Samstag, 12. September 2015

The undervalued virtue of being lazy

"Laziness is a sin." 

"Socialism promotes laziness, capitalism promotes ingenuity"

Laziness is a virtue

I argue, that --- on the contrary --- laziness is a virtue. It is the origin of invention, ingenuity, and creativity. It is the main driver of the increase of productivity we've experienced in the last centuries.


You are employed to perform a certain task. A task which is one of many which lead to the production of a product. You do the task once, you do it twice, you do it three times. At the end of th day you did it a thousand of times. The next day as well. And so follow the days. Every day the same thousand tasks, one equal to the next. Of course your hands get faster, you stop thinking about the task. You increase your productivity. After a month you already do one hundred tasks more a day than in the beginning. But there is a limit. At some point you are not able to perform the task faster. But your manager to the rescue. He knows how to augment your productivity. You just have to work longer. Hence, you work longer. But there is a limit, because each day does just have so many hours a day has. Well, the manager is not out of ideas yet. He is interested in maximizing the productivity per dollar spent. Since he cannot increase your workload any more and more training wouldn't make you any faster as well, he has to reduce your salary. This is the main principle of capitalism. And nothing would change that if it were not because of the lazy people.

The disliked lazy people

A lazy person wants to reduce the energy and time spent per unit she produces and by task she performs. The manager doesn't like her, because she's not fully committed to her boring workload and she is not fully committed to increasing the productivity of the company and the shareholder value and --- not to forget --- indirectly the salary of the manager by just being f***ing more productive. The manager pays for her time and for her suffering. If she isn't bored enough or struggling enough or suffering enough, he has the feeling that the money is not spent efficiently on her. And

Lazy people to the rescue

But the lazy person doesn't aim for not doing her job. She just wants to do it the smart way instead of the hard way. Of course this is difficult to grasp for the manager who is the equivalent of the man hitting the drums in a galley forcing the oarsmen to row to his rhythm. The lazy person cannot stand doing the same simple and stupid task a thousand of times per day. Her brain doesn't let her doing it something a thousand of times if she could invent a machine which does the thousand of tasks in her stead. That's where the spore of change starts to grow.

She invents a machine which does her job. The invention takes time. That's many tasks not performed. That's the manager freaking out because her lack of performance. But once built, the machine does ten thousand tasks a day. Productivity is increased ten-fold, not just by ten percent.

She writes a program which controls the machine and many more machines, thus increasing productivity (for this product) one-hundred-fold.

Lazyness is the root

Laziness is the root of creativity. Creativity is (in this context) the process of conceiving how to be able to spend less energy creating something without ceasing to create it, or improving the product by maintaining the same energy expenditure.

Laziness is the root of ingenuity. Ingenuity is the process of transforming the creative idea into a real plan, a true idea. Something from which a machine can be built, a program can be written, an algorithm which can be executed.

Laziness is the root of invention. Transforming the creative idea into a machine/program/workflow using ones ingenuity is---finally---invention.


The root of all progress we see is laziness. If it were not for laziness, there would not have been the industrial revolution, there would not have been the invention of computers, or mobile phones or robots or anything else we relate with progress.

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