Technology, Convenience…..and Death

Posted on by

Reader Petter S sent along a recent article The Myth of Convenience, by L.M. Sacasas, Director of the Center for the Study of Ethics and Technology. The piece covers a lot of ground in a relatively short space, so I encourage you to read it in full, along with his earlier post, Privacy Is Not Dying, We’re Killing It.

The point of departure for Sacasas’ post on convenience was an essay by Colin Horgan, The Tyranny of Convenience. As you’ll see soon enough, Sacasas starts with familiar material and takes it in some unexpected but important directions.

Hogan, who provided the grist for the Sacasaa post, with well-warranted ire at the notion that JetBlue was using facial recognition, as described here:

He continues with other examples of “Are we sure we are really net positive from technology?”

In the ongoing and growing opposition to the seemingly dystopian world technology companies are building, convenience is often overlooked. But it’s convenience, and the way convenience is currently created by tech companies and accepted by most of us, that is key to why we’ve ended up living in a world we all chose, but that nobody seems to want….

Convenience is signing up to a social media platform to keep in touch with friends and family and keep abreast of current events, and then discovering that the personal information you’ve been required to upload to enable your account has been used to micro-target you with disinformation.

Convenience is buying a digital assistant for your home to make hands-free information searches easier, and later finding out that employees of the company that makes it are able to listen to the commands you’ve been giving it — or that its recordings of the ambient sounds of your home have been mailed to someone you don’t know…,

Convenience is downloading a weather app to check whether you need to pack an umbrella, only to later realize that the app’s code makes it easy for someone to track your movements with such specificity that no amount of anonymization of the data would hide that it was you entering a Planned Parenthood, or riding along with the mayor of New York City…

Convenience is driving a car for a ride-hail company because it promises flexible hours, only to find yourself making less than minimum wage and subject to phantom price surge promises, the absolutism of personal star ratings, and constant surveillance, including messages that prompt you to get back to driving like a notification that your phone is unmounted.

Putting the Uber/Lyft driver case aside, which is more a case of misleading marketing, I find it hard to understand the appeal of these supposed conveniences. But some people who may not find the use cases all that useful if they thought about it are also swept along by social and institutional pressure. A lot of schools use Facebook to organize extracurricular activities, like sports teams. I wonder how many people got the Amazon Echo just to show their friends they were cool when it was still novel to have one.

And I don’t mean to sound critical of MacKenzie Fegan, but if she was that bothered by having to stare into a camera, why didn’t she say something then? Unless she was the very first in line (unlikely; pre-boarding types go first), she would have seen other people getting their mugs shot. You can opt out of the body-scanning machines. It looks as if what social psychologists call “group assent” (where people go along with something because those around them signal that it is OK) or fear of making a ruckus at a check point either desensitized or cowed her.1

But let us return to the bigger theme, that of the supposed convenience advantage of technology. Overwhelmingly, the recent debate over technology is over the loss of privacy, as in giving up our data is the price of getting things that make our lives more “convenient”. But even that premise isn’t questioned that often, when the “convenience” benefit too often fails to materialize.

Technology allow advertisers to hound you with ads on flat screens in ride share vehicles and taxis. It’s made voting less secure and at least from what I can tell in NYC, no faster (plus those old fashioned voting machine with the toggles were fun). Lambert describes how in one supposedly very tech savvy Asian city, they’ve installed pay by phone for their metro system….and it’s way slower than using coins.

But despite the existence of counterexamples and tradeoffs….what exactly is this convenience supposed to be buying for us? Sacasas defines it as saving time. But how are we using that supposedly freed up time? Where does that minute someone saves by not printing out and retrieving a paper boarding pass, or say the ten minutes a day regained by being able to process e-mail while on hold with ahealth insurer go? I must have missed it, but I don’t see a lot of stories about how someone was able to write a great novel, or even have more time to hang out with friends, walk in a park, or meditate, as a result of time freed by technology. Engagement with Internet=based technology seems to lead many, maybe most people to reinvest that liberated time back in the Internet. This may not just be the result of all of the dopamine-inducing tricks apps designer rely upon. There’s also an element of intertia. You are sitting at a computer or staring at your mobile screen. The path of least resistance is to do more of the same. 2

And a pernicious side of technology is the way it hasn’t freed up workers but almost entirely used to whip them harder. Employees do tasks that were once handled by a secretary, on top of job duties that have become more time compressed. Technology at work has served much more to increase output requirements than liberate workers, with Amazon-warehouse-worker monitoring a visible example. But even as of the early 2000s, senior managers, meaning a level or two below the C-suite in big companies, were being asked to do what was recently a job and a half or two job. And that’s before you get to the rise of “on call” expectations for a lot of salaried white collar work.

