Someone somewhere in Silicon Valley right now…

Yeah, so like, what we wanted to do was to reinvent the brake. There’s just too much friction invoked with brakes. Users don’t want friction. They want frictionless. They crave frictionless. So we took the friction out of brakes. These are brakes re-invented. Stopping 2.0. 

Because, like, who wants to stop, yeah?

I’m tired of frictionless. I’m all for making some things easier, but a great deal of what we should value in life is hard. It takes time. There is necessary friction. And nobody benefits from that friction being removed.

I learned to play saxophone as a kid. It was a laborious process, hours of practicing scales (although not hours enough. You can always practice more). I got to Grade 8, which is pretty good. Then I stopped playing in my early 20s and whilst I can still play a tune it would take months and months of serious practice to get back to how I used to play. There are no shortcuts. It takes plenty of time.

Adolphe Sax invented his famous instrument as an easier-to-learn clarinet. It’s easier to start playing than the classical instrument (mostly because of the complicated mechanisms that replace mere fingertips), but to master it still takes time and practice. Small amounts of reduction of friction to motivate. But the completely friction-free saxophone is a recording of John Coltrane. Nice, but not the same.

I get endlessly frustrated with adverts for magical services that allow me to “read” four books in a day. Reading a book is a friction-filled experience, and should be. I’m not advocating bad writing, but that the time it takes to read a book is time to cogitate on its meaning, its relevance, its importance, it’s application. That takes time. Just giving me the book’s “core messages” misses the point. That’s just data transfer, not the accumulation of wisdom.

And the obsessive removal of friction leads to contrary results. Over the past 20 years organisations have provided tools to make organising meetings increasingly frictionless. The result? Poor meeting culture seems to haunt most corporations. Signs up on walls of meeting rooms remind people that they are probably about to engage in yet another act of futility.

Fricton is important. An absence of fricton would lead to a chaotic, unlearning world. Easy to use doesn’t always mean more effective.

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