in convenience, free-software, learning

The Tyranny of Convenience by Tim Wu (New York Times)

An extremely deep and insightful essay on what convenience is doing to us and how “things” that are meant to liberate us via the convenience they provide also serve to enslave us with that convenience… so much so that:

… it is about minimizing the mental resources, the mental exertion, required to choose among the options that express ourselves… It would be perverse to embrace inconvenience as a general rule. But when we let convenience decide everything, we surrender too much.

I have long argued that, in the context of Free Software, as long as we keep valuing convenience only, we will never seek to value the freedom that free software provides us. And in a way, this essay puts that exact thought into a much larger and useful context.

Recently while talking to some students at NIT Durgapur, I tried to appeal to them to seek problems, to attempt to do more in order to create the right opportunity for learning… and how a lot of learning is failure-driven (ie. we learn when we fail in an attempt to do something). But unless we do attempt to do something , we won’t fail and hence we won’t learn. This was a reference to a trend I see where students seek convenience (instead of problems) and my fear that it will only create consumers rather than creators and hackers .

Hence the author puts it very beautifully when he says:

Today’s cult of convenience fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience. Convenience is all destination and no journey… if you want to be someone, you cannot allow convenience to be the value that transcends all others. Struggle is not always a problem. Sometimes struggle is a solution. It can be the solution to the question of who you are.

A lot of times, the degree of freedom we enjoy in our lives is inversely proportional to the degree of modern convenience we are ready to submit to. I believe that, to start with, we should at least be mindful of our choices; we should introspect and understand why we choose a particular convenience (or why not).

I invite you to read this article. In a way, it creates the right context for using and living a life of software (and technological) freedom.

The cover image is by Hudson Christie and is taken from the main article itself.