Sacasas looks at different issues coming from convenience as time-saving:

Horgan’s piece recalled to mind Thomas Tierney’s The Value of Convenience: A Genealogy of Technical Culture…..

Tierney explains early on that there are two basic questions he is asking: “First, what is the value of technology to modern individuals? And second, why do they hold this value in such high esteem that, even when faced with technological dangers and dilemmas, they hope for solutions that will enable them to maintain and develop technical culture?”…

Regarding the nature of convenience, Tierney sees in the modern value a reimagining of the body’s needs as limits to be overcome….

Following a discussion of necessity in the context of the ancient Greek household, Tierney insists that modern necessity, just as much as ancient necessity, “is based upon the body.” However, modern attitudes towards the body differ from those of the ancient Greeks: “While the Greeks thought that the satisfaction of bodily demands required careful attention and planning throughout the household, modernity treats the body instead as the source of limits and barriers imposed upon persons. What these limits require is not planning and attention, but the consumption of various technological devices that allow people to avoid or overcome such limits.”

At points citing the work of Paul Virilio, Tierney adds a critical temporal dimension to this distinction. The demands of the body are seen “as inconveniences in that they limit or interfere with the use of time.” Technology is valuable precisely as it appears to mitigate these inconveniences. “Time-saving,” as is well known, has long been a selling point for modern household technologies.

“The need for speed,” Tierney continues, “both in conveyance and in people’s ability to satisfy the demands of the body, is a hallmark of modern necessity.” But this is a paradoxical desire: “Unlike purely spatial limits, as soon as a speed limit is overcome, another limit is simultaneously established. The need to do things and get places as quickly as possible is a need that can never be satisfied. Every advance imposes a new obstacle and creates the need for a more refined or a new form of technology.”..

There’s something rather pernicious about this. It seems clear that despite the continual adoption of technologies that promise to save time or make things more convenient, we do not, in fact, feel as if we have more time at all.

There’s a lot more meaty material that I’ve skipped over, but here is the connection to death:

The domination of nature, according to Tierney, “has been the value which guides the cutting edge of technology; it is the value pursued by the leaders of technological progress, the scientists and technicians.” Convenience, however, “is the value of the masses, of those who consume the products of technical culture.”

Tierney acknowledges that dominating nature is often a way to dominate other men. That takes us to:

In Tierney’s understanding, “the consumption of convenience in modernity reflects a certain contempt for the body and the limits it imposes.” This, in his view, lends to convenience a discernible ascetic quality. “[T]he fetishistic attitudes toward technology and the rampant consumption of ‘conveniences’ which characterize modernity are a form of asceticism,” Tierney explains.

Body monitors? Check. Bio-hacking? Check. Prizing of fasting and extreme exercise regimes? Check. Back to the post:

Ultimately, of course, the apotheosis of this strand of body-denying asceticism lies in the aspirations of the posthumanists, so many of whom demonstrate a not even thinly veiled contempt for our bodily limits and whose eschatological visions often entail a radical re-configuration of our bodies or else a laying aside of them altogether. What this entails, of course, is a radical reimagining of death itself as a limit to be overcome.

This line of thinking shows a lack of imagination, or even reading, among the adherents to various “connect your brain to a machine” or “hack your mind into a computer.” A staple of cheesy 1950s movies is disembodied brains trying to get themselves housed in new bodies but I suppose if that were possible, the squillionaire class would not have compunctions as to where those bodies come from (even assuming those brains can be kept dementia-free).

And as for the idea of transferring “yourself” into a machine, I guess none of these folks got to or past Dune. In one of the later books in the series, a central character is a “ghola” of one of the characters in the original book, Duncan Idaho. From Wikipedia:

Similar to clones, they are “manufactured” human duplicates grown in an axlotl tank from cells collected from a deceased subject. A true ghola is initially shown to be the resurrection of a corpse through regrowth of damaged tissues, while later gholas in the series are more accurately described as clones—grown from genetic material extracted from a few cells (e.g. a small scraping of skin taken moments before death). Through specific stresses, gholas can be made to recall the memories of the original, including their moment of death.

