Podcast #400: The Tyranny of Convenience

Modern life has given us lots of conveniences. With a tap of your smartphone screen, and without leaving the house, you can order a car to your door or a hot dinner, or even replenish your toilet paper supply. Right now, you’re listening to this podcast how and when you want to. Yes, life is good in the 21st century. 

But what if there’s such a thing as too much convenience? What if it’s actually enslaving us in some strange way?

That’s what my guest today argues. His name is Tim Wu, he’s a professor of law at Columbia Law School and the author of several books, including The Attention MerchantsToday on the show, Tim and I discuss the tyranny of convenience. We begin with a brief history of convenience, discussing how it became a driving force in the economy in the late 19th century and how Tim believes we’re at the beginning of a second convenience revolution. We then discuss how convenience can make us feel more free and unique, but actually limits our freedom and makes us like everyone else. Tim then shares ideas on how to inject some healthy inconvenience in your life for more happiness, freedom, and fulfillment. 

Show Highlights

  • What got Tim thinking about our society’s obsession with convenience 
  • How focusing on convenience makes you miss out on a lot of what life has to offer
  • Why the tools we use can actually change us and define us 
  • How the quest for convenience became an obsession
  • The “convenience revolution” and its noble origins 
  • What The Jetsons can tell us about technology and convenience
  • How convenience enslaves us and limits our choices 
  • How the convenience revolution led to the counter-revolution of the arts and crafts movement 
  • The ways in which hobbies fight convenience 
  • Why Tim argues we’re in the midst of a second convenience revolution, and how this one is different  
  • The counterintuitive homogenizing effect of convenience 
  • Why we need inconvenience and struggle and frustration in life
  • Why getting exactly what you want isn’t what it’s cracked up to be 
  • The connection between this culture of convenience and Tim’s previous work, The Attention Merchants
  • Brass tacks tips for resisting the culture of convenience 
  • Fighting convenience in our relationships 
  • The most fundamental decisions you can make to define who you are 

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Connect With Tim 

Tim on Twitter

Tim’s website 

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Recorded with ClearCast.io.

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Coming soon!

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