1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

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1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby rhomboidal » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:04 am UTC

Image

Title Text: Don't forget the time you spend finding the chart to look up what you save. And the time spent reading this reminder about the time spent. And the time trying to figure out if either of those actually make sense. Remember, every second counts toward your life total, including these right now.

That's it -- I'm going to have to stop bathing. And eating. And breathing.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby sbkp » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:10 am UTC

This is a chart I've always wanted to make. But not knowing the result, I didn't know if it would be worth it.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby teelo » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:16 am UTC

404: funny not found

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby MetaSteel » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:17 am UTC

so, if I spend 4 weeks shaving 5 seconds off my 100 meter dash, which I competed weekly in, have I wasted my time?

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby patzer » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:18 am UTC

So, why didn't he fill in the "save 6hours per day" box and the "save 1day per week" box?
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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby Djehutynakht » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:20 am UTC

Just purely given the title, I must wonder if this has anything to do with the Time thread and the slowly fading comic.


So... now what we need is someone to create a version of this chart giving us common and useful examples for each one of these boxes so we can see if doing any of this is applicable and efficient for us.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby addams » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:21 am UTC

What? I can't read the chart.
It seems meaningless.

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I think it might be less than profound.
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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby orangustang » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:53 am UTC

I need a third axis for how long you will continue to do the task. Randall, please start making all charts like this in 3-D.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby Milnoc » Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:34 am UTC

Simply brilliant. I should give this to every senior manager that tries to make me work on a project that I know won't save anyone any significant amount of time. :)

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby Mikeski » Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:13 am UTC

patzer wrote:So, why didn't he fill in the "save 6hours per day" box and the "save 1day per week" box?

To make people discuss it on the forum, thus wasting time they could be using by figuring out how to save time. Insidious.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby da Doctah » Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:23 am UTC

Last two time-wasting things I made a conscious effort to find a quicker way to do them:

Getting dressed for work. This was long enough ago that I expected the tying of the necktie would be the low-hanging fruit, but it turned out that I was spending a lot more time doing up the buttons on the front of my shirt. Solution: button the dress shirts as I put them still damp from the washing machine onto hangers. Leave the collar button and the one below it open so I can still get my head through it. Amount of time saved, probably a minute or two, five times a week.

After that, realizing that it didn't matter whether I wore my t-shirts right-side out or not; they're only there as a sweat barrier between me and the dress shirt, and nobody but me sees them. Ignore the fact that they come out of the dryer inside-out roughly half the time, which saves looking for the best corner to "fix" them. Amount of time saved, about half the previous task.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby Angelastic » Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:37 am UTC

"I have a well-deserved reputation for being something of a gadget freak, and am rarely happier than when spending an entire day programming my computer to perform automatically a task that it would otherwise take me a good ten seconds to do by hand. Ten seconds, I tell myself, is ten seconds. Time is valuable and ten seconds' worth of it is well worth the investment of a day's happy activity working out a way of saving it." — Douglas Adams in 'Last Chance to See…'
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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby mtavs » Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:45 am UTC

Another factor to consider is the certainty of achieving the optimal efficiency gain, and at what point you should give up the endeavor if the current trajectory of progress made toward that time gain falls too low. In other words, we need another graph or model of some sort for if you incorrectly predict the time it will take you to optimize.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby mhagger » Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:18 am UTC

Great table, but I have to disagree with the numbers:

It seems like the calculation assumes 24-hour days and 365-day years, so the conversion from time saved t and frequency of task f to time worth spending T is

T = t * f * 5 years

with the straight unit conversion

1 year = 365 days
1 week = 7 days
1 day = 24 hours

etc. However, most people don't work 24 hours/day, either when they are doing the repetitive task or when they are working to streamline it. So the conversions depend on what you consider a full day. If you consider your waking time, then the conversions should be more like

1 year = 365 days
1 week = 7 days
1 day = 16 hours

If you want to use this chart for work, then the conversions should be more like

1 year = 250 days
1 week = 5 days
1 day = 8 hours

in which case the chart looks quite different. For example, for a 1-hour task done weekly, one should invest 16 days (if considering waking hours) or 1 month (if considering working hours), rather than the 10 days indicated by the chart.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby squonk » Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:38 am UTC

And don't forget about all of the time spent reading Time. And all of the derivatives of Time.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby chairman » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:29 am UTC

patzer wrote:So, why didn't he fill in the "save 6hours per day" box and the "save 1day per week" box?

