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Publisher's Summary

A bold challenge to our obsession with efficiency - and a new understanding of how to benefit from the powerful potential of serendipity.

Algorithms, multitasking, the sharing economy, life hacks: our culture can't get enough of efficiency. One of the great promises of the Internet and big data revolutions is the idea that we can improve the processes and routines of our work and personal lives to get more done in less time than we ever have before. There is no doubt that we're performing at higher levels and moving at unprecedented speed, but what if we're headed in the wrong direction?

Melding the long-term history of technology with the latest headlines and findings of computer science and social science, The Efficiency Paradox questions our ingrained assumptions about efficiency, persuasively showing how relying on the algorithms of digital platforms can in fact lead to wasted efforts, missed opportunities, and above all an inability to break out of established patterns. Edward Tenner offers a smarter way of thinking about efficiency, revealing what we and our institutions, when equipped with an astute combination of artificial intelligence and trained intuition, can learn from the random and unexpected.

©2018 Edward Tenner (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"The idea of a world that is 'friction free' is the technologist’s dream. In The Efficiency Paradox, Edward Tenner explores what that vision casts aside: from human judgment and seeing the world in shades of gray, to the blessings of serendipity and all of the ethical calls that algorithms can’t provide. Tenner holds hope for technology finding a middle way that will bring friction back into the fold, and the benefits will be more than economic - they will be cultural, scientific, political, and social. This is the rare book that doesn’t want to divide optimists and pessimists." (Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT and author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age and Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other)

"This masterly study challenges naïve assumptions that characterize our twenty-first-century world of electronic hyperefficiency. Computers, big data, and artificial intelligence are too often allowed to supersede human judgment and indeed undermine our very self-confidence as human beings. Yet no electronic machine can match our capacity for the untidy human factors needed to balance the sanitized precision and tunnel vision of our digital devices: holistic thinking, serendipity, and intuition. Tenner urges us to forgive ourselves for being human." (Arthur Molella, Director Emeritus, Smithsonian Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation)

"A marvel of unexpected wisdom and startling examples.... A compelling guide through the thicket of choices as we gather knowledge to ease the path to the future. Tenner, an expert in revealing unintended consequences of technological innovation and rushed change, digs deeply in this remarkable account of how efficiencies, big data, and techniques of surveillance produce new awareness while simultaneously leading us astray. He challenges us to recognize that both small data and large populations contribute to our ability to live our lives and do our jobs. The Efficiency Paradox is essential for anyone who wishes to open the gauzy curtains of conventional beliefs." (Gary Alan Fine, James Johnson Professor of Sociology at Northwestern and author of Tiny Publics: A Theory of Group Action and Culture)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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An extremely useful book, told slightly monotonically

This book has been eye-opening to ways my life (and society’s life) has been changig without us even noticing. I will be forever more aware of the lack of serendipidy in our day-to-day tasks as they get more efficient while also cut our windows for accidental creativity.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book to intellectuals, as well as people who are looking to improve their own lives without being preached at by a life coach or self-provlaimed know-it-all.

I SOMEWHAT RECOMMEND this book to corporate morning commuters who would like to think about what their roles are in the grabd scheme of things. I say somewhat, because it’s a little hard to pay attention to this book when tired. It’s packed with information and analysis, and it is thus not the easiest of listens.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND this book for those looking for a good story. As I said previously, this is a highly informational book (which I still think everyone should listen to), but don’t expect to feel overly entertained.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Good Listen

It was more about efficiency than big data, but the author did cover a lot of ground, from smart cars to innovation, and he made a lot of points (which I call Potentially Useful Perspectives), while going on interesting side excursions, which were inefficient, but perhaps a good demonstration of the value of inefficiency (argued in the book).