What Is The Value Of Inefficiency?

Everyone wants to be productive. Our jobs demand it, our busy lives require it, and our brains crave constant stimulation. But is there a value to wasting time? Of inefficiency?

Generally, different people use different methods to maximize their time spent on things. To-do lists. Productivity software. Comprehensive calendars.

If we feel overworked, that might stress us out, so our solution is to try and maximize our daily routine. Perhaps you can shave a few minutes off of making breakfast. Showering at the gym might save some time. Listening to audio books or podcasts during your commute allows you to make better use of wasted time.

However, there is some value to unstructured time. Having a tightly-packed schedule where every minute is accounted for is subject to disruption. An unexpected event can throw an entire day into chaos.

Beyond that, there is some indication that proper functioning of the brain requires some down time. After all, what is our need for sleep if it is not inefficient? For roughly eight hours each night we lie still in the dark, as our brains, through dreams, process events from the day or worries we might have. That’s not very good use of time!

Our higher-level, strategic thinking is not something that can be done while running errands or performing routine tasks. For that, you need to devote time to thinking. And sitting and thinking doesn’t appear, from the outside, to be very productive.

In addition, people need to have some time that is spent just relaxing. Just as a muscle can only work for so long before it needs to rest, our brains need breaks occasionally to function properly.

What is the proper balance between thinking and doing? Between productivity and relaxation? What is the value of inefficiency?

Related questions: Why do people like games? How important is the repetition in our lives? How do you set priorities? Are we too busy?

How Are We Doing?

Intellectual Roundtable has been in operation for nearly a year and a half. In that time, we have posted nearly a hundred questions, on topics that range from introspective to worldly, from serious to silly. You can see a full list of all the questions ever posted at our Past Questions page.

During this time, we have had ups and downs. Some questions have received more interest than others. Some weeks and months have seen more activity, others less. The question we often ask ourselves is: why?

As the end of the summer approaches, as people are finishing up their vacations and preparing to go back to school or back to work, we thought we would ask for some feedback.

How are we doing?

Do some questions resonate with you? Do they make you think? When you are in a social situation, do you ever ask some of the questions of other people? Feel free to share any stories of conversations you may have had at a party or other gathering.

If you do not respond to questions, why not? What are the obstacles to sharing your opinion? Posting is completely anonymous, should you wish.

Should there be more frequent questions? Less frequent?

One of the goals that Michael and I have for the blog is to encourage interaction between commenters. Have you ever responded to someone else’s comment? Would you do that?

If you find you like a particular question, have you ever shared it on social media? What do you think would get you to share one with your friends? Sharing on social media is the way that a blog like this attracts new readers and grows an audience.

What do you think about the look of the website, or about the navigation in place? What about the appearance of questions on Facebook?

Finally, for those who aren’t interested in providing feedback, there is an alternate interpretation of the question. As a species, how are we doing? Is there hope in our growing understanding of the world, or does our shortsightedness doom us?

Related questions: How can you help? How have we changed?

How Do You Think Others See You?

When I turned 30, I asked my friends to provide a one word description of my best feature or my most prominent characteristic. I was curious about what they appreciated about my personality and the way I acted. While I considered myself fairly self-aware, I wanted to know if my friends saw me the same way I saw myself.

Before I started to get responses, I expected that the answers would fall into two or three broad categories. In my own mind, I was smart, I was funny, and I was friendly.

Once the answers started to roll in, however, I was surprised. In all, I asked maybe 30 people, and I got 30 different answers. While I didn’t expect that every response would be different, the thing that really astonished me was the wide variety of answers. Loyalty, eyes, conversation, creativity, honesty, goofiness. They did not easily fit into the categories I envisioned.

Different people value different things. It took me 30 years to learn this lesson, but it was a major step in expanding my empathy skills. Now I regularly try to view how other people might see the world, including how I fit into it.

I also learned something else from this exercise: every relationship I have is unique. While I might be a constant to my relationships, each person I interact with brings their own personality, their own experiences, their own vantage point to our mutual association.

Which brings me to this week’s question: How do you think others see you? How would you like them to see you? What can you do to change how others see you? Are you externally self-aware?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? What do we have in common? What makes you you? How do you judge yourself?

Are Science And Religion Compatible?

In today’s society, science and religion are often framed as being at odds with each other. It is often assumed that religion, which relies on faith in a higher power, and science, which advances through proven, verifiable steps, are fundamentally different and cannot be reconciled.

And yet, some of the most acclaimed and successful scientists have been deeply religious people. For example, Isaac Newton, who made great strides in mechanics, mathematics, and optics, also wrote religious tracts interpreting Bible passages.

On the other hand, religion has sometimes stood in the way of scientific progress. Perhaps the most famous instance involves Galileo, who was placed under house arrest by the Pope for declaring that the earth travels around the sun and not the reverse.

Returning to today, scientists sometimes feel under attack from some political or religious groups. 2017’s March for Science, centered in Washington, D.C. but with protests around the U.S. and the world, was in response to these attacks. Issues like climate change are controversial and generate polarized views.

It can’t be argued that science has been beneficial to our society. Many of the advances that are available in our modern world, from improved medical procedures to smart phones and the Internet, came about because of applications of science. Religious and non-religious people alike share in the benefits of those advances.

Religion, also, has benefits to society. Churches provide a place and a reason to come together to foster a sense of community and establish shared values. Many religious organizations contribute to or run charities, to help those in need.

Efforts have been made to reconcile the two systems of beliefs. Some people suggest that science and religion operate on different planes, with science a useful tool in understanding the physical world, and religion dealing with the spiritual side of life. It may be that the two are not just compatible, but in fact are dependent on each other. The excesses of each could be curbed by the other.

So which is it? Are science and religion inherently in conflict with each other, or can a way be found for the two to exist side-by-side? Are science and religion compatible?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? When is doubt helpful? How can we encourage debate? What makes a community?