I was in my kitchen the other day stirring together two powders to make my version of chai latte. I take a powdered chai and a powdered white-hot chocolate and mixed them together. It’s a little less spicy than regular chai and a little less sweet then white-hot chocolate. It takes a little time, stirring to make the combination right. But in the end: a perfect morning cuppa!
As I was mindlessly stirring the two powders together, my brain drifted to the question of efficiency. For a brief second I wondered if there was a more efficient way of mixing these two. And then I was horrified! We endeavor to make our lives easier by inventing devices to do the mundane deeds. Like mixing together two powders. And then I stopped. If I had a device do the work for me, I would never have had the time to think about just how inefficient efficiency is.
Perhaps I should explain. Efficiency comes from being efficient. The definition of efficient is: achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense or working in a well-organized and competent way or preventing the wasteful use of a particular resource. You must love Google search.
Maximum productivity. That sounds good. Well organized, a minimum effort, competent and my favourite: preventing the wasteful use of a particular resource. What about us? All the tools we create to make our lives easier actually prevent us from actually ‘doing’. We sit in our armchairs and direct from a distance but we don’t get our hands dirty. I think a little dirt is called for. How else are we going to learn?
Ask anyone who creates just how that feels. Ask a woodworker, an artist, a chef. They take of themselves and create. Machines can’t! Or at least not yet. We need machines to assist us as tools. That is a given and I accept that. What I do not accept is people giving up control. We defer to whatever our phone happens to say but we never think to wonder if we have asked the right question.
I used to bake bread. It was a long drawn out process, I had to get my hands dirty. And I loved it! I would follow the recipe to a certain point and then I would become creative. A bread maker can’t do that. Only human hands can. Machines follow directions given to them by human beings. Machines build cars nowadays because they’re more efficient then people. But they’re not perfect. Ask anyone who drives a car that stops when it rains. Machines can’t find the problem and fix it, only people can. So why do we continually bow to the machines that we created to make our lives easier?
Do we use the time we supposedly gain from using machines to better ourselves or our environment? No. We’ll use that time to work harder so that we can afford to buy machines to make our life easier so that we can work harder so that we can . . . It’s a vicious cycle.
Machines are tools that we should never give up control to. Let’s not lose our ability to think. It’s one of the few things we have left.