The Duncan Idaho ghola grapples with the fact that even though he has (or thinks he has) all the memories of Duncan Idaho, he is not Duncan Idaho but started living cognitively only when he emerged from the axlotl tank. It shows a bizarre lack of clear-headed thinking that being able to create a machine that replicates their personalities and memories isn’t at all the same as transferring their consciousness to it. Dead is dead and a clone is a clone.

I’ve given only a superficial treatment of the issues raised in these pieces; I hope readers have the time to take up some of the other threads in comments. One of the few upsides of the RussiaRussia scare is that it’s led the press and the public to question computer security and their loss of privacy. Too bad it’s happening so late in the game that it’s hard to see anything but marginal changes being made.

1 Yours truly has gotten very stoopy with TSA screening people and lived to make my flight on time. And they didn’t do anything worse than what they were already up to The most memorable instance was when they hand searching all my bags with no justification, including not even being selected randomly. They didn’t like a jacket, which had been through 20+ airport screenings already and was not in any bag. And a pet peeve is in Japan or even in Europe, when they hand search your bag, they repack it at least as well as you packed it, while the TSA types make a mess of things. If you packed it surgically to get a lot of stuff in or to prevent things from being wrinkled, you’ll have to go redo your entire bag to get it back to where it was.

2 I have to confess that my most common short-form mental health break is looking at non-news-related YouTube videos.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. vlade

    clone/machine transfer. A simple example is: if you can clone, machine transfer, you can keep the original. Hence, how can the copy (however made) be still you?

    TBH, this is also a problem with teleportation (first I read in Lem’s Summa technologiae IIRC) – a non-desctructive teleport is copy. A destructive teleport can likely still send the information into multiple places (or store it), so is still a copy. I.e. any teleported man is not you, but a copy. A perfect one, maybe (at the time of teleportation) but still a copy.

    Re convenience. To me, the problem is that we’re programmed to always want more (because, for majority of our history as species, most of it lived in hunger, fear, war, illness and generally not that great situation).

    And not only is our society right now, even though it’s now possible, encouraging us to be content with what we have, it trains us and encourages us to want more (for ourselves, our families, our tribe..). Sometimes, it works ok, but a lot of times it doesn’t.

  2. JerryDenim

    Concerning the pitfalls of the consumer addiction to convenience, there was a lyric to a Fugazi song that went “Never mind what’s been selling, It’s what you’re buying” but when it comes to questions of material purchase, especially technology, I like to switch the lyric around to ask the question, “Never mind what you’re buying – it’s what you’re selling”. Meaning we like to think we are buying convenience, additional security, status etc. but the reality is we’re always selling something as well. We sell our autonomy, freedom, anonymity, independence etc. with the purchase of each new gizmo and it becomes increasingly true every year as technology becomes more invasive and connected to the extractive corporate-state hive mind.

    Never mind what you’re buying- what are you selling?

  3. Rafael

    I have the exact same feeling towards some of the amenities of the modern world like Amazon Echo, social networks, body sensors etc. I feel like the alleged benefits don’t offset the drawbacks and I simply don’t use them. I just find it hard to believe that we reached the tipping point of the technology/convenience ratio exactly now, in my generation. Isn’t it something a lot of people already thought before? Also when I consider some of the technological amenities I use (e.g. it wouldn’t be so inconvenient to switch back to withdrawing cash instead of using a debit card given the privacy issues a debit card imposes), they could be (and are) considered not beneficial by many people from other generations.

    I guess my point is: just like there’s no end for the need of new technologies, there’s no absolute of what’s “enough” technology. This will always be a generational issue, whici of course doesn’t mean we should not be critical of new technologies.

  4. PlutoniumKun

    What often surprises me is the shoulder shrug so many people give when you talk about this topic – and I include people I know who are very computer literate and know in detail how this works. And I’m guilty of this sometimes myself.

    In some ways its like climate change – people know full well what is happening at some level, but day to day pressures and no doubt a sense of helplessness stop people demanding the changes needed.

