THIS COLUMN WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE: THE TROUBLE WITH SMARTER, NOT HARDER

[ Sat. Jan. 26. 2013 ]

I hereby announce the formation of an international campaign to eliminate all future uses of the phrase, "Work smarter, not harder." ... As the cyber-sceptic Evgeny Morozov pointed out this month, in an article at edge.org, Silicon Valley loves nothing more than proposing "smart" solutions to problems such as crime, voter apathy or climate change. Yet the word blurs a crucial distinction: a smart solution may be ingenious, but it doesn't follow that implementing it will necessarily be for the best. We can persuade people to vote, some techno-reformers argue, using clever incentives, such as shopping discounts or video game-style prizes. But should we, if it risks coarsening democracy, eroding the role of argument and deliberation in persuading people to vote? The answer may be "yes", of course. But Morozov's point is that we fail to ask such questions in the first place.