It is a great power to take something and make it fit for human consumption. Crack a coconut, skin a rabbit, manufacture sunscreen, capture on film, put an idea into words. Somewhere along the metaphorical assembly line of producing human consumption—probably coinciding with Gutenberg’s kite getting struck by lighting and giving him the electric idea of a printing press powered by a steam turbine engine—it was realized that the more turnkey the entire process of consumption can be, the more individuals will consume it (whatever it may be). From Microwaves to Twitter, this idea has been the cornerstone of most technological developments. If it’s easy, people will use/buy/watch/click/eat it. Necessity hasn’t been necessary for decades. Laziness is the true mother of invention.
I call it consumability. There should be a better word for it since IBM tainted this word, but I’ll figure that out later. You see consumability being practiced everywhere. Peanut butter and jelly in the same squeeze bottle has higher consumability than peanut butter and jelly in two separate jars. Bottled water has higher consumability than a gallon of water. Send an email instead of writing a letter. Fly instead of driving cross country. Buy pre-sliced cheese. Hire a trainer. Join weight watchers. It’s any news focused around a ten-second sound bite. It’s anything that doesn’t require you to educate yourself. It’s anything that’s processed or mass produced, etc. Anything that’s prepackaged, presized, etc. Anything tweetable, etc. Anything etc. Yada yada. I know, right?
It all leads to curiousity about the consumability bell curve, where the easier it gets to consume something increases your enjoyment of it up to a point, and past that point you no longer appreciate the consumption because there is so little invested to get it. Individuals with time-intensive hobbies inherently understand this bell curve. They enjoy making ribs with a homemade rub and a homemade sauce that took 12 hours of prep time and 3 more hours to cook. They like fixing their own cars, mowing their own lawns, oiling the leather to break in their own baseball mitt, and slicing the orchard-picked apples to bake their own pies. If this sounds like a heavy handed call back to some suburban utopia of Americana past, it’s only because it is. The crazy part is that all that utopia describes things that are still my parents. That distant past is still happening tomorrow.
I’m not against advancement. I get it. Brewing a cup of coffee and hand-rolling a cigarette is a pain in the ass compared to a Keurig and an E-cig. You don’t even have to walk outside to enjoy the latter two (although that’s changing). Technological ease is not an evil unto itself, which is kind of a “duh” statement. But the human mind is a muscle that requires training, and once trained, it gets stuck in its ways. It’s the reason that a five-year-old can figure out an iPad faster than a 50-year-old. When trained for the far end of the consumability bell curve, we become dumb because we lose our curiosity. Our minds are trained for answers, not discovery. We have Google searches, Yahoo answers, whatever BING does, and the knowledge is given, not earned. The more we know, the less we think. On the flip side, someone who appreciates process as much as results has a learned understanding and healthy skepticism about everything that goes into the consumable end product, tangible or otherwise.
So that’s the worry. But every generation has always worried that everything’s getting bigger, faster and will spin out of control. It’s entropy on sociological level, and that’s always been the natural law that will drive the apocalypse. Does the universe expand enough to introduce an alien race that takes us down? Will technology become so smart that it renders human beings extinct. Will we create energies so powerful that we blow ourselves up? I’ve always thought that a blend between Wall-E and Nineteen Eighty-Four’s apocalypse stories was most likely. The interent doesn’t democratize us and set the world free. It spoon feeds us knowledge and makes us easily manipulated. Who under the age of thirty has any interest in reading 500 pages of legal verbiage in a political bill about what Tyson can feed their chicken? So it slides by, and the butterfly effect means no more privatized daycare. How the hell did it happen? Nobody on the single parent message boards knows.
Making something fit for human consumption does take power, and every Spider-Man fan knows what goes great with power. As long as consumers follow through with the responsibility of thinking critically, we should be alright.
Does my nickname prove a point?
Dustin “TL;DR” Riedesel