In Praise of Inefficiency: Jake Armerding in January

Happy New Year!  In 2015, I will strive to be more inefficient.

Let's imagine Efficiency were a person.  Would you admire her?  Naturally.  Would you emulate her?  Probably.  Would you hire her?  Of course — until you found a machine that could do her job even more efficiently.

But would you want to talk to her, go for a run with her, cook with her?  Nah.  Because cooking without any spills is boring; running at the same pace mile after mile is mind-numbing; and she wouldn't want to talk, or at least have a real conversation, because conversation always involves some level of emotion, and emotion, almost by definition, is inefficient.

Efficiency implies a purpose (how could you talk efficiently about nothing much?) and if life were all purpose, it would be awful.  Think about it:  you could never stare into space, wander aimlessly, make a mess.  You would never take a wrong turn, which initially sounds attractive until you realize how many great things in your life have resulted from wrong turns.  

Can love be efficient?  Because if not, we probably need to downgrade efficiency to the bottom of the Good Qualities list.

I don't vilify Efficiency.  Without it, life would be chaos.  As usual, I'm lobbying for moderation here, and I'm mostly lobbying myself.  One can often observe me typing with one hand because I am drinking tea and organizing my desk with the other.  It saves time, you see.

I have a device that can do nearly everything.  It connects to the internet, so I have virtual access to everything on earth.  It records my musical ideas.  It telephones other people.  (Most of the time — I'm on AT&T.)  It sends and receives messages, work-related and not.  It helps me tune my instruments.  It is a glory of efficiency.  

The only problem is that I'm human.  If I had the discipline to separate work from the endless stream of social media, celebrity trivia, cat videos and the Great Information Landfill, this device would make me a more efficient person.  But it actually does the opposite, because I'm the kind of person whose strategy for not eating Oreos is simply not to buy them.  This device, designed to save time, instead gives me unprecedented opportunity to indulge my own inefficiency.  Thus I realize I've spent twenty solid minutes absorbing the informational equivalent of wet cardboard, and Efficiency is turned on its head.  

But glorious Inefficiency!  Take two extra steps to cross the room, and you're dancing.  Sort of.

It's probably a case-by-case basis.  If great Olympic swimmers strove to be more inefficient, they would start losing, and great Olympic swimming is a thrilling thing to watch.  We applaud the ability of humans to transcend the limitations of their bodies and become like machines, and we should, because it's incredibly hard.  But when you kiss like a machine, you start running into problems.

There are two ways to waste time.  One makes you more human, the other less.

This year, don't be afraid to make a mess, to think stupid things, to listen to something all the way through.  This year, I challenge you to be inefficient.