    1. vlade

      The problem is, it’s now so widespread, that in some cases it’s like asking for cart and horse.

      I don’t do FB, but I do LI – it’s hard not to professionaly, when people ask you about it. There were some minor HW things I could source only from Amazon or Alibaba. Take your poison pill.

      Pre-schools, schools and most free-time activities do FB/Instagram etc. as a way to coordinate, share pictures.

      In late 90s, early 20s I tried to stay away from a mobile. I think I managed to avoid having a mobile until about 2003 (getting a work mobile for the very specified times I was on call), but could not really do it post that. And from then on, it was one big slide towards email on phone etc.. And now, honestly, I don’t see how I could ever try managing our house renovation w/o being able to call and hassle the builder every time of the day (since he’s only responding to people who hassle him, in order of how much grief he gets. We tried to be nice, it cost us about a year of our lives and a lot of money. Talk about positive feedback loop.. ).

    2. jrs

      some of that it’s not even fair to classify as a tradeoff between convenience and not. A lot of people have shrugged off talk of technical privacy because they think you have to be a tech expert to achieve it and maybe not even then (probably right with the NSA etc.), and well they aren’t that technical, and perhaps resent being asked to be experts on what they are not experts on and maybe don’t even like very much. A tax on time.

  5. Steven B Kurtz

    Have a look at
    Modern technology depends upon exosomatic energy inputs, and there is always heat output from action. Finite resources are inputs. Pollution output. Finite planet. Plague phase of homo superstitious is here having quadrupled in the lifespan of living members like my 94 year old mother. Hubris keeps techno-optimists confident that anthropogenic systems can replace those we destroy. Bad bet. What we don’t know about whole-system interactions dwarfs what we think we do know. Our progeny will not see nature the way we did, as megafauna are being eaten and traded for trinkets and superstitious myths. Sad, but real.

  6. a different chris

    It looks as if what social psychologists call “group assent” (where people go along with something because those around them signal that it is OK) or fear of making a ruckus at a check point either desensitized or cowed her.1

    Well not everyone is the imitable Yves. :)

    But actually this is a lot more complex than that. The whole feeling is “I want my privacy” which seems at first to inform you to not have your picture taken, but if you refuse then you paradoxically find yourself really standing out from the crowd.

    Ugh. I think the issue is that you feel “cowed” when you think about either choice. And when you have fear, that’s when you go with the group. And it’s sad because USians are the most cattleish people on the planet at this point, so we know what the group is going to do.

  7. Brooklin Bridge

    We are in a sort of perfect storm where neo-liberalism meets human frailty and bad (exploitative) players and technology, and every kind of power from insidious 5G “smart phones” to macro economic to raw physical power is increasingly in the hands of the few and so on, and liberty itself, not to mention human dignity, is what is at stake; the very definition it, the way it is understood, the way is is or isn’t valued. And no one, or precious few seem to be aware of what is being lost.

    We will not come out the other side of this the same if we come out at all. The trick in in all this (including instantaneous teleportation) is to destroy the original. Then it doesn’t matter that what comes out at the other end is a copy or not. It’s all we’ve got. And talking to friends and acquaintances and pretty much anyone about issues of privacy vs. convenience and what we might be giving up; the horrible conclusion I can’t avoid is that destruction of the original is going gang busters.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Speaking of teleportation. I read a Star Trek novel many ears ago where one character, Leonard “Bones” McCoy, argued his mistrust of the transporters. The reason that he gave is that he did not know that when he was transported whether his ‘soul’ would be transported as well. So for him, a transporter could be a death machine. Agreed that this was just a novel but if they ever do come up with teleportation devices, then this is a question that will definitely come up and will have to be answered. That is the thing with new technologies- it creates situation requiring answers for which there may be little, if any, past guidance.

      1. Wukchumni

        I knew a fellow who became a numismatist after a stint in Hollywood, one of his jobs being a go-fer on the Star Trek tv series. He’d do all sorts of things behind the scenes, and the one I found the most interesting, was he and another fellow would pull on ropes @ precisely the same time in opening or closing those seeing-eye doors that are now commonplace everywhere, but didn’t exist yet then.

