2018-01-06 00:45   参考消息网  

Silicon Valley's Efficiency Mavens

Would Like to Cancel Christmas


Izabella Kaminska 伊莎贝拉·卡明斯卡

hristmas means different things to different people. For some, it constitutes a bona fide religious experience. For others, it represents consumer indulgence. For others still, it evokes nostalgia and ritualised tradition. But whatever your views on Christmas, one thing runs true across the board. This is the time of year inefficiency is celebrated for its own sake.

In an era when algorithmic hyper-efficiency is being prioritised, this is an experience worth making time for — not least because of the economic paradox it brings about.

Consider just some of the inefficiencies deemed acceptable at this time of year that might otherwise be targeted by technologists and entrepreneurs for elimination, automation or acceleration. Arts and crafts; handmade decorations; organically-sourced produce from Christmas markets and stalls; Christmas lights; the wrapping of almost everything in decorative paper; indoor trees; festivities and merrymaking on employer-time; Christmas shows; and, most crucially of all, unnecessary gift-giving all around.

Then, on the behavioural front, there's the over-consumption of almost everything, as well as the days-long preparation of just one meal. If we operated on this basis every day, it is fair to assume our finely tuned “fast-paced” economy could probably not keep up without cost.

And yet, despite all the wastage and inefficiency, the season is still considered an essential consumer blowout, with the capacity to make or break a small independent company or even the more established large corporation. So while the Christmas phenomenon may be deemed inefficient to a technologist's mind, the livelihoods (and positive experiences) it supports more widely suggest it is not all for nothing.

Of course, the greatest irony comes in how newly-minted technology billionaires like to spend their own money once they have made it. Take the products and services made available at the annual Web Summit gathering in Lisbon in November. In the VIP-only area the titans of the internet indulged in artisanal coffees and grazed hand-cured meats and traditionally-baked patisseries even as they evangelised about the merits of dehumanised mass-market solutions.

But in their private investments the absurdities really come to light. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Michael Baum, who made his fortune selling big data software, spent a fair wedge of that sum acquiring the Burgundy winery Chateau de Pommard, which prides itself on its traditional winemaking techniques.

The first love of Elon Musk, the electric car enthusiast and futurist, was always the bespoke high-performance sports vehicle. His vision centres on bringing highly individualised “green” transport solutions to the masses at an affordable rate. But even his automated, energy-efficient approach to car manufacturing is struggling to compensate for the unexpected inefficiencies in hand.

None of which is to say humans should not strive to be more efficient where they can, especially on energy consumption. But if the joy, pleasure and job security afforded by Christmas inefficiency tells us anything, it is that efficiency should not be regarded as an end in itself. Since inefficiency has a way of popping up no matter what we do, it is human experience that should be prioritised before all else.