When I worked at Apple, management hired Douglas Adams, the author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to give us a pep talk. At the time, Apple was attempting yet again to get the business world to buy Apple computers instead of slavishly buying Windows systems.
I don’t remember much about Adam’s talk, but I do remember one thing very well: he talked about how the dodo bird became extinct.
As I remember it, Adams said the dodo, which lived on the island Mauritius off the east coast of Africa, was meticulous about reproducing. Everything had to be just right before a female would build a nest on the ground, lay an egg and raise a young dodo.
Until Portuguese sailors arrived on Mauritius in 1598, the dodo had no contact with humans and had no instinct to flee from the sight of them.
The sailors mistook the birds’ lack of fear as a lack of intelligence and named the bird “doudou,” Portuguese for “simpleton.” The name stuck, becoming synonymous with crazily stupid even in English.
When confronted with by humans, Adams said the dodo did something that further threatened its future. It became even more meticulous about breeding, reproducing even more slowly than ever.
Regardless, the fate of the dodo was sealed. It had evolved on an island with no predators, had lost its ability to fly and had now come in contact with the most ruthless species imaginable.
By 1681, just 83 years, the dodo bird was extinct, having been hunted for food and sport by humans and its eggs eaten by the pigs, dogs and cats the sailors brought with them.
I’m not sure why Adams told this story. Maybe it was to encourage us to work faster.