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硅谷“效率狂人”和圣诞节

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2017年12月25日

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Christmas means different things to different people. For some, it constitutes a bona fide religious experience. For others, it represents consumer indulgence. For others still, it evokes nostalgia and ritualised tradition. But whatever your views on Christmas, one thing runs true across the board. This is the time of year inefficiency is celebrated for its own sake.

圣诞节对不同的人有不同的涵义。在一些人看来,圣诞是一种至真的宗教体验。对另一些人而言,圣诞代表着放纵消费?;褂幸恍┤司醯?,圣诞可以唤起怀旧之情和仪式化的传统。但无论你怎样看待圣诞节,有一点始终不变——这是一年中效率低下受到庆祝的时候。

In an era when algorithmic hyper-efficiency is being prioritised, this is an experience worth making time for — not least because of the economic paradox it brings about.

在一个注重算法超高效率的时代,这是一个值得花时间研究的现象——尤其是鉴于它带来的经济上的悖论。

Consider just some of the inefficiencies deemed acceptable at this time of year that might otherwise be targeted by technologists and entrepreneurs for elimination, automation or acceleration. Arts and crafts; handmade decorations; organically-sourced produce from Christmas markets and stalls; Christmas lights; the wrapping of almost everything in decorative paper; indoor trees; festivities and merrymaking on employer-time; Christmas shows; and, most crucially of all, unnecessary gift-giving all around.

只需想一想每年只在这个时候被视为可以接受的一些效率低下的事物(在其他时候,它们可能成为技术专家和企业家淘汰、自动化或加快的目标)。艺术和手工艺品;手工制作的装饰;从圣诞市场和货摊买来的有机食品;圣诞灯饰;包装几乎所有礼品的装饰纸;室内圣诞树;上班时间的欢庆和娱乐;圣诞表演;以及(这一点最关键)不必要地到处赠送礼物。

Then, on the behavioural front, there’s the over-consumption of almost everything, as well as the days-long preparation of just one meal. If we operated on this basis every day, it is fair to assume our finely tuned “fast-paced” economy could probably not keep up without cost.

然后,在行为方面,几乎一切都被过度消费,还有用好几天时间只为一餐饭做准备。如果我们每天都照此运转,那么可以公平地假设,我们精心调整的“快节奏”经济不太可能在不付出代价的情况下维持下去。

And yet, despite all the wastage and inefficiency, the season is still considered an essential consumer blowout, with the capacity to make or break a small independent company or even the more established large corporation. So while the Christmas phenomenon may be deemed inefficient to a technologist’s mind, the livelihoods (and positive experiences) it supports more widely suggest it is not all for nothing. Does this imply that it does not always pay to do things more efficiently or without the human touch, or that the quest for hyper efficiency is not necessarily grounded in human interest? Perhaps.

然而,尽管浪费和低效率现象严重,但圣诞季仍被视为不可或缺的消费井喷时期,有能力成就或击垮一家小型的独立公司,甚至是更老牌的大公司。因此,虽然这一圣诞现象可能在技术专家看来效率低下,但它在更大范围支撑起的生计(和积极体验)似乎表明,它并非一无是处。这是否意味着,以更高效率的方式做事,或者是在没有人类参与的情况下做事,并不总是能获得回报,或者说对超高效率的追求并不一定以人为本?也许吧。

In a forthcoming book, The Efficiency Paradox, Edward Tenner, of the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, explores the inconsistencies further. His work reveals that the paradox extends beyond the holiday period: at all times, efficiency is not necessarily what it seems. Indeed, according to Mr Tenner, the single-minded drive for a “friction-free” world can even have the side-effect of reducing efficiency in some cases. Think, for example, of the unintended consequences of excessive hygiene in terms of inflated resistance side-effects.

