Efficiency revisited

In an old post, I wrote about efficiency. A person with terrible personality persistently told me to use electric coffee “grinder”, which is actually a coffee chopper, instead of my manual coffee grinder because electric one is “efficient”. She mixed up efficient and quick (and dirty), and ignored quality. You might think “is electric coffee grinder dirty?” Yes, it is. The quality of “grinding” is low and it generates nasty noise. On the other hand, using a manual coffee grinder itself is fun. She does not understand people have different preference and different standard, and always tries to force other people to do things in her way.

There is difference between efficient and quick. There is also difference between efficient and effective. According to Longman, effective meas “producing the result that was wanted or intended” [1], and efficient means “a person, machine, or organization that is efficient works well and effectively without wasting time, money, or energy” [1]. If people mix them up, it could result in something awkward.

According to an internet article, Rights groups challenge U.S. on drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, many innocent people in those countries have been killed by the U.S. government using remotely piloted aircraft, or drones. I originally found an article about this in Japanese, and I was very shocked. The Japanese internet article says that the U.S. presidential press secretary said “the U.S. anti-terrorism operations are accurate, legal, and efficient” (translated by me). Is killing terrorists involving innocent people’s death efficient??? I looked for an article that describes this issue in English, and found the CNN article. According to CNN, the U.S. government “said drones would be deployed only when there is an imminent threat, no hope of capturing the targeted terrorist, ‘near certainty’ that civilians wouldn’t be harmed and ‘no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat.'” [2] This still does not justify their killing innocent people (first of all, even killing terrorists is still debatable), but at least they did not mention efficiency in killing people.

Why did this mistranslation happen? I sent a message to the Japanese newspaper publisher a few days ago and still waiting for their reply (and do not expect their reply). For now, let’s put their mistranslation aside and talk about something general. The person with terrible personality mentioned above is obviously extreme, but many other people may not clearly distinguish between efficient and quick, or efficient and effective in some degree. It may happen because they do not clarify “intended result”; in the former case, whether the intended result is whatever coffee or enjoyable coffee; in the latter case, whether the result is killing terrorism anyway or establishing the peace. We may need to take a moment to sit back and think what we really need.

[1] Longman Group Ltd, Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Harlow, England: Pearson Education Limited, 1995.
[2] CNN, “CNN.com,” 22 10 2013. [Online]. Available: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/22/world/asia/us-drone-strikes-reports/index.html?iref=allsearch. [Accessed 23 10 2013].

October 31, 2013Permalink