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The Seduction Of Convenience

May 19th, 2022 1 comment

The slippery slope began with the TV remote control.  When the television was first invented in the mid 1940’s it was a marvel of technology as an entirely new medium of mass information and entertainment was available to the public on a scale never before seen in history.  Whether or not this invention has been a net benefit to man is of course a subject of debate.

What happened soon thereafter was the constant refinement of the viewing experience both from the quality and range of entertainment to the actual mechanics of the new device.  The most significant improvement came when electronics manufacturer, Zenith, introduced the Lazy Bones remote.  Well it wasn’t quite as advanced as you’d expect since it consisted of a long snaking cable hooked up to the TV. This was as much a remote control as a 30 foot extension cord on the telephone made that a remote phone.

Still, by the mid 1950’s Zenith continued to evolve their device so that they used high frequency sounds instead of light to control TV’s.  This device made a distinct clicking sound which is why we still refer to TV remotes as ‘clickers’.  As we know, with the passage of time, these early devices have morphed into some very complicated controllers that are available today.

The main point of this invention was to confer convenience to the consumer.  If there is any one guiding principle of all inventions, this is the Holy Grail.  If you could sell something to cater to the natural laziness in people, you would become rich.  This is capitalism at its very core.

Necessity as they say, is the mother of invention, but necessity is also a function of propaganda.  That is to say, someone has to tell you that a ‘want’ is in fact a necessity.  That was the role of Madison Avenue, the home of the marketing houses in New York during the 1950’s.  Their job  was to tell people what they really needed…whether they knew it or not.

In the recent modern era, untold billions if not trillions have been made by companies and individuals capitalizing on this endless need for must have ‘conveniences’.  The idea of what is convenient has moved somewhat.  In the old days, a genuine convenience was to have a washing machine rather than to make a trip down to the river to beat clothes on the stones.   Today’s idea of convenience is to look on your phone for the nearest Starbucks to use their bathroom.

The constant escalation of ‘needs’ continues to drive all kinds of new devices to be foisted on the naïve consumer.  As we know, ‘apps’ are the modern exponent of laziness.  While there are arguably useful apps to find the nearest washrooms as mentioned earlier, there are apps to convey all manner of useless or trivial information to the mentally lazy.  You can find out what the weather is in Madagascar as well as their national flower.  You can determine what the local weather is, because looking out the window is of course too much effort.  You can determine if the “Influencer” of the moment has a new purse. You can compare your cat photos to those of other cat ladies.

We can have devices like Amazon’s Alexa which can turn on music for you at your home, because getting up to turn a knob is so 1950’s.  It (she?) can turn off lights, unlock doors or regulate the thermostat without you having to perform such onerous and menial functions. It’s like having your own servant without paying their union salaries.  While all this sounds idyllic, you’d better hope you don’t need to fix these things when they don’t work, because only 3 people know how to reprogram these things….and they all live in India.

We have apps to engage companies to send goods and services right to your door.  Need a tube of toothpaste? An amazon click can send one to you in an hour. Need Thai or pizza for dinner?  Any number of food delivery services can hook you up.

We even have apps to help with the most fundamental of things….meeting people.  Like everything else, you can dial in exactly your requirements for a social partner and not waste money on food and tequila.  We know that within a short time, even this will be obsolete.  Some may recall the prescient 1973 Woody Allen film, Sleeper, in which we are introduced to the Orgasmatron, which obviates the need for any partner whatsoever.  Talk about the invention of the future…

Modern society has already entered the age of laziness.  People will be able to live entire lives without ever having to leave the comforts of their home…or even of their couch.  Even if you were afraid of becoming a couch potato, companies such as Peloton will enable you to excercise with virtual friends… you never have to step outside.

The last frontier once creature comforts and conveniences are looked after, are thoughts and opinions. We are well along that path already since there are no shortage of outlets prescribing the right thoughts, values and opinions so that we don’t have to trouble ourselves with such picayune things.  Just pay up, relax and everything will be take care of; no need to do your own thinking.