a convenience truth

Probably one the greatest barriers to positive change is convenience. For example, we know that automobiles contribute significantly to pollution, obesity, and greenhouse gases. However, most of us own at least one car and many of us own more than one. Why? Cars are extremely convenient. Having lived car-free in a rural North American town for the past three years I can attest to how inconvenient it is to not own a car. We are even thinking of buying a car since our car share program shut down this Winter.

Drugs, as in pharmaceuticals, are also convenient. It’s easy to take antibiotics, just in case. Pain relief is only a tablet away. As a result we are so over-prescribed that: “Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today”, according to the World Health Organization.

Probably the most convenient form of communication today is Facebook, with 2 billion users (AKA products). Facebook is an extremely convenient way to connect all your online communication and most of your digital content consumption. It is so convenient that it is the only way some people connect online. Government agencies and Crown corporations use Facebook sometimes as the sole mechanism to communicate with citizens. Probably one of the best, and there are many, criticisms of Facebook’s power and influence was recently published in, You are the Product.

“I am scared of Facebook. The company’s ambition, its ruthlessness, and its lack of a moral compass scare me. It goes back to that moment of its creation, Zuckerberg at his keyboard after a few drinks creating a website to compare people’s appearance, not for any real reason other than that he was able to do it. That’s the crucial thing about Facebook, the main thing which isn’t understood about its motivation: it does things because it can. Zuckerberg knows how to do something, and other people don’t, so he does it. Motivation of that type doesn’t work in the Hollywood version of life, so Aaron Sorkin had to give Zuck a motive to do with social aspiration and rejection. But that’s wrong, completely wrong. He isn’t motivated by that kind of garden-variety psychology. He does this because he can, and justifications about ‘connection’ and ‘community’ are ex post facto rationalisations. The drive is simpler and more basic. That’s why the impulse to growth has been so fundamental to the company, which is in many respects more like a virus than it is like a business. Grow and multiply and monetise. Why? There is no why. Because.” —John Lanchester

Convenience, like a principle, has a cost. I bear the daily inconvenience of not owning a car. My business bears the cost of not being on Facebook, which is almost akin to not existing on the internet. But the cost to society of our conveniences has a much larger and longer term cost. As citizens, we need to put pressure on ourselves and our politicians to bear the costs of inconvenience. Al Gore told us about an inconvenient truth. Well there is also a convenience truth that we ignore.

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