The Inconvenience of Convenience

Don't get me wrong. 


I am one of those who would happily describe myself as a "Digital Native" on social media profiles. 


I am as addicted to my phone as any other person. I get notification vibrations on my wrist. I scroll aimlessly when I am bored. I like single-click purchase experiences. If a cab takes more than 6 minutes, I cancel it. In other words, I am in all ways spoilt by the luxuries of technology.


And yet, I am willing to make a strong case against the conveniences offered by technology.


Here's why.


In an ideal world, we add conveniences to our lives, so that we save on time. Time that can be used to pursue other valuable activities. Or to just relax. So, technically this explains it - additional valuable time gained increases as convenience increases.





Maybe when the wheel was invented, this graph worked. Caveman 1 said to the other, "Hey, I can now reach your place faster now. We can hunt more and keep our families safe. Yay!"

However, what if this conversation instead went like this:


Caveman 1: Hey, I can reach your place faster. Want to hang?

Caveman 2: Yo. FIFA or Netflix?

Caveman 1: Let's start with FIFA. We can play for a few hours. Then we will binge watch a random show. We'll order in. Do we have a robot that can get the food from the door to the lazyboy? We should totally get one.


Which is why, I think practically, the relation between convenience and additional valuable time gained is actually this:





Sure, convenience increased the valuable time for a while. But then, in my opinion, after a point, every additional minute gained got transposed into use in a non-value adding activity, that in a way chips away at the advantages of convenience. 


Maybe, there is a direct relation to be made between this "valuable time" and peace of mind. In the few extra minutes you gained by getting an Uber instead of hailing a taxi on the road, how much did you let your mind relax? Did you use that time to go online and check your Instagram feed? Or did you refresh Facebook for the umpteenth time?


When the history of our evolution is documented years later in the updated version of books such as Sapiens, I foresee this part of our lives written as the following:

"Human beings became smarter and smarter over the centuries. They invented things that saved them time and effort. After a point though, they started inventing things that used up this saved time and made them to do things that added no value to their lives. Maybe the most defining irony from this paradoxical form of lives they lived was the fact that they carried around all the wealth of information in their pockets in the form of smartphones and yet, at least a few million of them used this device to watch people grind things in a blender. It is true. Don't waste your time on it, but if you are curious, here's the link -  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1woiGfJ7rDA."

And then of course, noone would complete the rest of the book, because recommended videos will auto play and they can't stop watching. But that's a story for a another day.


Maybe, the hope in saving our generation's reputation lies in adding a bit of friction to our convenient lives, so we spend more time and effort doing things. Like Netflix adding in a forced buffering period between every few videos. Or perhaps, a minute's delay in cab allocation. Or bank's forcing customers to walk in every month. Just for kicks.


The one industry that's on track in introducing this friction is airlines. No matter how much we progress, there's always a wait at the conveyor belt for luggage. Step in the right direction, if you ask me.


Next time I am complaining about my luggage arriving late, just remind me of my hypocrisy.

Cheers and have a good, friction free week!