How are you dealing with time-space compression?

time-space compression

I came across this graph that seems to capture a feeling in our world today:

speed time compression

The theory here is that however we perceive the rate of change today, it will be double that next year, and the perceived rate of change will be 32 times where we are today five years from now.

Is this true? Who can say? But even if it’s off by 50%, that’s still a lot for us to handle.

Here’s what makes me think this chart might be accurate. The following chart illustrates how the world is changing, but also changing at a much faster pace. This chart might be hard to read if you’re following along on a smartphone, so let me give you the summary:

Historically, AI computational breakthroughs have taken years. New AI-driven capabilities are now exceeding human capabilities in areas like math and problem-solving in a matter of months.

speed-time compression

Source: McKinsey

This trend is only going to accelerate, and I can say that with confidence: follow the money. Nearly all the venture capital money is pouring into AI right now, not to mention historically large investments this year by Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

In his famous book, The Condition of Postmodernity, David Harvey introduced the idea of time-space compression to describe how advancing technology, communication, and globalization results in tangible psychological effects of disorientation and alienation in the human brains that are unaccustomed to such rapid change.

Ever since ChatGPT was introduced, I’ve felt like a personal case study for time-space compression. When I look at LinkedIn bios, 105% of all marketing professionals now identify themselves as AI experts. Am I an AI expert? Of course not. I am lost if I’m not?

I’m not alone with my overwhelm. At a recent speech to several hundred marketing professionals, I asked how many felt overwhelmed, and every person raised their hand.

Now comes the creepy part.

I’m obsessed with the idea of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). When does artificial intelligence become sensing, rational, emotional … human?

I asked ChatGPT to explain AGI, and here is its gentle description:

 AGI refers to a type of artificial intelligence that possesses human-like intelligence and the ability to understand, learn, and apply knowledge across a wide range of tasks and domains. AGI systems have the capacity to generalize their learning from one task to another, adapt to new situations, and exhibit cognitive abilities similar to those of humans, such as problem-solving, reasoning, perception, and language.

I’ve had some comfort learning from the leading experts that this is at least 20 years away. I’ll be out of the picture by then.

Hold the presses. A new study representing the consensus of AI experts, as evaluated on Metacalculus, has moved the projected AGI timeline up from 2042 to 2027.

Here is my selfie after I saw this report:

mind blown


Does anybody know anything?

A symptom of time-space compression is that we don’t have any experts any more.

This time last year, economists said it was impossible to have high inflation and rising employment. But here we are — inflation and record employment levels (at least in America). Nobody understands the economy.

Google’s quantum computer is 241 million times more powerful than the number two competitor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories. This means it can solve problems that would take the Oak Ridge computer 47 years to complete. This is so complex that Google has an entire department dedicated to understanding how it makes decisions. Let’s reflect on this … the scientists who built the computer don’t understand how it works. Perhaps that is a first in human history?

And my final example is this recent projection that AGI is 20 years away. I mean, this was the projection six months ago, and now they’re saying this is coming in 2027. How can you be wrong by 20 years?

So in addition to everything moving fast, it is moving in unpredictable ways. At this rate of change, we can’t project the future. Let’s be honest … we don’t even understand what is happening now.

How do you deal with time-space compression?

Here’s the short answer. Nobody knows. This is an unprecedented time in history. Nobody has been through this level of change before.

Here are a few things that are helping me. Maybe it will help you.

1. Perspective

It’s easy to be overwhelmed and spend each day connected to the fire hose. Step away. Go outside and walk in a park. Spend time developing human relationships and conversations with people who are outside the marketing bubble.

Want to know what’s really overwhelming? There are a thousand stars for every grain of sand on earth. Everything in its place my friend.

2. Let it go

This is a very bad time to be a control freak.

I would not call myself a control freak (at all), but I do pride myself in being enough of an expert to be confident in meaningful conversations about marketing.

Every single day, there is a new development in AI that makes me go, “Wow.” And think of how many developments I’m missing! I have to let go of this idea of being an expert in anything.