Mikeski wrote:To make people discuss it on the forum, thus wasting time they could be using by figuring out how to save time. Insidious.



The inconsistency was annoying me. Also, his rounding was a bit sloppy.

Code: Select all

            50/Day      5/Day       Daily       Weekly      Monthly     Yearly
1 second    1.1 Days    2.5 Hours   30.4 Mins   4.3 Mins    1. Min      5. Secs
5 seconds   5.3 Days    12.7 Hours  2.5 Hours   21.7 Mins   5. Mins     25. Secs
30 seconds  4.4 Weeks   3.2 Days    15.2 Hours  2.2 Hours   30. Mins    2.5 Mins
1 minute    8.7 Weeks   6.3 Days    1.3 Days    4.3 Hours   1. Hour     5. Mins
5 minutes   8.9 Months  4.4 Weeks   6.3 Days    21.7 Hours  5. Hours    25. Mins
30 minutes              5.7 Months  5.3 Weeks   5.4 Days    1.2 Days    2.5 Hours
1 hour                  10.3 Months 2.4 Months  10.8 Days   2.5 Days    5. Hours
6 hours                             12. Months  2.1 Months  2.1 Weeks   1.2 Days
1 day                               30. Months  7.5 Months  8.3 Weeks   5. Days


edit: plurals

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby masterfreek64 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:32 am UTC

However, a factor worth considering is that automating something might be more intellectually stimulating/motivating than performing a repetitive task. The additional motivation might either make you do the task better (so you save time on fixing mistakes later) or maybe just make you happier overall (so you are more productive doing other things, less likely to burn out, etc).

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby speising » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:47 am UTC

masterfreek64 wrote:However, a factor worth considering is that automating something might be more intellectually stimulating/motivating than performing a repetitive task. The additional motivation might either make you do the task better (so you save time on fixing mistakes later) or maybe just make you happier overall (so you are more productive doing other things, less likely to burn out, etc).


That's why i'll happily spend two hours to automate a half hour, one off boring task.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby Vrishna » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:13 am UTC

I really can't think of any routine task that I do 5 times per day and which has the potential of being shortened by one hour. Can anyone?
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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby orthogon » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:30 am UTC

masterfreek64 wrote:However, a factor worth considering is that automating something might be more intellectually stimulating/motivating than performing a repetitive task. The additional motivation might either make you do the task better (so you save time on fixing mistakes later) or maybe just make you happier overall (so you are more productive doing other things, less likely to burn out, etc).


I totally agree about automation, and chairman's version of the table is probably a good example of that:

chairman wrote:The inconsistency was annoying me. Also, his rounding was a bit sloppy.


Another good reason for automation is that you can twerk the parameters and re-run if you don't like the result: in this case perhaps add or remove decimal places, use fortnights instead of weeks, etc.

I thought the payoffs were quite good, actually. I'm pleased to see that it's worth two hours' work to shave off 5 seconds a day. I'll be looking for some opportunities next weekend!
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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby higgs-boson » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:36 am UTC

Vrishna wrote:I really can't think of any routine task that I do 5 times per day and which has the potential of being shortened by one hour. Can anyone?


Working 10 hours a day it would imply that this routine task could may been "performed" in 2 hours (you would not do anything else then, which hardens a "I don't have time to optimize, because I am too busy doing sub-optimal tasks"-dilemma).

50% less time needed for a routine task does not feel entirely impossible.
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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby mojacardave » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:04 am UTC

masterfreek64 wrote:However, a factor worth considering is that automating something might be more intellectually stimulating/motivating than performing a repetitive task. The additional motivation might either make you do the task better (so you save time on fixing mistakes later) or maybe just make you happier overall (so you are more productive doing other things, less likely to burn out, etc).


