Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

The global inefficiency stockpile

Inefficiency really annoys me. I see inefficiency almost everywhere I look. I guess as a coder, I am on the lookout for it, as it makes the product I sell worse, but that has hugely spilled over into my observations of life in general. It seems that inefficiency is accepted, tolerated, in some cases even encouraged by almost everybody around me.

In the UK, members of the house of parliament can only vote if they are inside the walls of the palace of Westminster. To do so, they have to all walk out of a special room, then walk back into it through one of two doors, while people in stockings and buckled shoes count them. I am not kidding. Its 2017 and we are talking about sending people to Mars and strong AI, but our country is run by people who think walking through a door in a queue is the best way to record decisions. We defend this gross inefficiency as ‘tradition’.

If I want to send a payment to another country in another currency, my bank either wants a phone call, a fax, or a physical letter. Why does the fax machine even exist? Its like amazon sending you your orders by canal barge. Its 2017. Lets kill the fax machine stone dead. it should not exist, in any form, under any circumstances.

To charge my car at a non-tesla point I have to use the QR code reader on my phone, enter the last 3 digits of my credit card number, please 3 or 4 confirm buttons, and THEN plug my car in. Did I mention its 2017?

I am not a superhero with fast reactions (although to be fair I did once beat a ‘professional cowboy’ in a speed-draw gunfight) yet I can open a new browser tab to googles homepage and start typing my query before that tab is rendered and the search box has focus. How is this possible? My Blu-ray player takes actual seconds to power-on to the state where it can eject a disk. Actual seconds.

The vast majority of traffic lights in the UK and dumb systems that are not traffic aware, and not able to adjust to changes in traffic flow. Right now tens of thousands of citizens are sat at a traffic light that is red for NO reason. The same inefficiency is pervasive throughout all common goods and utilities. We have ‘peak’ times on trains and buses and roads because we all decide to work at the same time, and everyone drives to work with 3 empty seats in their car, and nothing in the luggage compartment.

Every time an empty van drives anywhere, its an inefficiency. Any time someone waits in a queue, its an inefficiency. Every time you pick up the phone and it has a queue, rather than a ringback system, its an inefficiency.

I reckon on average, a UK citizen is ‘efficient’ in what they are trying to accomplish whilst awake maybe 20% of the time. 80% of our time is literally wasted, thrown away. We queue to buy food, we queue to speak to the bank, we receive telephone calls and post instead of email. We sit in traffic. Even people sat at a desk all day theoretically doing productive work are incredibly inefficient. How many people know to use CTRL+C, CTRL+V, WIN+F, CTRL+HOME, ALT+TAB and the thousands of other productivity tips? How many people who need multiple monitors don’t have them? or don’t know how to use WIN+UP/DOWN/LEFT/RIGHT to organize their work?

How efficient are you?


And expand this out to the whole world. How much time is wasted with millions of people fetching fresh water by hand because we haven’t installed piped water to their homes? How much time is wasted because people have not got the education to grow their crops efficiently, to do their work efficiently? How many people are still using 1970s technology in their day-to-day lives. Imagine a world where we all operated with efficiency all the time. No wonder the vulcans beat us to lightspeed.



11 thoughts on The global inefficiency stockpile

  1. The queuing is inefficient for the person queuing, but it’s very efficient for the person serving.
    The system is organised to make sure workers are busy all the time, and the cost to customers doesn’t count.

    1. indeed, but customers outweigh staff in those situations so collective efficiency is low. This is why ringback or internet shopping is so much better.

  2. There’s ‘being efficient’ and then there’s ‘can’t-see-the-woods-for-the-trees-efficient’, and I think your crossing over into the latter.

    Actually making someone ‘do something’ in order to perform an action means they think about what they’re doing more. Cash is ‘inefficient’ – unless you want to spend less money, for example.

    I suppose it all just depends on which side you see something from.

    After all, profit is inefficiency – you’re making more money than you need to. :P

  3. Hey now, faxes still have their niche in Japan :P (and I suppose its nearby countries), typing complex kanji on a keyboard is a mess (and even worse on mobile) and elderly people at that point in their lives probably won’t bother trying to learn all that if they didn’t already and so writing down kanji on paper is easier. But yeah, that’s a specific case, and faxes not being only an alternative to an electronic form is stupid.

    For the record, I lost track of how many times people yelled at me because I didn’t do everything in the very specific order they had guessed I’d do the things. Trying to shave off time by getting ready two things at once is bad, it seems.

    PS: I do believe a lot of people know about the clipboard shotcuts at least (ends up being easier to teach people to press Ctrl+C than try to remember which specific command combination was used in a given program, since it isn’t always Edit ? Copy)

    1. Also your comment form doesn’t like Unicode (that ? was meant to be an arrow).

  4. There’s one other interesting type of inefficiency that I (and definitely many other geeks) don’t weight highly enough; time spent trying to eliminate inefficiency that could be spent just doing the inefficient thing :)

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