Thursday, August 14, 2008

Has efficiency gone too far...

Editor's Note: My postings have become a bit sparse, a series of things called life have intervened in my life recently with the most being a summer cold. I've also been distracted by the olympics. I'm also struggling to get some head space about how to have an impact. Things may get weird in the next few weeks, but I hope they will get interesting

The Wall Street Journal health blog has a controversial posting on how safety has gone too far, in the case of a children's park where kids were scalding themselves on the soft surface meant to reduce injuries. The irony, reminds me of Edward Tenner's Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences. I recently blogged about Tom Vanderbilt's "Traffic" that posited that our accident rate increased when drivers felt safe and stopped thinking.

The operative words, stopped thinking. I was shopping for groceries and it's been a long time since I've bought fruit outside of the farmers market and I noticed that my fruit had little stickers on it. Now, I know the stickers are there to help cashiers punch the numbers in and charge you correctly. But it got me thinking, every sticker is most likely going into the trash. Yes, but if you stop thinking, you forget that before they get stuck on the fruit, they have to be stuck on something. Most likely wax paper. And that paper most likely goes into the trash. Thinking about that wax paper, I remembered that I bought a stamp at the airport on my way back to California for a postcard for a friend. In the old days (and here I date myself) I use to get a stamp where I'd either lick the stamp (is that that safety thing coming into play again) and put it on my postcard. End of story. But no, this stamp was on a piece of paper and self adhesive. Another piece of paper to throw away. All this in the name of efficiency.

Does our pursuit of efficiency and it's sibling convenience lead to waste. Absolutely. But it does something else, it leads to speed and eliminates self reflection. Every pause in our lives is a chance to reflect, and our pauses are evaporating away in tide of "efficiency" Are we being tricked into more. It reminds me that music is not about packing more notes into a measure, but the balance between the notes.

Are we so ensconced in safety, movement and packing things in that our mind has no chance to rub and catch and work. I remember when the internet bubble was happening, the goal was a frictionless economy so we wouldn't have a chance to think. Where one click buying is the goal.

So what do we do to return ourselves to our world, to think again. To want to engage our minds, to want to engage our bodies and to want to engage our souls again.


At 11:07 AM , Blogger Dianna said...

there's a playground down in greenwood village that's considered world class but by god if you go there on a summer day you nearly DIE. you can't touch anything.

one playground we go to regularly still has the old fashioned merry-go-round. i'm amazed it hasn't been ripped up yet. sooner or later some lawyer's kid will go flying off it and knock his head and then it'll be history, i'm sure.

that said, i got my kid a helmet. for her TRICYCLE. sigh.


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