History teaches that efficiency can be dangerous – even lethal.
Efficiency achieves “more for less.” It involves maximizing what you glean from a product, resource, action or endeavor. Today, advancing technologies are often the levers of efficiency, but history bears warnings about efficiency’s risks.
Take the example of the potato. In 19th-century Ireland, this “miracle” vegetable nourished a thriving population. But Ireland’s efficient Lumper potato contained a hidden danger: The crop was genetically homogeneous. So when a blight from South America struck one plant, it quickly spread and destroyed the entire crop, wiping out a vital food source. A famine gripped the land. One million people starved to death, while two million more were forced to emigrate.
In the modern world, efficient innovations often prove counterproductive or deceptive – or can result in missed opportunities.
Efficiency tools can, in fact, make life less efficient. Take, for example,