Recently, I have noticed that in doing most tasks, my thoughts don't center on the task itself, but rather "How can I make this process more efficient?"
In vacuum-cleaning, I find myself calculating whether it would be best to start in tiled or carpeted rooms to achieve maximum efficiency. In applying makeup, I am constantly refining my routine to see how much faster I am able to get ready. Even in writing down directions, I take out all "excess words," sticking to basic Left-Right directions and exits to "skim them" more efficiently during driving.
Each time I perform a task, I think: "What is the best way to organize this so that it can be done more efficiently?" This is something people think about daily but on an unconscious level because it has become so embedded into our train of thought; we have become a society obsessed with notions of "better" and "faster."
This fundamental of efficiency began during the Industrial Revolution, grew with Henry Ford's assembly line, but has truly resonated in this age of microchips and technological advances. Evolving technology and efficiency are now seemingly inseparable ideas. In basic thought, our society now lives on the fundament of Moore's Law.
Moore's Law states that the performance of a microchip will double every 18 months, meaning that our technological capabilities will also double every 18 months, which ultimately translates to our efficiency methods doubling every 18 months. Hence, we are a society changing every 18 months, something that has a great impact, both negative and positive, on our sociocultural composition.
Having such a rapidly evolving culture means more work. Yes, we have found a way to streamline work, but at a latent cost. When efficiency is increased, multi-tasking becomes second nature, and workloads increase because each task can now be done in less time, meaning more tasks can be piled into one day. We have expanded our working capacity by way of multi-tasking. Therefore, always focusing on efficiency and a means of getting things done faster has inadvertently created a society where we get things done faster to do even "more things" in one day.
Also, in making things better by means of efficiency, our society's conceptualization of form matching functionality has drastically changed. The 2009 documentary, "Objectified," points to such a notion where designers and engineers are manufacturing products whose form looks more complicated than the actual function. An example used during the documentary was the iPhone.
In looking at the iPhone, one sees a slim, compact, rectangular object with a sleek screen that can be turned in all different directions, not necessarily what is traditionally defined as a phone with features such as buttons, antenna, cord, etc. The reason for such a space-age looking phone? The efficient microchip inside of it that allows it to do more than just make phone calls. Hence, efficiency has evolved our phones from chunky, mounted objects into nearly unrecognizable portable, mini computers.
Lastly, sometimes the drive for efficiency backfires and makes things less functional. For example, Facebook has implemented its Timeline layout. The timeline is supposed to enhance the user's experience on Facebook by making it easier to connect with others, share photos, customize cover photos to express individual tastes, etc.
The goal was to make Facebook more efficient and user-friendly, but now, in my opinion, it seems more difficult to use. There isn't anything streamlined about the new layout; there are two sides to the wall, obscure tabs to page components, an annoying activity feed.
Basically, the poor design works in opposition to the initial goal of efficiency by making the user-experience more confusing. The old Facebook layouts were fine, efficient; if anything, the new layout should have been optional.
We develop efficiency to make our present work easier just so we can create space for more work later on. Thus, our refinement of efficiency can actually lead us to inundation.
Moreover, efficiency has masked the adage of "if it isn't broken, then don't fix it," creating more complex, convoluted experiences. Efficiency is not a terrible thing, rather a sign of societal change, but it is important to remember that it is not without caveats.
Hence, while striving for efficiency has led to great innovations, it has also created a rather dizzying, paradoxical notion of how we function as a society.
Kainani Tolero is a Deer Valley High School and a UC Davis graduate. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.