This is a weird time in my career. If I know less about what is going on in the world, by definition, I’ll be less confident in my expertise. Perhaps a key life skill right now is humility. I’m an expert in being humble, I suppose. Maybe that’s the best we can do.

3. The vital role of community

The RISE community is absolutely saving me right now.

In this crazy world, how do you focus on what to learn? How do you know who and what to believe?

It helps to have a group of smart friends suggesting notable trends and ideas. It takes the burden off of me.

I wrote a book about the unexpected, massive value of community. Belonging to the Brand presents a unique perspective of community + brand marketing, but there are also significant personal benefits to having a team of trusted friends guide you through this chaos.

Every speech I give, every post I write, and every class I teach contains some nugget I learned through the community. It’s helping me stay relevant. You can learn more about the community here

4. Self-care

Practice mindfulness techniques and self-care activities to manage stress and anxiety. These can include meditation, yoga, journaling, or simply taking time to relax and unplug from digital devices. I begin each day watching the sunrise. I try to spend time each week working on a watercolor painting. At the end of each day, I do puzzles that take my mind off the stress of the day.

Set boundaries on the news you consume. Focus on deep, quality sources of information rather than constant, quick updates.

5. Focus

Tine-space compression means endless new ideas streaming your way. The world is overwhelming, but it’s also endlessly fascinating! I’m interested in how AI is impacting … everything! That’s a good way to go crazy.

My job is in marketing. I need to focus on that area. That’s more than enough.

6. Technological literacy

I was recently teaching a class of university seniors, majoring in marketing. Almost none of them were using ChatGPT or a similar AI technology on a regular basis. This is inexcusable. How are you going to be effective in the world if you’re not participating in it?

Dive in, folks.  Flexibility and a willingness to experiment are perhaps the most valuable traits in a marketing role right now.

7. Be mindful of the ethics

As technology advances, ethical dilemmas become more prevalent.

In the early days of the internet, there were tons of unethical behaviors aimed at gaining some eCommerce advantage. Over time, those will not work. You will be found out and penalized.

With AI, we face unprecedented new ethical issues that will eventually become legal issues. Don’t just be legal. Be ethical.

If you’re working in a company, be the vocal advocate for policies and initiatives that promote equitable access to technology, protect privacy, and address emerging copyright issues.

Consider the long-term consequences of technology development. Responsible decision-making can help prevent unintended negative outcomes.

8. Foster adaptability

When the telephone became common in America, train operators felt threatened. They believed that if people talked on the phone, they would stop traveling. Of course that didn’t happen. We travel more than ever.

Fear is the default emotion in the face of change. It creeps into my mind, too. I have to constantly remind myself to adapt, adapt, adapt. There is no choice,

Change can be depressing, but it can also be exhilarating. Make the choice to be exhilarated and adapt.


Delaing with time-space compression isn’t just an individual issue. It will be an issue for companies who employ those suffering from overwhelm.

My friend Sharon Joseph, a creative director, said:

“Your advice and guidance is so poignant on an individual level, and I would love to push for the same on a societal level. How do we start building communities and like-minded leaders to bring a constant awareness to filter and overcome the perceived strain of real life against the illusion of gains from being superhuman?

“Yes, I love my digital lifestyle including the accessibility to AI, but I’m still learning how to apply today’s workplace norm to be hyperactive, hyper-connected, hyper-producing, and hyper-knowledgeable while balancing an actual sense of normalcy. And this is something that could be tied to a higher education across organizations and communities to create the balance between human and artificial experiences consistently.”

The challenge of time-space compression is here, and it will become more serious in the very near future. It’s inevitable that the fear and disorientation associated with endless, rapid change will take a toll. It could affect productivity, mental and physical health, and relationships.

Here’s a prediction: We’ll see a field of time-space compression specialists emerge. This promises to be a major wellness issue for years to come, and I think a field will develop to help with this widespread issue.

The best advice I can give you is to BE AWARE of how this pressure is impacting you. Maybe even save this post to refer to in the future as the world speeds ahead.

Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of some of the world’s bestselling marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak at your company event or conference soon.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Instagram.

Illustration courtesy MidJourney

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