      2. Keith Newman

        Oh, oh, you’ve stirred up my sci fi antennae! My understanding is If QUANTUM teleportation is used you would cease to exist in one location and instantaneously exist in the second. It would be the same as when you walk somewhere: you used to exist in the first location but now exist in the second one. In Star Trek (I just watched an old episode last night involving time travel with lots of lovely techno babble!) people are broken down at the atomic level and reconstituted, so not the same thing.

    1. Synoia

      You have to consider the gender toles of Huntet-Gatherers, and which group demanded what.

      Who gathered, who made the tools, who traded and who fought. And the why each group did what.

      To do this it is interesting to study African village life.

  8. DJG

    “While the Greeks thought that the satisfaction of bodily demands required careful attention and planning throughout the household, modernity treats the body instead as the source of limits and barriers imposed upon persons. What these limits require is not planning and attention, but the consumption of various technological devices that allow people to avoid or overcome such limits.”

    This is an excellent observation, and I note that the word “economy” comes from the Greek word for household (which would have been larger than a modern household and likely would have included a farm and weaving workshop making its own supplies). The horror of the body is deeply embedded in monotheism, which manifests as the idea and practice of mortification (killing) the body. We continue to see a kind of horror of sexuality and gender, which are manifestations of the body–various over-complicated schools of psychology and academic treatises, notwithstanding. The abortion debate seems to center on the inconvenience of pregnancy and who gets to bear the burden–with the added horror of being “inconvenienced” to bear the child of one’s rapist.

    No wonder there are fantasies like the Singularity and Jesus as My Personal Savior–both of which jettison the body, disdain the material world, and are quite happy to leave a mess behind.

    1. Summer

      The anti-abortionist have zero concern for the life expectancy of the potential children. It’s strictly a short term ploy for political gain that brings power and money to its proponents in THEIR lifetime.
      They are often the first ones to support policies of disposability.

  9. Wukchumni

    In the links thread Luddite piece, i’ve found i’m one of them, but really only in the way of doing things that computers can’t.

    I’ve never seen one nurturing a hilly orchard, or taking a walk, or writing anything i’d opt to read, humor not being their long suit.

    I linked this yesterday, and it deserves another go. These young women from our town have no time for a smartphone…

  10. Keith Newman

    An aspect not mentioned above is that the combination of pervasive surveillance and indefinite data storage means that you will be judged in the future by who you know and every detail of what you do today. So acquaintances/friends who are socially acceptable now may not be in 20-30 years. Not long ago having many Russian and Chinese friends wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. But today it’ll put you on higher surveillance. And tomorrow? Will you be passed over for a job, come under extreme surveillance, be barred from entering some countries, come under criticism if you seek public office? And what if you watch online porn, etc?

    1. Kris Alman

      Electronic Medical Records are supposed to be the convenient solution for gleaning information about your health. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 was their neoliberal roll-out, using sticks and carrots to foist them on us to ensure chaos and shred every rule about privacy in HIPAA. (Remember the P is for portability.)

      Before 2009, Kaiser Permanente had been at the vanguard in developing EHRs with Epic Systems. I complained to HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that one cannot turn off third party trackers when accessing the portal. It’s in the privacy statement. I told OCR that KP refused to communicate with me other than through Health Connect since I had opened that account. OCR investigated the latter and ignored the former, giving blessings to mandatory third party tracking.

      When it comes to EHRs, physicians have been reticent about entries–how to create records that are bland enough for patient readers. After all, there are a lot of loaded words, e.g. drug-seeking, malingering, morbidly obese, etc. There have been work-arounds for that.

      And when it comes to guarding access to records, executives have a “break the glass” protocol, which they won’t extend to insignificant patients like me. (I asked.)

      New England Journal of Medicine is the most prestigious medical journal. Two Perspective articles in May are of note.

      May 9: Preying on Prescribers (and Their Patients) — Pharmaceutical Marketing, Iatrogenic Epidemics, and the Sackler.

      May 16: Big Data and the Intelligence Community — Lessons for Health Care

      The latter article is authored by Kevin Vigilante, Steve Escaravage and Mike McConnell–all work for Booz Allen Hamilton. McConnell was the second director of national intelligence (DNI), having left Booz Allen and serving for 2 years under Presidents Bush and Obama.

      The Sackler family’s repugnant pushing of addictive opioids deserve punishment. My state of Oregon just joined in filing a lawsuit against these owners of Purdue Pharmaceuticals.

