Friday, August 29, 2008

Efficiency is a tool, not an end

A class I started recently brought up the idea of the endless pursuit of efficiency. Chase it chase it, make everything efficient and everything is better. Don't ask why we make things efficient, just make it more efficient. Supposedly this was an influence on the Nazis, explaining a little bit why they were so focused on the efficiency of their killing without asking why they were killing.

They had tunnel vision. They were efficient at killing, but the effects of the killing were not efficient. Despite their glorification of science and technology, progress, they were nothing higher than another generation of religious zealots, blinding by their beliefs. They ultimately destroyed themselves with this. Setting aside moral reasons for a moment, killing or driving out all the Jews, especially German Jews, was incredibly stupid. It may have lost the war for them. But that isn't my point.

Efficiency is what? I see it as a streamlining of a process in order to reduce consumption of energy while creating the same output. This can be seen as a mathematical equation, so feel free to multiply (don't ask about division, they're the same thing) or add (ditto for subtraction). You can create more for the same energy if you want or less but with way way less energy.

Ultimately efficiency is a fight with entropy. What is entropy? Think of it as a decay which cannot be stopped, barely even slowed, and never reversed. This is in the overall universe, so there's nothing much preventing local reductions in entropy. Ultimately entropy will increase to the point where there is no longer order, or even disorder, instead there's just not much of anything. Rather depressing, isn't it? Efficiency is a fight with this, and it cannot win, so taking the side of efficiency is rather silly.

What is more efficient than what we do now? For one it would be more efficient to surgically remove the emotion centers of our brains. They cause all sorts of inefficiencies such as crying and wars. Going further, remove taste buds, in fact most senses can go. They waste a lot of energy and only hasten the demise of the universe. Animals are pretty bad too

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