This article from Wired Magazine takes a look at how technology has changed consumerism over the last sesquicentury. It’s a little bit tounge-in-cheek, but it resonates with me and my feelings towards working and living.
Just because technology makes it possible for us to work 10 times faster than we used to doesn’t mean we should do it… [T]he spirit isn’t meant to flail away uselessly on the commercial gerbil wheel. The boys in corporate don’t want you to hear this because the more they can suck out of you, the lower their costs and the higher their profit margin. And profit is god, after all. (Genuflect here, if you must.) […]
Civilization took a definite nose dive when the merchant princes grew ascendant at the expense of the artists and thinkers; when the notion of liberté, égalité, fraternité gave way to “I’ve got mine; screw you” (an attitude that existed in Voltaire’s day, too, you might recall, with unfortunate results for the blue bloods). In the Big Picture, the dead white guys — Rousseau, Thoreau, Mill — cared a lot more about your well-being than the live ones like Gates or Jobs or Ellison ever will.
I am certainly not as anti-technology as the writer of the article; in fact, I love technology. I enjoy that tasks are made simpler and that I can be entertained by photographs projected by light in quick succession on a 40-foot wide canvas. I am happy that I can communicate with my family living on the other side of this country immediately rather than by letter, waiting several weeks for a response. (Let it be known that I can often take that long to respond anyway.)
The ease in which we live makes it inevitable that we become controlled by the technology and by those who provide us with the means to acquire the technology. As they say, freedom is slavery.
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published November 10, 2005.