Temptation thy name is “The Low Hanging Fruit”

The term low hanging fruit is a commonly used metaphor for doing the simplest or easiest work first. The urban dictionary defines low hanging fruit as “targets or goals which are easily achievable and which do not require a lot of effort”. It is human tendency to do the least effort required for survival. Conservation of energy is is Survival 101!

Consider the following scenario: You are extremely hungry and are standing at the bottom of an apple tree. There are fruits are various stages of the ripening process all over the tree. Unfortunately the luscious and delicious red apples are on the top branches and the green and bitter apples are within arms reach. What will you do? Look for a ladder so that you can reach for those luscious red apples at the top or simply pick the raw ones from the bottom branches? In the absence of a ladder within reach and due to the lack of a prehensile tail, that evolution forced us to sacrifice, you will most likely grab the apples that are convenient to reach i.e. pick the low-hanging fruit. A few days later the ripe fruits at the top go bad and now you are out of food for real. Then it might dawn upon you that if only you had taken the time to build a ladder and had eaten the ripe fruit first you would have had the raw fruit ready to eat by now. Moral of the story? Read on…

Speaking of morals it is interesting to observe that morality is mostly at odds with mortality at an individual level. The primary reason for that is that a moral code is typically enforced to foster collaboration amongst individuals to share resources that they would rather instinctively choose to fight over. The evolutionary rule of “Survival of the fittest individual” has itself evolved to “Survival of the fittest group”. A recent article in the Scientific American magazine also offers evidence of this dating back to our earliest ancestors that migrated out of Africa. But while the homo sapiens species as a whole has certainly thrived it is obvious that certain individuals or small groups thereof have benefitted more from this moral code based on cooperation than the majority. This social inequality has in turn contributed to the conflict between morality and mortality that the entire species is struggling with.

If we are to extend the scenario described above to include two individuals standing under an apple tree one could postulate that the matter could be easily resolved by one individual offering to allow the other individual to climb on to their shoulders so as to reach the ripe apples at the top. The risk of grievous injury and the reward of a steady food supply could then be equally shared between the two individuals and all would be well. But real life scenarios are hardly as simple as this hypothetical asexual “Garden of Eden”. It could even be argued that in majority of the real life scenarios the “bitter yet low hanging fruit” would be far more tempting. Let us examine some such scenarios.

In our daily lives we tend to take the route of least effort to get through. We tend to put off things that are difficult or tedious and simply do the easier tasks.  For example, students generally tend to study the subject they like most first, putting off subjects that they dislike or find boring or tough. As adults too, we tend to put in only as much exertion as is required for survival especially in our professional lives content with reigning in our ambitions in the process.

The tendency to use the easy way out extends to the way we interact socially in the virtual world. Take Facebook for instance; There are so many people who love to post every small incident that occurs in their life, sometimes posting status updates such as “hungry…” or “I am so sleepy”, innumerable selfies, and shared events such as having coffee or lunch with friends.

Then there is a group of people who only seem to be content with ‘Like’ing other people’s status updates. They don’t really take any efforts to share any valuable information. Neither do they really change their status updates. Instead they only go about liking other people’s status. Such people want a presence on the web but tend to take the easy way out.

On the other end of the spectrum are people who hardly ever post anything on their Facebook page. They don’t want to devote any effort on keeping their profile page active. They would no doubt check their Facebook every day and would check other people’s status and posts but neither reply nor comment on the same or even ‘Like” it – voyeurs of the digital world!

In all these scenarios described above we are tempted to opt for the low hanging fruit knowing fully well that it is less satisfying and possibly detrimental in the long run. Of course you might not even want to take the effort to be introspective enough to be aware of this temptation in the first place. So thank you for falling prey to the temptation to grab the low hanging fruit and thereby reading this article. Any inconvenience caused due to the self criticism that is bound to follow is sincerely regretted.


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