There was a lot of stir last week after Amazon’s CEO announced that he intends to have packages delivered by drone aircraft to many areas, often in under an hour from the time that they are ordered. Everyone has been talking about it since the interview, and futurists have been abuzz. I’m a bit of a futurist myself, and as much as the idea gave me pause at first, the idea of tiny robots buzzing over our heads carrying out day-to-day business sort of excited me a bit, I’ll admit. Visions of futuristic movies and books that I read as a child danced through my head. When I think about it for a more than about a moment, though, it leaves me with concerns.
Let’s ignore the obvious fact that such deliveries aren’t legal in the U.S., and that the likelihood of them becoming legal, even to suit the influence of a business as huge as Amazon, isn’t high. Well, at least I hope that’s the case. I think the thing that troubles me the most about the reasoning behind wanting to make this happen is the perceived need of the public to have what they order so quickly. This is the issue of instant gratification taken to an entirely new level.
And speaking of levels, there are levels to this, layers of issues beginning to manifest, I think. First is the fact that we feel we are entitled to have what we want in under an hour, and that we shouldn’t have to leave our sofa to receive it. Secondly is the consumerist culture that permits us to have enough influence so as to dictate this need. Thirdly is the damage that we are doing to ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually by refusing to slow down as we are able to increasingly have whatever, whenever.
I’m certainly no hermit curmudgeon who is opposed to technology…I make my living in web technologies, and I love the progress that we make as a culture as we build new tools to assist us with our daily lives, to connect with each other in new ways. I’ll also admit up front that I’m not at all a fan of Amazon, not the least reason for which is their monopoly over book sales and the way that they treat authors. Those caveats aside…
This whole thing just makes cringe as I picture a tiny helicopter-like device landing on the balcony of our apartment with whatever I ordered 20 minutes ago. I truly can’t imagine what I could need that fast, what I could feel that I had that much of an entitlement to have immediately.
Our national ethos is one of transforming every aspect of daily life into a business. We can buy or sell anything, and, ultimately, anyone. We “consume” instead of engage, we accumulate, we are hopelessly distracted. We fill the voids that these activities leave in our lives with more stuff, and the faster that we can get that stuff, the more we can avoid the void. Which means we soon won’t notice it at all in our mountains of instantly-delivered possessions.
We won’t notice the very void that causes us to lose ourselves.
Photo Attribution: Don McCullough under Creative Commons