In praise of idleness

Here is my design master degree's thesis. I worked on this question "How can idleness values can be increased in the innovation process?"

The news has arrived just recently, creating a real surprise in the collective imagination: 50% of ants, those insects well known until now for being relentless workers are, in fact, a bunch of big slackers! By the way, this group of individuals has specialized in doing absolutely nothing. This information, although deeply moving, reminds us that each living species, humans included, has this gift. Being lazy is still considered as a deadly sin, a moral fault by most companies or as a factor of marginalization.
This anecdote invites us to think about the place of idleness in our society, where working has been sanctified within a progressive system based on hyper-consumerism and short-term profit generated by sustained innovation. At first sight, idleness is not very welcomed. Nevertheless, this behaviour, if we study it well, possesses some virtues it can be proud of. The lazy person is in constant research of simplicity, economy of his energy, of a “fair” rhythm. In short, he is looking for efficiency for all of his actions at all cost.
If we go further in this subject, we become aware that several legends propose us an original vision of the birth of discoveries and radical inventions which made the world evolve. Let us take the example of Archimedes, who, basking in baths, discovered a process allowing to determine density. Newton himself discovered the gravity by resting under an apple tree. Edison characterized idleness as the “intelligent and fantasist mother of a lot of inventions”. Being an adept of napping, he invented in his young hood an automatic mechanism programmed to send telegraphs to his supervisor to prove that he was awake. Could the idleness have an influence on a few radical changes? A kind of benevolent anonymous, acting behind the scene? How to give its glory from Antiquity back in a society which considers it as a deviousness?
How can idleness values can be increased in the innovation process?
Our society has a narrow vision of a behaviour it doesn’t know well. Idleness, settled in traditions as a defect to be corrected, is multiple. The multiplicity of its facets allows us to understand an ancestral attitude which was rejected at all times, bringing marginalization, misanthropy and depression. We know that there is something wrong in idleness, but there is also a right approach of happiness which the “busy” Man cannot understand, chained to the work moral, plague of our age. All humans have had to work since the fall of the Roman civilization and slackers were considered as social outcasts and as nobodies. This point of view has evolved from bad to worse as our society advanced toward imperialist and aggressive capitalism. But at the same time, islets of good feelings divided according to eras drove us to think about the lazy person’s position. From a victim, he became a dissenter. From dispassionate and uninterested, he became enquirer and curious. From contemplative, he became observant. From inactive, he became an activist. From ineffective and useless, he became efficient and eager for relevance. Qualities among many others which become essential in a changing world.
Those changes have taken place since the beginning of human civilization, but the most important ones started when industrial revolutions took place, accompanied by a model based on short term profit: capitalism. Brought by the bourgeois who became rich thanks to the discoveries of the new world, it planted its roots in a feudal Europe before becoming the reference and to impose the cult of Work in the proletarian society while rich people benefited from uncontrolled opulence. This inequality is increased by the fact that 1% of the population possesses 50% of the world’s wealth, but also by a massive difference between the mentalities of the different generations in the work market. The Generation Y is also at the heart of all controversies because of its audacity, its way of questioning the system, its need for flexibility and its professional life and its desire for personal fulfilment. But what is their place in a world subject to exponential acceleration dependant on a strong technological evolution? The diseases linked to humans’ acceleration are becoming more and more and the Ys are struggling to even see a meaning to a model that does not want them, and which they no longer want. A need for a break has risen, and alternatives are emerging to answer.
There are a lot of ways to answer the acceleration problem, but they meet under the same banner: slow down, by all possible means. But it is important to control this slowing down as it is primordial to stop to go too fast: we have to find the tempo giusto. To stop making Work compulsory is another solution. To participate in the innovation, financially for example, without having to move from our armchair may be the birth of a new system, less impenetrable and based on trust. Therefore, innovation can be brought by slackers, and also through different idleness act guaranteeing simplicity, energy saving, quality and relevance, on the condition of being well directed. But it is important to measure the risks of a society which would lean toward laziness too much. Whether with the current capitalism, pushing us to torpor and obesity, or an alternative uncontrolled system which would reinforce inequalities and marginalization. It is important to take into account the consequences of technological progress which are rapidly bringing us to a totally virtualized world, and to an obsessed generation, dazed by the digital peak.
Here is my thesis In Praise of Idleness (it's in french, sorry about that).
If you can read it, enjoy it !
I resumed it below
Anxious laziness
Ashamed laziness
Narcotic laziness
Frenetic laziness
"What's the point" laziness
Egotistical laziness
Very peacefull laziness
Thank you for watching ! Feel free to like ;)
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