The other thing to consider is that once you HAVE automated the task, you've more or less eliminated human error from the task itself. The automated version might be prone to 'machine-type' errors (things like misinterpreting a 'special case' where somebody has written a comment on a submission form or something) but aside from entering parameters wrong, the human element is fixed.

Of course, eliminating human error from the automation part isn't as straightforward. Lots of checks and reviews needed!

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby solacelost » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:20 am UTC

I printed this comic. I am going to post it above my desk to determine if it's really worth building the forms and database to automate things that save me trivial amounts of time. Going to have to adjust some of the numbers to include the time I spend showing other people how cool my automation is, when complete.

I see myself having the (already common) problem of determining how long it will REALLY take to automate any given task, including the often months-long twerking phase that inevitably follows the initial implementation.
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Chil Factor

Postby Daniel Wessel » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:49 am UTC

Brilliant graphic, but I'm missing the "chil factor" -- similar to the wind chil factor -- an overlay of the psychological effects of saving yourself doing these tasks. Depending on how much you dislike the task in the first place this should skew the values quite a bit ...

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby eviloatmeal » Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:04 am UTC

MetaSteel wrote:so, if I spend 4 weeks shaving 5 seconds off my 100 meter dash, which I competed weekly in, have I wasted my time?
Exactly. You could have saved part of those four weeks by just dashing four seconds slower for the rest of your life.
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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby Arky » Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:12 am UTC

Djehutynakht wrote:Just purely given the title, I must wonder if this has anything to do with the Time thread and the slowly fading comic.


If that title is not an intentional troll it is one of the greatest unintentional trolls I've ever seen....
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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby Dxlightning » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:41 pm UTC

It's a really cool chart but I notice it treats an hour in the future as though it's as valuable as an hour in the present. The economist in me cringes at that because, as everyone has probably experienced through procrastination, we never value our future time as much as we value our present time (like money). There is always some form of discount, generally at a financial interest rate - the amount of time expended should be the net present value of time saved.

So for something that saves me 1 day per year for 5 years, I would be willing to spend:

1 + 1/(1+r) + 1/(1+r)^2 + 1/(1+r)^3 + 1/(1+r)^4

Where R is my respective discount for how much I value time less in the future. If that is say 3%, I would be willing to spend 4.717 days (4 days, 5 hours, 44 minutes, 9.6 seconds in 8-hour workday terms) to increase efficiency by one day per year.

If we're talking 100% efficiency, 5 days is correct because realistically it's a human constraint that we impose ourselves to value future time less than present time. But from a present value perspective, the discount should be there to maximize utility.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby blowfishhootie » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:42 pm UTC

Vrishna wrote:I really can't think of any routine task that I do 5 times per day and which has the potential of being shortened by one hour. Can anyone?


My dad had some kind of knee surgery recently where the aftercare involved doing some 45-minute stretch and exercise bit four times per day. Not quite the same length or frequency, but the closest example I could think of. Also, he had to do this for only like a month, so the amount of time it would take to build a machine capable of automating the knee exercises allowing him to double-task might not have been worth it.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby cellocgw » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:43 pm UTC

patzer wrote:So, why didn't he fill in the "save 6hours per day" box and the "save 1day per week" box?


That would require negative time, or maybe newpix.
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Re: Chil Factor

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:04 pm UTC

Daniel Wessel wrote:Brilliant graphic, but I'm missing the "chil factor" -- similar to the wind chil factor -- an overlay of the psychological effects of saving yourself doing these tasks. Depending on how much you dislike the task in the first place this should skew the values quite a bit ...

Chill. Two Ls.
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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby nickjbor » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:18 pm UTC

I don't understand how this chat works at all.

