What about our minds? We now have many (too many) business processes but not enough time to process things. There is value to reflection - it is how we change minds, grasp concepts, and create a shared vision. Reflection is also how we question things; it is how we are able to look at things from alternate perspectives; it is how we move from reacting instinctively (which is all you can do when you don't have time) to reacting purposefully, to changing outcomes ...profoundly.
We intentionally create pressure situations - in the corporate world they call these "forcing functions" - creating faux crises that require rapid response. The result has no choice but to be evolutionary, gradual if any improvement and largely the same old thing in a new PowerPoint template - because there's no time for anything profound. Without the time to change minds, new ideas can't gel, be socialized and convince others.
There is absolutely a place for rapid-fire reactions and quick decision-making - this is a big part of getting things done. BUT you can't expect every decision to be made this way. Briefly overclocking a business is good when reacting to a crisis or capitalizing on an opportunity, but like any computer that's treated this way, the longer you do it, the greater the risk of burnout.
The obvious damage is falling ever deeper in a rut and ironically losing that very competitive edge; the collateral damage is people burnout - you only have to look articles like this or this to see that the American worker is overclocked - they're afraid of being viewed as redundant so they don't take vacations; they don't have time to reflect and be energized so they can't conceive to catalyze revolutions (or even evolutions); and worst of all, they make big decisions rashly, and end up paying the piper at some point in the future. Constraining broad thinking (or as Seth Godin put it, getting meta) is what prevents us from really grasping a situation and doing something about it.
In the end though, I think the e-stuff is a red herring; we've overclocked ourselves in response to a ...desperation to get things done, to build and sell more widgets, and to own more crap. This ideal is not ideal. It is impales us in a self-imposed rat race, and removes us from the social, reflective, connected (dare I say actualized) world in which we ought to live. We've lost our ability to exercise a modicum of control over our own actions, and achieved an inability to exercise the instinctive urge to sit back and think...