The point is that efficiency is currently confused with adaptability to large-scale factory production and marketing: that is to say, with fitness for the present methods of commercial exploitation. But in terms of social life, many of the most extravagant advances of the machine have proved to rest on the invention of intricate means of doing things which can be performed at a minor cost by very simple ones. Those complicated pieces of apparatus, first devised by American cartoonists, and later carried onto the stage by comedians like Mr. Joe Cook, in which a whole series of mechanisms and involved motions are created in order to burst a paper bag or lick a postage stamp are not wild products of the American imagination: they are merely transpositions into the realm of the comic of processes which can be witnessed at a hundred different points in actual life. Elaborate antiseptics are offered in expensive mechanically wrapped packages, made tempting by lithographs and printed advertisements, to take the place which common scientific knowledge indicates is amply filled by one of the most common minerals, sodium chloride. Vacuum pumps driven by electric motors are forced into American households for the purpose of cleaning an obsolete form of floor covering, the carpet or the rug, whose appropriateness for use in interiors, if it did not disappear with the caravans where it originated, certainly passed out of existence with rubber heels and steam-heated houses. To count such pathetic examples of waste to the credit of the machine is like counting the rise in the number of constipation remedies as proof of the benefits of leisure. (Mumford 1934:277)
MUMFORD, Lewis. 1934. Technique and civilization. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.