Thoughts On Efficiency



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[a story for you]

As Tzu-Gung was traveling through the regions north of

the river Han, he saw an old man working in his vegetable

garden. He had dug an irrigation ditch. The man would

descend into a well, fetch up a vessel of water in his arms

and pour it out into a ditch. While his efforts were

tremendous the results appeared to be very meager.

Tzu-Gung said, “There is a way whereby you can irrigate

a hundred ditches in one day, and whereby you can do

much with little effort. Would you not like to hear of it?”

Then the gardener stood up, looked at him and said, “And

what would that be?”

Tzu-Gung replied, “You take a wooden lever, weighted at

the back and light in front. In this way you can bring up

water so quickly that it gushes out. This is called a


Then anger rose up in the old man’s face, and he said,

“I have heard my teacher say that whoever uses machines

does all his work like a machine. He who does his work like

a machine grows a heart like a machine, and he who carries

the heart of a machine in his breast loses his simplicity. He

who has lost his simplicity becomes unsure in the strivings of

his soul. Uncertainty in the strivings of the soul is something

which does not agree with honest sense. It is not that I do

not know of such things; I am ashamed to use them.”


[my thoughts]

Efficiency has been the modern mantra. It is more important than love,

more important than family, and more important than friends. We

adhere to it for the its excitement, for the rapidity which which

it brings us capital, and for the capable of providing more

material goods for the common man. To oppose inefficiency, to run

counter to the flow of technology is tantamount to sin.

For the last century (arguably two centuries), this efficiency has been in the form of big business. We have relentlessly struggled with the morality of “working for The Man,” especially in the sixties and seventies. It is easy to hate large corporations as it is easy to hate the rich and those in power. But there is a new class of proclaimers of efficiency rising in our midst. And it is not in the form of big business, but of individuals themselves: the free source community.

Why do they/we do this? Why should we take it upon ourselves to more

efficiently destroy the foundations of humanity than even those before

us? The answer seems to be that we have finally believed the myth of

the corporation: that efficiency *is* good, and is a valid thing to

strive for. The Open Source community was a natural extension of society

finally embracing the propaganda of efficiency. We joyfully welcome Big

Brother with shouts of adulation now; we crack the whip upon our own

backs. There is no need for a tyrant, no need to have some outside

oppressing force when we can do the job so much more effectively. We

will efficiently maximize our destruction through efficiency, carried

out cleanly, happily, and without waste. A fitting end. One that we wish

to participate in?

Any technology not aimed at making Man better, at encouraging him to

enjoy life and make friends will do nothing but crush the life out of

us; even those that are so geared are not guaranteed to succeed, and

may backfire horribly: there was a tribe in Africa where one would

light a fire after having sex, always. This helped keep adultery in

check, because you’d have to go to your neighbor’s house for a light

to light the fire after the deed, and, well, everyone would know then.

Separately, Europeans came with information on health, agriculture,

etc. They happened to bring matches. Think about it.

If a good percentage of those without technology are sociable, happy,

and down-to-earth, what end does technology bring us to? Why do we

pursue something that makes us stressed, nervous, and unhappy? Why do

we strive to make more intense the very things that cause us angst?

We know from the lesson of time that we will not have less things to

do — we will have a little bit more and four times the responsibility,

twice the people connected to us to be upset when only three times the

things we did before we get done. We will be a little more alienated

from our fellow humans, a little less comfortable with our humanity, a

little less content, a little less impressed by reality, a lot more

stressed, and our “Quality of Life” will go up at the expense of the

real quality of our lives.

Technology is neat. It is fun. It is shiny. Just like the guidance

systems on ICBMs. It is compelling, intense, and exciting. It can be

pretty, “pur-ple,” pay well, and come with Mountain Dew. We jump up

and down, code, design, engineer, and implement, all with friends,

relatives, co-workers and elders encouraging us, cheering us on as

we change the world and make Big Names for ourselves. But what are

we doing? Is this *good*?

If it is not, stop. No amount of Mountain Dew, cash, or encouragement

should be able to compensate us for destroying humanity. We must find

positive ways to use technology, if there are any. (I hope there are.)

My justification for Start^2 is that it will get people off the

computer, to see each other, network people, let people enjoy life. I

see this as sufficient justification. It is an “anti-technology” as it

were, encouraging people to use technology less. Not a sticky portal,

but the very opposite: a *boot* portal to give you a solid kick in the


Go outside, here’s the weather, here’s what’s going on. Have fun.

This is a fundamental difference between what I want to do and the new

Net-communities run by Excite, Dejanews, etc…I want everyone to use

my site, stop using other sites very much, and stop randomly surfing

the Net and start talking to their neighbors. I failed to point that

out last night, mainly because I am just now realizing our goal…