it's now or never

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 March, 2008, 12:00am

It is said that patience unlocks every riddle and solves every problem. You extract the chick by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.

Like modesty and chastity, however, patience is on the wane.

I write as someone who will happily race from the kerb into the path of a juggernaut rather than wait for the green man to appear. In a similar vein, I often abort 30-second streamed video clips halfway through. I demand satisfaction now - or sooner.

So do you, based on the observations of Tom Hayes. An author and marketing executive in Silicon Valley, in the US, Hayes has an eye for buzzwords that resonate and has his finger on the pulse of digital business and culture.

He says the sexiest phrase this year is destined to be 'download now'. In his new book, Jump Point: How Network Culture is Revolutionising Business, the phrase is used to appraise on-demand delivery, also known as the 'permanent now'.

'Simply put, today's consumers do not want to wait. For anything,' says Hayes. 'The world of the network has rewired our brains: the delayed-gratification impulse [old-brain thinking related to food scarcity and survival] has been reset. We want what we want right now.'

Hayes singles out recent examples of so-called 'now economics', including initiatives by US-based Netflix, the world's largest online DVD rental service, and digital video distribution firm CinemaNow to introduce instant movie download services this year. 'All I can say is, it's about time,' says Hayes.

He would like to know what business executives around the world are doing to collapse the 'time-to-wait' gap in their industries. 'Ignore this new dynamic at your peril. If you won't speed it up, someone else will. Cut to black,' he says, in a nod to the moment when a movie ends and confronts the viewer with a void.

Doubters and detractors say Hayes and other like-minded authors, such as chaos-theory writer James Gleick, hype the modernity of urgency. The expectation of instant contact is nothing new.

Just look at that vocal speed demon, the telephone, which has been around since 1876 thanks to Scottish scientist Alexander Graham Bell.

Nonetheless, we now seem to value immediacy more, which partly explains the popularity of Wikipedia, whose prefix means 'quick' in Hawaiian. To the broadband-empowered Wikipedia user, reaching for a tome on a shelf now seems tediously procedural.

Blame it on the decline of spiritual faith, the deification of work and the lightning influence of broadband wireless culture.

This permanent now scenario also obliges a blogger such as me to hit his stride and wrap up fast before the reader loses interest and tumbles into a coma. If you have read this far, thank you - it's a minor miracle. Cut to black.