The Glorious Future of Consumerism in the USA
The USA may be behind the rest of the OECD in primary and secondary education, in health outcomes, in gun violence, and in overall quality of life. But it is without question the ultimate convenience society.
Everything is designed around making it as easy as possible for people to acquire and then use products and services. Corporations regard US citizens as large buckets into which endless product can be poured, and US citizens eagerly perform their consumption duties even at horrific cost to their health and credit scores.
European manufacturers, meanwhile, go to perverse lengths to make it difficult to obtain certain things (for example, try finding stock cubes or bouillon in Italy, or decent pesto sauce in Switzerland) and thereafter difficult to use things (once again, Italy is the prime exemplar, selling vanilla essence in sealed glass tubes which presumable one cuts open with an industrial laser or diamond-tipped rotary saw).
The USA, conversely, is all about speed of purchase and speed of consumption.
More! Better! Faster!
US citizens increasingly demand instant gratification in all things. Streaming video enables us to watch an entire series over the course of a weekend rather than have to wait for a new episode each week. McSlop & Co have franchises on practically every street corner so gastro-intestinal cancer and chronic obesity is only minutes away.
For those of us who want variety in our diets but don’t want to undertake the inconvenience of actually getting dressed and leaving home, Uber Eats and Fooby will deliver whatever type of health-impairing fast food we desire to our doorsteps within twenty minutes or less.
Meanwhile Amazon is experimenting with drones and distributed warehouses to permit order-to-delivery times of under four hours.
Most homes are crammed with candies and cookies and other sweet comestibles along with potato chips and various salty artificial products in plastic buckets to ensure that the moment the tiniest pang of hunger announces itself, it can be sated within seconds.
Various Orwell Boxes in our homes enable us to cue music tracks without having to go to the ridiculous effort of walking an incredibly demanding two or three paces across the room to manipulate a stereo and thus risk extensive finger-strain.
But all this is woefully insufficient in a world of eight-second attention spans and ever-increasing entitlement.
The problem with instant gratification — and trust me, it’s a huge problem — is that there is inevitably a gap between our realization of what we want and the satisfaction of our desire. Even if this gap is merely a few seconds, the potential for emotional trauma (not to mention lost revenues to large corporations) is significant.
Fortunately a solution is available.
With the help of machine learning algorithms and deep neural nets it is now possible for corporations to use computing technologies to predict our desires and act to satisfy them before we ourselves are even aware that we’re about to have them.
No longer will we have to suffer even a microsecond-long eternity between desire and fulfillment. Instead, powerful cloud-based computers will monitor our every living moment and present us with what they’ve calculated we’re about to want, before we want it, ensuring that we will never risk suffering irreparable emotional distress.
Imagine sitting on your sofa watching a Netflix series. Suddenly a small robotic arm appears from the side of the sofa and plastic fingers prize open your mouth. A second arm appears and in its hand is a freshly-reheated bacon-double-cheeseburger with extra Special Sauce which is then placed into your open mouth. Should you need it, these mechanical helpers can then take a firm grip to assist you with subsequent mastication (Hey, none of that! Get a dictionary! Mastication means to chew! Jeez, some people…).
Now imagine you’re driving to work, your attention happily focused on your phone on which you’re watching a YouTube video of your favorite stand-up comedian, when suddenly out of the center console appears a robotic arm holding a hot (but not too hot!) cup of Starbucks blond half-caf cinnamon-marzipan caramel-salted-peanut extra-honey macchiato with soy-almond blend. All you need do is open your mouth and tilt your head back and the robotic arm can tip the beverage right down your throat, all before you were even aware that you were about to crave the delicious sugary liquid.
One more example: you’re fast asleep after a long day in the cubicle farm. You spent all your working day staring at a screen and it left you so exhausted that you went home to spend the next six hours staring at a screen in your living room. Then you went to bed and began to dream of buying a new extra-large OLED screen to put in your study.
Suddenly the doorbell rings, jarring you awake. You stumble out of bed, open the front door, and there on the step is an enormous cardboard box within which is…. that new extra-large OLED screen you were dreaming about.
Yes, even before you’d normally wake with a vague memory of longing for something you can’t remember, the computer can ensure that it’s delivered right your front door.
I know what you’re thinking: How do I know if I’d really like this?
Well, the great news is that the computer has already calculated that you will!
And so your new pre-desire gratification life awaits. No need to thank us. Just keep up with the payments on your credit card.
And remember: to consume is to live.
NOTE: I originally wrote this article before being aware of the fact that in all seriousness, Amazon wants its Alexa assistant to do pretty much what I parody here. Which goes to prove once again that it is impossible to parody the USA because no matter how absurd and outrageous your notion, someone, somewhere, is going to do it for real.