在即将出版的《效率悖论》(The Efficiency Paradox)一书中,史密森尼(Smithsonian)的莱梅尔逊发明和创新研究中心(Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation)的爱德华•特纳(Edward Tenner)进一步研究了这些不一致性。他的研究显示,这种悖论不仅仅出现在节假日期间:效率未必总是像表面上显示的那样。实际上,特纳认为,一根筋地致力于打造一个“无摩擦”世界,在某些情况下甚至会产生降低效率的副作用。例如,想想过分清洁在有害微生物耐药性提升方面带来的意想不到的后果。

And while much celebrated platform-efficiency can bring remarkable benefits, the unintended consequences include price inflation of still crucial, but not yet automated, services, monopolisation, loss of privacy and human redundancy. Wherever you look, there is an equal and commensurate trade-off.

虽然广受赞誉的平台效率可以带来可观的好处,但出人意料的后果包括仍至关重要但尚未自动化的服务的价格上涨、垄断、隐私泄露以及人类变得多余。无论你把目光投向哪里,都能看到同等和相称的得失相抵。

Of course, the greatest irony comes in how newly-minted technology billionaires like to spend their own money once they have made it. Take the products and services made available at the annual Web Summit gathering in Lisbon in November, a celebration of platform technology. In the VIP-only area the titans of the internet indulged in artisanal coffees and grazed hand-cured meats and traditionally-baked patisseries even as they evangelised about the merits of dehumanised mass-market solutions. Nor does their efficiency obsession square with the accompanying belief that failure should always be celebrated. Failure is a sunk cost and anything but efficient.

当然,最大的讽刺来自新晋的科技亿万富豪们在发家之后如何花钱??纯?1月里斯本举行的为平台技术喝彩的年度网络峰会(Web Summit)上提供的产品和服务。在VIP专区,互联网巨头们享受着手工咖啡、手工制作的腌肉和传统方法烘焙的糕点,但这不妨碍他们宣扬非人化的大众市场解决方案的优点。他们对效率的痴迷与其伴随的信念——失败值得庆祝——也存在矛盾。失败是一项沉没的成本,绝对谈不上高效率。

But in their private investments the absurdities really come to light. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Michael Baum, who made his fortune selling big data software, spent a fair wedge of that sum acquiring the Burgundy winery Château de Pommard, which prides itself on its traditional winemaking techniques.

但真正暴露这类荒唐的是他们的个人投资??柯舸笫萑砑⒓业墓韫绕笠导衣蹩硕?bull;鲍姆(Michael Baum),花了很大一部分财富买下了以传统酿酒技艺为骄傲的勃艮第(Burgundy)玻玛酒庄(Château de Pommard)。

The first love of Elon Musk, the electric car enthusiast and futurist, was always the bespoke high-performance sports vehicle. His vision centres on bringing highly individualised “green” transport solutions to the masses at an affordable rate. But even his automated, energy-efficient approach to car manufacturing is struggling to compensate for the unexpected inefficiencies in hand.

超级电动汽车迷和未来主义者埃隆•马斯克(Elon Musk,见文首照片)的最爱一直是定制的高性能跑车。而他的愿景是以合理的价格给大众带来高度个性化的“绿色”出行解决方案。但即使是他的自动化的、节能的汽车制造理念,也与他的个人爱好中的效率低下不协调。

None of which is to say humans should not strive to be more efficient where they can, especially on energy consumption. But if the joy, pleasure and job security afforded by Christmas inefficiency tells us anything, it is that efficiency should not be regarded as an end in itself. Since inefficiency has a way of popping up no matter what we do, it is human experience that should be prioritised before all else.

这一切都不意味着人类不应该努力提高效率,尤其是在能源消耗上。但如果圣诞期间的低效率带来的喜悦、乐趣及职业安全感向我们传达了什么信息的话,那就是效率本身不应该被视为目的。因为无论我们怎么做,效率低下都会冒出来,所以应当优先考虑的是人类的体验。

[email protected] 译者/何黎
 


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