Efficiency At What Cost?

The things we lose in our chase for productivity

“In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first.”
– Frederick Taylor

Taylorism (n)
A scientific management approach designed by Frederick Taylor in the late 19th century to increase efficiency by evaluating every step in a manufacturing process and breaking down production into specialized repetitive tasks

Fordism (n)
A technological system that seeks to increase production efficiency primarily through carefully engineered breakdown and interlocking of production operations for mass production and mass consumption

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“Efficiency” robs us of human moments. New cars are usually reason for celebration, and I’m not going to act like I don’t enjoy the benefits. As I fly up Crescent Heights and Cahuenga, down Fountain and Fairfax, I look to others as much as I can. But I am just a silver blur. People in the street on the sidewalks don’t even look at me anymore. This machine has cloaked me in its inhumanness, its inorganic exoskeleton. I am a street clone and smog-spewer, my electrically efficient engine nevertheless singing the smoggy end of the world as we know it.

How I miss the time I had to take in a stranger’s mannerisms… their smiles at a text or at each other – perhaps meeting for the first time – or a gaggle of foreigners gawking at local sightseeing spots that I have grown jaded to, now renewed with the beauty only possible through another’s eyes. I don’t miss all the unwanted things like being followed home at night or having to show my knife, but I miss how people made me feel angry or alive, made me feel like I was participating in honest human society, where no one is exactly safe because no one is safe exactly. How I miss the time to meditate, to sink into my thoughts and spell them out or sip on another’s.

I wish I could enjoy driving as others do. I think I understand. the speed, the freedom, the independence, the music at whatever volume you want, but I would rather share these things, almost always. I can be alone in a crowded bus, but when I am alone in my car I am just alone.

Efficiency is not progress. Improving human lives is not creating the freeways we built so we could get to the other side of the city faster, the city we made far too big so millions who can’t afford or can’t physically drive are stuck on inefficient and often unreliable public transport… because fixing potholes and lining politician pockets is more important than actual infrastructure. But we made cars that can go faster, and built them cheaper so more people can buy them and spend most of their time with three extra seats empty. And if we just build another arm of highway we can reduce traffic on the 405 around 5:30 so we can get to work faster and have even less time to be alone with our own thoughts, or consider those of a stranger that might sit across from you one day on a train.

Mariah-Rose Marie M is an artist, poet, amateur naturalist, capsaicin enthusiast, and nomad-heart. She is interested in creating a future where all life is valued, variation is celebrated instead of persecuted, and the socially constructed borders between nations, races, classes, sex, and gender are dissolved. In the meantime, she’s enthusiastic about producing art, writing, and music to help us get there. When she is not brooding about the sixth mass extinction, she can be found enjoying music, trying to pet random cats, cooking, gardening, or training in Brazilian Jui-Jitsu.