Image

so if I make a task I do 50 times a day more efficient, I save 1 day in a second? no. so I save 1 second a day? wait no that don't make sense either. huh?
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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby speising » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:25 pm UTC

the key is the "across 5 years" from the caption.
if you save 1 second, 50 times a day, you'll gain 1 day in 5 years.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby twcarlson » Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:26 pm UTC

This immediately reminded me of xkcd.com/974/

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby Adam H » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:07 pm UTC

Yeah, that "across 5 years" is a pretty weird assumption that will change the results if twerked. It would be better if it was "across X years" and every result was expressed in terms of X.
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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby NiteClerk » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:28 pm UTC

As Bill Gates said, "I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it." At my job we have a lot of reports we send. They take a long time to format. Most of my cow-orkers have never heard of Macros, or are afraid of them. I've taken over a lot of the reports, but I don't share how fast and easy it is to create a Macro to do my work for me. I also have my own copy of our report writer, so I have it doing a lot of the calculations that used to be done and entered by hand. As a result, I have a lot of time to surf the web.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby xspeedballx » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:33 pm UTC

speising wrote:the key is the "across 5 years" from the caption.
if you save 1 second, 50 times a day, you'll gain 1 day in 5 years.


Which is also why 6 hours per day is grayed. I suspect you can spend longer than 5 years.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby the_beast » Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:45 pm UTC

Dxlightning wrote:It's a really cool chart but I notice it treats an hour in the future as though it's as valuable as an hour in the present. The economist in me cringes at that because, as everyone has probably experienced through procrastination, we never value our future time as much as we value our present time (like money). There is always some form of discount, generally at a financial interest rate - the amount of time expended should be the net present value of time saved.

So for something that saves me 1 day per year for 5 years, I would be willing to spend:

1 + 1/(1+r) + 1/(1+r)^2 + 1/(1+r)^3 + 1/(1+r)^4

Where R is my respective discount for how much I value time less in the future. If that is say 3%, I would be willing to spend 4.717 days (4 days, 5 hours, 44 minutes, 9.6 seconds in 8-hour workday terms) to increase efficiency by one day per year.

If we're talking 100% efficiency, 5 days is correct because realistically it's a human constraint that we impose ourselves to value future time less than present time. But from a present value perspective, the discount should be there to maximize utility.


This really annoyed me too. Glad to see I'm not the only economist here. How about an updated version for different discount rates, and wage rates so that it can be converted into dollars which is much more useful unit. Who wants to save x hours over five years, I want to save y dollars immediately.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby mhagger » Mon Apr 29, 2013 3:13 pm UTC

Dxlightning wrote:It's a really cool chart but I notice it treats an hour in the future as though it's as valuable as an hour in the present. The economist in me cringes at that because, as everyone has probably experienced through procrastination, we never value our future time as much as we value our present time (like money). There is always some form of discount, generally at a financial interest rate - the amount of time expended should be the net present value of time saved.
[...]


Choosing a time horizon is mathematically equivalent to choosing a discount rate. For example, if you assume that you do the task forever, choosing a horizon of 5 years is equivalent to choosing a discount rate of 1-exp(-1/5) or around 18% per year.

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby Goatzilla » Mon Apr 29, 2013 3:15 pm UTC

patzer wrote:So, why didn't he fill in the "save 6hours per day" box and the "save 1day per week" box?


Because you can't do something 50 times per day if it takes 1 hour each time (there's only 24 hours in a day...)

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Re: 1205: "Is It Worth the Time?"

Postby MadH » Mon Apr 29, 2013 3:58 pm UTC

Vrishna wrote:I really can't think of any routine task that I do 5 times per day and which has the potential of being shortened by one hour. Can anyone?


Well, imagine applying this to invention. I started out by equating this chart to computer tasks, but randall could very well mean anything. So, the invention of the washing machine vs doing the wash by hand would be "making a routine task more efficient". I am sure glad someone spent the years developing a washing machine so I don't have to spend hours every week doing the wash myself.

A lumbermill to cut the logs a carpenter would previously have had to cut and plane himself, for instance. That's a task he would've had to do multiple times a day that would likely take an hour for each plank. Now we just run it through a saw and it's all done within seconds.

It can go on and on. This chart applies to basically every useful, productive invention ever made. Thank you, inventors!
He should somehow include on the chart how much money you have the potential to make if it streamlines the routine tasks a lot of people have to do.


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