Is convenience going to be the downfall of self-sufficiency?
Perhaps this question is getting a little old, but it warrants a great deal of conversation.
The loudest dialogue in pop culture that I clearly remember, that touched on what is most likely to happen, was around the time of the release of the Pixar film, Wall-E. Despite touching on environmental issues and the dangers of unlimited consumerism, Wall-E touched on the topic of technology overtaking humanities ability to do things for itself. Some might say that The Matrix was an earlier example of this in popular film culture, but while in The Matrix, humanity was enslaved against their will, in Wall-E, humanity accepted their condition, and actively entrenched themselves in it.
The future of convenience is starting now, with innovations like the Amazon Prime button and services that will deliver food from non-delivery restaurants for a nominal fee, and those are just what has made it into the market so far. Before 2010, Toyota Motors began developing a “transforming all-electric vehicle”, called the i-Real. The concept was similar to an electric wheelchair, but the device could transform into a high-speed, possibly street-legal vehicle with the press of a button. If that doesn’t remind you of Wall-E then you should probably watch the movie again.
With the possibility of a chair that can go from the grocery store to the living room without you ever getting out of it, the possibilities for human laziness compound astronomically. While it indisputably would be a great boon to those of us who cannot physically walk, that wouldn’t be the only group of consumers.
While its unlikely something like the i-Real will reach shelves or show-rooms in the near-future, there are products that are out there already: The Amazon Prime button, food delivery services for rib-eye steaks, streaming services. All these services and devices, while convenient, have definitely served to make humans lazier. Now, when you run out of dish detergent or toilet paper, you simply press a button, rather than drive to the store. When you want to watch the latest movie, rather than going to the Blockbuster as you would have in the past, you open your laptop, or even more simply, tap a few points on your phone to stream it to your wide-screen television.
Not only is leisure getting lazier, work is to. Most office workers today can work, for at least a portion of their job, from home. And that trend is only going to increase. Wired suggested in 2013 that 43% of the US workforce would be working out of the office by this year. As the Internet simplifies how humans engage, from human interaction to commerce, the overarching result will be that more people will be spending time in their homes, instead of in the public sphere.
Alexander Gault-Plate is an aspiring journalist and writer, currently in the 12th grade. He has worked with his schools newspapers and maintained a blog for his previous school.
In the future, he hopes to write for a new-media news company.
You can follow Alexander on Twitter here https://twitter.com/AlexanderBGault.