The lack of activity is a a core measure for intelligent design. Unfortunately, very few, myself included, are behaving very intelligently these days.

Which would be the more intelligent way to feed yourself? To go outside and pluck an apple or shoot something wild and eat it, or to plant seeds every year, harvest, and till? (*) It is certainly clear that the latter ranks high in terms of the sacred “productivity” we worship these days—I guess maybe we still haven’t left the 80s, when being busy and stressed was a badge of honor.

Do less useless things!

(*) See chapter 7 of the ERE book for more thoughts on this.

More accurately, do less things of marginal utility. Spending 20% more effort on becoming 1% better does not make you more than 1% better, even if you rake in 20% more dough. Only insofar that

relative improvement > relative increase in effort,

that is, d ln I / d ln E > 1, are you doing well without stressing out the engine. But maybe it’s just me who thinks in terms of efficiency rather than effectiveness. In most places, it is certainly hard to swing a dead cat without hitting some guru going off about how to be more productive in an almost Tayloristic fashion.

Stop and think about profits for a moment! If you increase effectiveness without increasing efficiency, where are the profits going? Not to you, that’s for sure. If all you’re thinking about is how to become more effective, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. But hey, isn’t that the rational thing to do if everybody else is doing it?

Recommended reading: The Importance of Living by Lin Yan Tang

Originally posted 2011-02-04 23:58:38.