In our personal, day-to-day lives, where things really matter, how often do we choose ease over energy, and resent the notion that we might have had to put in some effort to get what we want? How many businesses have you growled at because they don’t have a good enough website, or don’t have a way to order online, forcing you to actually go somewhere to obtain goods or services? How often have you excoriated (at least inwardly) a government agency for not having public records online? How many gas stations have you passed up because they don’t have pay at the pump?My instant reaction to this: Grandpa is grumbling about "Kids these days!" Argh! Well, I think the Age of Ease(tm) has been fantastic.
It’s this growing sense of entitlement that worries me. We are turning into a culture where everyone feels — and acts — entitled to know whatever they want to know, contact whomever they want to contact, and say whatever they want to have, whenever they want to. And we resent it when things are not this way. This feedback loop squeezes out deliberation, thoughtfulness, and restraint and, on a personal level, human development.
Allow me to give one example. When I was a kid, my parents had one choice for education--public education. They didn't have the money or other resources to homeschool. Enter the Age of Ease. I could easily compare curricula online. There were multiple forums to get my questions answered. Expert educators and experienced friends could respond via IM and email. More importantly, the curriculum I settled on was put together by people smarter than me. I'm giving my kids a world-class classical education and all I have to do is sit with them every day and work my way through the syllabus. I have the time to do it because people who embrace technology created it for me.
Another example, with TripAdvisor and other travel websites, I haven't stayed in a suck-bag hotel since my sister talked to a buddy at work who "knew a really great place" in Key West that ended up overrun with Termites.
As for suffering? Oh, honey, I've suffered plenty. As Glenn has noted today, every single travel experience is a Zen Master's lesson. Ridiculous. And don't get me started about the Philadelphia airport. Mr. O'Rourke would probably say I'm proving his point. No, I'm not. Travel used to be easier back in the day. Planes were clean, half-empty, luxury liners that treated customers like Queens. These days, Greyhound treats travelers better.
No, technology, properly used could make a lot of stupid industries better. I'm impatient because there is no good reason why businesses and the government can't get with the program. My time could be spent doing something, anything more important and effective than sweating in a narrow seat next to a mouth breather while waiting on the tarmac for four hours.
And yes, all sorts of companies lose my business because they high-mindedly make their wares available only "to the trade" or force the consumer to go to a storefront to buy. As for books, I personally love them, but for citing research and other references why all the adoration for the Dewey Decimal System? The time saved by researching at home watching the World Series can make the research more complete and more interesting, plus, I get to watch the World Series.
Nope, I can get a whole lot lazier. As far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing. My life has brought me more than enough character-building suffering. Who can avoid it all the amazing technology notwithstanding? Any way life can be made easier creates the time and space and resources and yes, energy, to do something else, something more valuable.
I love The Age of Ease.