Too much choice

Below is a clip from an excellent post by the venerable Charlie Brooker in the Guardian. I admit this is lazy for simply including his words below mine, but It’s a sentiment I’ve shared for quite some time, despite being guilty of stuffism myself.

I’ve long fancied opening up a shop called Simplicity, where you get only one choice of everything. So you want bread? Here’s a loaf. Need a T-shirt? Here’s this week’s. Want a ready meal? Have this. You see, I’ve wasted hours in shops such as Tesco’s behemothic cow sheds deciding between such pathetically meaningless choices as 15 different varieties of sodding mint sauce.

I do wonder too, how many design jobs exist solely as a result of our megalomanic lifestyles. I’ve pointed out before how my being a part of the Scouting movement helps you put your life into perspective, and I concur with Charlie: When I’m on camp without phones, Google, TV, blogs, Twitter, last.fm updates, social media architecture meetings and decisions about mint sauce – life seems free and easy. Don’t get me wrong, I’d not trade my career for any other – it was made for me – it’s just that our lives have become a little smorgasbord-tastic. Less ‘stuff’ = less stress. And our minds are free to think – and free thinking feels great.

Every day we humans gleefully churn out yet more books and films and TV shows and videogames and websites and magazine articles and blog posts and emails and text messages, all of it hanging around, competing for attention. Without leaving my seat I can access virtually any piece of music ever recorded, download any film ever made, order any book ever written. And the end result is that I hardly experience any of it. It’s too much. I’ve had it with choice. It makes my head spin.

Here’s what I want: I want to be told what to read, watch and listen to. I want my hands tied. I want a cultural diet. I want a government employee to turn up on my doorstep once a month, carrying a single book for me to read. I want all my TV channels removed and replaced by a single electro-pipe delivering one programme or movie a day. If I don’t watch it, it gets replaced by the following day’s selection. I want all my MP3s deleted and replaced with one unskippable radio station playing one song after the other. And every time I think about complaining, I want a minotaur to punch me in the kidneys and remind me how it was before.

In short: I’ve tried more. It’s awful. I want less, and I want it now.

Charlie Brooker, The Guardian, Monday 5 October 2009

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