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Posted: December 11, 2013

More on wasting our time should be a crime

It's a much-needed check and balance

Thomas Frey

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

Virtually everyone from businesses to government has had free reign to impose a time-tax on our lives with little regard as to whether it’s acceptable to us.

This needs to change!

Arriving at the “Formula of Acceptable Interference”

Whenever our doctor insists on us having another checkup, or our dentists insists on yet another cleaning, or our neighborhood quick-lube place insists on an oil change every 3,000 miles, we cynically ask, “Is this more for your benefit or mine?”

In the past, whenever I went onto GoDaddy to buy a domain name, I was hit with close to 400 attempts to up-sell me on additional items. The transaction time involved in making what should have been a 2-minute purchase quickly mushroomed into 10-15 minutes. Clearly this approach, and all the bad press they received as a result of it, ended up costing them more in the long run than the increases they were making in the short run, and they have since simplified their process.

So when the government insists on us registering for a new health care plan, or taking a test to get a license, or have the emissions checked on our car, how much time-interference do we consider reasonable?

Whether or not you’re a Christian, the story of Mary and Joseph having to travel several days with a mule, while she was pregnant, across the barren Israeli countryside to Bethlehem to comply with the orders of Caesar Augustus who was conducting the world’s first census, is the epitome of onerous government interference.

While that level of interference is rarely demanded anymore, as our systems have become far more efficient, the question remains, how much “time interference” is acceptable?

So let me answer that question with a single word. The acceptable level of “transactional time leakage” is always “LESS,” less than what we’re spending today, and even less in the future.

Virtually every business in the world is being asked with doing more with less, so why shouldn’t we be applying that same of metrics to our time costs?

Should Wasting Time Become a Crime?

Business and industry know a lot about scarcity and work hard to manipulate the math problem in our head so the perceived value of a product, based on its scarcity, closely aligns with the momentary deficiencies we, as consumers, are trying to compensate for. Scarcity, translates into urgency, which in turn translates into a little voice inside our head screaming “NOW!”

Once a purchase has been made, a few nasty businesses have found unusual ways to turn “time” into penalties, extra charges, and reasons to charge more. In fact some have become so blatant in their misrepresentations, with all the customer landmines they’ve put into place, that government had to step in.

Yet the government has a poor track record, at best, for regulating and guarding against monetary system abuses, and they have an even worse record for guarding against time abuses. In fact, most governments, and in the U.S. we have slightly less than 90,000 forms of government, have become the chief perpetrators of time-crimes.

On one hand they use time as a punishment (i.e. 2 years in jail), as a threat (i.e. you have 30 days to comply), or a dangling carrot (i.e. 90 day to reinvest without penalty). At the same time they are stealing our days, even our lives, with an insane number of laws, rules, and regulations to conform with.

So should wasting our time become a crime? At the risk of adding even more to our already massive compendium of laws – YES!

I say yes, because it is a much-needed checks-and-balance offset to the scale-tampering money-dominated society we find ourselves immersed in today.

Final Thoughts

We all know how important time is. Every time we turn around there are deadlines, time limits, stopwatches, stoplights, speed limits, and warnings to slow us down. 

Yet the rhythm of life is constantly pulsing to keep up with our pervasive time culture, a culture that makes us feel like our fast, is never fast enough. 

So where does that leave us?

I had hoped to end with a theoretical proof that conclusively states that “time is our scarcest of all commodities.” But I spent all my money on other things, and now I can’t afford the time to make that point. Sorry!

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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