By: Hannah Johnson

From the latest technology, to your favourite news media site, when people want something they want it NOW!

Where does this insatiable desire for instant gratification come from and why is it so preferable to have what we want when we want it rather than later?

These questions have very complicated answers, which would differ greatly depending on who was asked. However, an interesting theory is that our preference is so strong for having the answer to a problem now, that the option to wait is worth a lot less.

Our preferences can be measured in dollars. An example of this is shipping and handling costs when ordering items online. The “Same Day” shipping is more expensive than the two to four day, “Express Shipping”, which is more expensive than the seven to ten day “Standard Shipping.” The longer we are willing to wait, the cheaper we can get the exact same products, but we are still so quick to choose the fastest option available. Our items are worth more to us the faster we have access to them.

This observation has larger implications than when our packages arrive from Amazon. Small decisions based on shipping costs are relatively harmless. These same principles, when applied to the decision making of governments like the City of Sweetwater, Florida, can have life changing impacts.

An example of this principle in action is the collapse of the pedestrian foot bridge at the Florida International University in the City of Sweetwater1. The initial timeline on the bridge was for the project to be completed by 2019. However, the time preference here was also very high as the highway that the bridge was to bypass is busy and a student at the university had died when crossing the street last year2. Instead of traditional bridge-building technology, “Accelerated Bridge Construction methods being researched at FIU’s Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center” were used.3

In both cases the higher value attributed to immediate results contributed to dangerous situations that perhaps, if given more time, could have been prevented.