The Art of Overbuilding

Have you ever noticed how we humans have a tendency to overbuild and focus in the wrong areas? Go look at the speedometer in your car. If you have an average car, it’ll probably have a maximum number of 120 or 140 mph. Now think about how fast the typical speed limit is in your average daily commute. I bet you rarely, legally, get above 75mph. Do you feel safe driving much faster than that? I used to think I could drive safely at high speed, but I don’t anymore. And I’ve only once ever gotten a car up to its speedometer’s maximum speed…

This is the Art of Overbuilding. Rather than focusing on better fuel efficiency or more environmentally conscious engines, our focus has been on Making It Go Faster. Fast is good, I suppose; it makes the adrenaline pump, which makes us feel good for a bit. But there is no “need for speed.” We make speed limit laws and spend countless police force hours and tax dollars enforcing those laws. Lives are horribly altered or lost because of this Making It Go Faster principle.

Everything should be held in balance. We’ve gone over the deep end with the speed of our vehicles. I believe that some speed was and is need; it is reasonable to have vehicles going 60 to 80 mph in ideal circumstances. I don’t think it is ever going to be reasonable to allow a human to drive faster than that because, just like with alcohol consumption, human reflexes aren’t capable of managing.

The current focus in the automotive industry is fuel efficiency, which is nice. But again, I hope it doesn’t turn into another Art of Overbuilding exercise.

I can see other examples in software, fiction and non-fiction writing, and education. How do you see the Art of Overbuilding applying in other areas?