Our Good Enough World

In the summer of 2009, Wired magazine published an article by Robert Capp called “The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine.” During the past months, I’ve heard speakers refer to this concept and seen concrete examples of it.

In our industry (translation and localization) we’ve come to apply this idea to the examples of horrid English often seen online and abroad. If the meaning somehow comes through, does the quality of the text really matter?

This week, however, someone put an ancillary thought in my head. Kim Ode, writing in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, talked about the availability of ready-made pie crust and wondered if creating a crust is becoming a lost art. My attention was caught by this sentence: “What do we lose when every destination comes by way of a shortcut?”

I’m just as impatient as the next person — perhaps even more so. I want my downloads now and demand to know why overnight shipping won’t arrive in the morning. Indeed, today’s culture seems to be driven by the need for the immediate. That fuels the economic engine and drives innovation, creating jobs and boosting the GNP. But I wonder — what are we losing?

I remember my father saying that my desk at college was nothing but a piece of cheap pressed wood with a paper-thin veneer. While he sneered, my mother calmly said it was all the college could afford to provide without raising tuition. Besides, it was a desk for a college student, not a CEO. It was good enough.

Flash forward. Today we are accustomed to furniture that may be labeled “all wood” but is actually largely MDF. It’s good enough and a good idea because that construction consumes fewer trees and results in lighter-weight items. But when I run my hand over my grandparents’ oak claw-foot pedestal table in my dining room, the difference is obvious.

It had been too long since my last visit to Symphony Hall, and I took a deep breath at the first orchestral sounds. I had forgotten how amazing live music performed by professional musicians in an acoustically balanced venue can be. The sound astonished me. I love the music I listen to when I run and the tunes I pop in the car player, but I can still hear the difference. And that may be the problem with good enough.

Our definition of value is changing. We are gradually becoming a nation that wants speed over quality work. Are we on our way to losing the appreciation of fine craftsmanship as we increase our ability to produce an immediate product? Will we cease to respect the work of the artisan’s hands and find no motivation to strive for quality? If we lose that appreciation, will we then lose the ability to produce those fine pieces of work or even tell the difference? What do you think?


About tembua

Tembua: The Precision Language Solution provides comprehensive linguistic services for 100 languages to private industry and government agencies on a global scale. Services include document and website translation and localization; conference and 24/7 telephonic interpretation; glossary development; proofreading, text adaptation, editing, multilingual design and DTP; transcription; technical / custom authoring editing, foreign search engine optimization; translation memory management; subtitling.
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