The Weight of Efficiency

July 2, 2014

I was at a Smart City event the other week and I was irked by the multiple references to technology = efficiency. That the internet of things will enable frictionless and seamless transactions between humans and their devices and amongst devices themselves. There were a couple of things that I challenged the speakers on. One being that sometimes the friction is what life is all about and actually if we lived in a frictionless environment our experience will become mediated through the devices that allow this pervasive experience. This could eventually lead to a homogenized human experience.

Also that efficiency is often used as a weightless term. That efficiency has no or little cost. From experience efficiency = saving money = making people redundant. The euphemistic use of the word creates a number of problems when trying to engage people with technological change. People can, quite rightly, be afraid of the adoption of new technology, as they know all too well their job could potentially be on the line. If we’re honest from the outset about what the impacts would be, perhaps we would be able to create an environment for a more intelligent and engaged conversation about change.


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