Keanu Reeves = philosopher of social acceleration

There’s a lovely extract from this interview with (notoriously immortal) Keanu Reeves about his experience of passing time. He suggests the image of an audio tape early in the conversation:

Each year, he says, seems to slip away that little bit faster than the last, something that always puts him in mind of the turning wheel of an audio tape. “When you’re young,” he says, “you have a big old reel of that tape left, right? And so it appears to revolve slowly. Then, time passes, and there’s less and less tape left on the reel. It spins faster. It spins faster.”

He’s later asked about his frantic work rate and how this connects to the passage of time. He hints at the paradox of acceleration you found in thinkers like Judy Wajcman and Hartmut Rosa: we often speed up in response to time pressure (even a sense of time slipping away beyond our control) but going faster means we do more which in turn makes everything feel faster:

Before we say goodbye, I remind him of that lovely analogy of his, about the unspooling tape that seems to turn ever quicker. By working so regularly, so relentlessly, has he been trying to slow the turning of time?

Reeves listens to the question gravely, stares to one side while he considers how best to reply, and finally gives the same answer three times. “It doesn’t slow down time. It doesn’t slow down time. It doesn’t slow down time.” The repetition prompts some final thought, and Reeves sighs. “If anything, it speeds everything up.”

Rosa discussed this in terms of salvation through acceleration in which the good life is the full life. This can take a humanistic form almost neo-Aristotelian in its orientation (written as someone who has εὐδαιμονία tattooed on my arm) in which “the good life consists first and foremost in the most comprehensive possible development of the talents and potentials of a subject” (pg 182):

the idea that an accelerated enjoyment of worldly options, a “faster life,” will once again allow the chasm between the time of life and the time of the world to be reduced. In order to understand this thought one has to keep in mind that the question concerning the meaning of death is indissolubly tied to the question of the right or “good life.” Thus the idea of the good life corresponding to this answer, which historically became the culturally dominant idea, is to conceive of life as the last opportunity, i.e., to use the earthy time span allotted to humans as intensively and comprehensively as possible before death puts a definitive end to it (pg. 181)

However it’s fundamentally a response to a sense of existential unease which pervades the ‘kinetic utopia’. It’s not just that the tape is running out, we’re deeply aware of the same process in others and their different responses to the unspooling which afflicts us all.This is how Rosa describes it in Social Acceleration:

The generalised unease … namely, that of standing in all realms of existence, as it were, on slipping slopes, i.e., of being irrevocably suspended in a world of growing contingencies, of missing decisive opportunities, or of falling hopelessly behind, operates as the basic fear in the dynamized, mobile society of modernity. Time thus remains existentially scarce even after specifically religious foundations of meaning “die off”. (pg. 178)

This is all very disappointing to me because like many in my mid-late 30s I watched The Matrix in my early teens and it had a huge effect on me. It promised me that by speeding up we could slow down:

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