      In the meantime, the FTC has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Surescripts–damning evidence of how this company has monopolized the prescribing pipeline between EHRs and pharmacies.

      Surescripts, whether directly or indirectly via RelayHealth, also imposed loyalty requirements on nearly all of its EHR customers. By November 2010, Surescripts had exclusivity contracts with at least 81% of the EHR routing market and at least 78% of the EHR eligibility market (both measured by transaction volume), including contracts with major EHRs such as Allscripts, Epic, and eClinicalWorks. Nearly all of the loyalty contracts with these entities have been renewed or amended with similar loyalty provisions, and they remain in place today.

      But how can law enforcement fight the war on drugs without Surescripts?
      Facing the Opioid Crisis – Intelligence in Action | Surescripts

      Our nation is in the midst of an opioid abuse epidemic. Facing a public health crisis, we are taking action through a combination of technology, education and public policy.

      Technology, Convenience and Death.


      1. Kris Alman

        At Booz Allen, a Vast U.S. Spy Operation, Run for Private Profit

        Booz Allen, a consulting firm that earns billions of dollars by working for American intelligence agencies, has been called the world’s most profitable spy organization.

        Harry Totonis was hired by Surescripts as their CEO in 2009. In a press release he was described as a former MasterCard Advisors Services Chief and Booz Allen Senior Partner.!content/surescripts-names-harry-totonis-as-ceo

        “Surescripts today is the result of the 2008 merger of two companies that were founded and owned by pharmacies and PBMs,” said Bruce Roberts, executive vice president and CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association and co-chairman of Surescripts. “Our goal was to help reinvent health care by making e-prescribing the standard for doctors, pharmacies, payers and patients. Surescripts has shown the significant benefits that are realized through e-prescribing – reducing costs, improving safety and efficiency – and we believe that Harry is the leader the company needs to guide us toward even greater success.”

        Harry Totonis stepped down in Jan. 2014. In a press release: “Under Totonis’ leadership, the company has realized pharmacy’s mission to make e-prescribing a reality and established the nation’s leading clinical network to enable nationwide health information exchange. Totonis joined Surescripts shortly after its merger with RxHub in 2008 and successfully completed the acquisition of Kryptiq in 2012.”

        Since then, Harry Totonis became CEO of ConnectiveRx, a Genstar Capital company.

        ConnectiveRx simplifies how people get and stay on medications by providing information, savings and access. The company is a leader in adherence solutions to the pharmaceutical industry. The company’s reach includes 500 pharma programs, access to 600,000 healthcare providers, and $4 billion in savings to patients with over 2 billion transactions annually.

        The current leadership at Surescripts doesn’t appear to have graduates of Booz Allen.

        Technology, Convenience and the .001%ers.


  11. Summer

    Didn’t higher fuel prices precede the last economic crash?
    While the increased trade “war” will bring a short term revenue boost to some companies (especially those favored by the state in China amd the USA), the long term will be couple with increased energy prices for people. This is on top of increased health care and housing costs.
    So you have the squeeze on to break the worker, but not yer dispose of them en masse.
    Workers are still needed for one last version of the industrial revolution: laying the infrastructure for increased automation/robots/AI.

    It’s going to take retrofitting and redesigning the current infrasctructure to make the robots/AI/automation “smart” enough. With all the infrastructure designed ro benefit humans, those things will never be able to serve the elite in their “Jetsons” future. (Their “utopian” convenience of servants who do not complain.)
    The bots and AI will never be “human-like” enough to traverse the current terrain or social order.

    Once that infrastructure is rebuilt, the trauma of mass depopulation won’t interefer with productivity.
    That dystopian enough for ya!

    1. a different chris

      And that rebuild will fail. Then what, I wonder. ” Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”.

  12. skk

    Thanks huge for excerpting and linking to this. I’ve read the original and queued up for reading their links. BTW, I naturally checked ( I really should automate this process ) who L.M. Sacasaswas is. The name maps to Center for the Study of Ethics and Technology which maps to Greystone Theological Institute which is about the study of scripture, language, theology and reformed catholicity. That’s fine but its worth noting so as to be aware of non-explicit basic tenets of that essay.
    There are so many issues worth following up on in that essay ! A couple of them:

    The characterization of the demands of the body as inconveniences that technology helps overcome quite ignores the heart stents, prostatectomies and assorted technology products and services that postpone death. Death is pretty terminal to atheists like me but perhaps its just an inconvenience for theologians and reformed catholics. That could be a point of departure for an analysis of technology then.

