The industrial revolution started off with a pretty easy to grasp concept: anything that can be done by machines should be done by machines. If you think of the unsatisfying (and rather creepy) attempts of artificial intelligence, your first reaction will be to take a step back. Trust your instinct. Those things are not market-ready.
Fortunately, some really smart designers found ways of complementing humans with machines, instead of trying to replace them.
The homo sapiens sapiens of 2019, living in today’s environment, can beat any other kind of humanoid throughout the history of mankind. At everything. No questions asked. Compare the smartest person at any time with the smartest person now. Or the fastest. Or the best fighter. Life expectancy has also gone through the roof. We’re evolving.
The mobile phone has become an appendix to our physical body. Our desktop is our home away from home (or inside our home). A car is a like five pairs of legs. The Internet is a library, a zoo, a doctor and a shopping center. It’s a bookstore, an agora, a city center, a travel agent, a museum, a playground, a world map and a teleporter. Who needs teleportation anyway, when you’ve got Skype? What I’m saying is that we’ve got the tools. We’re able to achieve a lot more today than our parents and grandparents did in their time.
We’ve also increased in numbers. That means more people for roughly the same amount of jobs. The same land, divided into more pieces, smaller pieces. The same amount of money, divided to more and more people. Resources are becoming limited and social gaps have increased to an all-time high. You can’t get ahead of the crowd by following it.
You need shortcuts. Re-inventing the wheel just won’t cut it in today’s world. You need to adapt the value you bring to the world we live in. Most ideas that will pop up in that remarkable brain of yours have already been done. Maybe even gone obsolete. Some are not. But you shouldn’t disqualify an idea just because somebody else has done it before you did. It might be unoriginal to others, but a stroke of genius for you. I mean, it’s getting harder and harder to do something fundamentally new and original. And that’s really okay! It’s how evolution is supposed to work.
Mankind has reached this stage by taking the work of others and pushing it forward into their own era. Bicycles have been around for more than two hundred years, but never have they been so advanced, robust, safe and efficient as they are now.
So what’s a shortcut? What’s the purpose of one? It’s one part knowledge and one part courage. It’s when you know where you need to go, you know the road, you know the surroundings and you decide to go your own, better way. It should help you reach your goal faster. And if you’re fine with skipping the free-ice-cream-toll-free-booth on the regular road, fine by me. You’ve got yourself a shortcut. And yes, you always lose a bit of something when you win. In the end, it all comes down to that very personal and somewhat uncomfortable question: was it worth it?
But pay attention, not all shortcuts are relevant, and no shortcut is generally valid, by nature. Taking shortcuts is something we all like to think of ourselves of doing properly. But are we? There are those very sensitive aspects of our lives that we’re not actually helping anyone with, by taking “shortcuts”, let alone ourselves. Those are the aspects that ask for long-cuts. And no, I didn’t just make that up.
Longcuts are defined by our attitude of overdoing something. Because sometimes we kind of need to. Because life. No matter how much time you saved at work today by sending out that 15-minute-old crystal-clear email instead of going to that two-hour meeting at the end of the day, there’s no way of driving faster from work if the highway is full. Your kid’s gonna be disgruntled. And then you have to finish reading him the story, even if it’s way past his bedtime.
Longcuts usually take place because it kind of feels socially expected of you to do something good after you’ve done something not-so-good. And that’s good. Even if society doesn’t actually care, the fact that you care about society is an indicator of well-being. See Maslow’s Pyramid? You’re on top. So yeah, long-cuts are your way of getting even with the universe. They’re your manifestation of karma.
Just remember this: always take new roads (literally), always look for new ways. They will give you a better understanding of everything you’re doing.
What shortcuts do you use in your everyday life?
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