Laurence Gonzales on Efficiency
Laurence Gonzales won the 2001 and 2002 National Magazine Awards from the American Society of Magazine Editors for National Geographic Adventure Magazine. Since 1970, his essays have appeared in such periodicals as Harper's, Rolling Stone, Men's Journal, National Geographic Adventure, Smithsonian Air and Space, Chicago Magazine, San Francisco Magazine, and many others.
He has published a dozen books, including two award–winning collections of essays, three novels, and the book–length essay, One Zero Charlie published by Simon & Schuster. His latest book, Everyday Survival, published by W.W. Norton & Company, is available at book sellers now. His previous book, Deep Survival, is now out in paperback.
To get around these systems takes practice. It’s not something you can do automatically or instantly change your behavior. These are deeply embedded systems and there’s a reason that they are there. They’re there because they make us more efficient. They made us more efficient, however, in an environment that no longer exists, in the wilderness that we came from whether it was jungle or savanna. We had to be quick and efficient so that some of us would survive to reproduce. In a modern environment, they continue to make us efficient in many ways, but that efficiency comes at the cost of our attention, our close attention. And so, one of the things I argue in the book is that efficiency is not necessarily always a good thing. We happen to live in a culture that prizes efficiency. We always want to be more efficient. But I say that’s not really the best strategy in many cases. To take that kind of efficiency and apply it to driving a car is probably not really a good idea. You know, people want to whiz from place to place at high speeds with, you know, multitasking the whole time and that’s definitely a bad idea. So by fighting against that efficiency, by being a little less efficient on purpose, we begin to slower ourselves down and think, “Now, what am I really doing here?” you know. And we can answer that question lots of times by simple answers like, “I’m going to the grocery store. Is this an emergency? You know, do I really need to cross this intersection that quickly or can I wait ‘till there’s really space for me?” Once we begin questioning what we’re doing in these many situations as possible, we really do begin modifying our behavior. And this can permeate our lives. It’s arguable that, you know, this could also paralyze us but that, you know, I’m not arguing for taking it to an extreme, I’m arguing for doing what I call a risk reward loop. Whenever you’re undertaking anything, you’re taking a risk, the risk may be very small, they may be very large depending on what you’re doing, but to ask yourself, what am I doing, what’s the goal, and what’s it worth to me? What am I willing to pay for this next thing I’m going to do? Like, you know, the kid throws the ball up on the roof. I get out the ladder and I think, “Hmm, you know, am I willing to break my neck for that ball or should I just let it go?” These are the types of things we usually don’t think about. We just plunge ahead because we live in a culture that teaches us to plunge ahead.
Being more inefficient on purpose can bring the irrelevancy of our efficient behavior to light Laurence Gonzales notes.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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