    On the tradeoff between privacy and convenience, group assent, taking a stand – As “a different chris” pointed out, by ‘refusing the body scan”, now one really stands out. From a utilitarian point of view, IMO, hiding in plain sight is more like to succeed in maintaining privacy than “taking a stand”. Of course either viewpoint can to be backed only by beliefs because neither party fully knows how the intruders on our privacy are really working and if we did know we wouldn’t tell cos then THEY would know we know.. For me, its by using technology for scraping logs,webs, some hacking, for searching makes me realize how difficult it is to work thru petabytes and more of data with a decent balance between True Positives, FP, TN, FN. So “hiding in plain sight” with some elements of dynamic obfuscation, disguise are satisfactory strategies.

    1. Joe Well

      I think it is more an act of civil disobedience. If we all opted for the pat-down, the practice would have to stop or we would achieve full employment by hiring people to do pat-downs.

  13. Thuto

    “Saving you time and money” is the leitmotif of modern marketing speak. Add all sorts of psycho-social admonishments about “time being our most precious commodity” and it’s easy to see why technology marketers settled on convenience as a rallying cry for why we can’t live without the gadgets and platforms they sell us. The implication is that technology should allow us to spend less time on mundane activities and reinvest the time saved into more worthwhile pursuits but as Yves points out this is hardly ever the case.

    Instant gratification is the cultural zeitgeist of our time and “convenience” in many cases is a representation of this constant push to shorten the cycle between desire and satiation while making the “user” believe their lives are better for it. It’s a classic case of framing where the associated costs of all this convenience aren’t mentioned at all (e.g. fast food sells convenience and not adverse health effects in its framing) and the constant drumming down of people’s marginal capacity for critical thinking means not many individuals outside communities like NC are aware that they’re “overpaying” for this convenience.

  14. ShamanicFallout

    I was just thinking how about twenty years, the shipping department in our business had to write out all the manifests, some of the labeling, etc. Packaging took longer. It took some time and effort. Now everything is almost automatic in package prep. So now more goes out and more comes in- it’s churning faster and faster but is anybody’s life materially different in any meaningful way? So what if we ship more and buy more? What’s the point?

  15. Joe Well

    In Latin America, it is very common for your picture to be taken or to be videorecorded while boarding an intercity bus/motorcoach to guard against hijackings–no facial recognition, just to have the images to identify attackers later and hopefully discourage crime. I have been photographed numerous times just for that reason.

    I would have assumed this was for similar reasons (not to build a facial recognition database) and not have questioned it.

  16. RenoRich

    Reading the post, I recalled a passage from a book that was part of my 1970 French class syllabus.

    From “Le Petit Prince”, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (published April 1943) via

    “Good morning,” said the little prince.

    Good morning,” said the merchant.

    This was a merchant who sold pills that had been invented to quench thirst. You need only swallow one pill a week, and you would feel no need for anything to drink.

    Why are you selling those?” asked the little prince.

    Because they save a tremendous amount of time,” said the merchant. “Computations have been made by experts. With these pills, you save fifty-three minutes in every week.”
    And what do I do with those fifty-three minutes?”

    Anything you like…”

    As for me,” said the little prince to himself, “if I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked, I should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water.”

    1. The Rev Kev

      A very seditious book that – and one of my favourites. The killer quote from book would have to be “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

  17. AdamCoppola

    “A staple of cheesy 1950s movies is disembodied brains trying to get themselves housed in new bodies but I suppose if that were possible, the squillionaire class would not have compunctions as to where those bodies come from (even assuming those brains can be kept dementia-free).”

    Spoiler Alert: Jordan Peele’s Get Out

    Get Out is about organ harvesting from black people. Peele’s films extend the theme of how the wealthy have “used” black bodies — to keep themselves alive, for entertainment, for labor, etc. The movies explore the experience of discovering how convenience and death are coupled. The better this coupling is hidden, the better the convenience. I recommend Get Out and Us.

Comments are closed.