Friday, February 17, 2006

The Paradox of Choice

Are we headed toward the world once parodied by Quest in its television commercials: all content ever made available any time any where on any device? Everything will be wireless (p.s.,does anyone ever worry about the amount of electromagnetic radiation with which we are bombarding ourselves? Just asking.) Shall I watch Friends, the Godfather, a wine tasting video, or lectures from MIT? Shall I watch it on my PC, my laptop, my phone, or my big screen TV? Shall I order it from my phone company, my cable company, my electric company (broadband over power lines being right around the corner), the wireless phone provider, or the pizza delivery guy? Or should I just read a book?

One thing that the direct marketing people have learned is that too much choice can paralyze decisionmaking. Vanilla or chocolate? I’ll pick one. Fifty-two thousand flavors – I’m just confused. There is something very retro and passive about linear programming – just sit on the couch and see what programs the networks are pushing at me. The thought of having infinite choice is very seductive, but it also requires a lot of work. While the new world enables me to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I’m not so sure that I want to expend a lot of scarce neurons when it comes to deciding my entertainment/information for the evening.

I realize that this is apostasy, but it’s food for thought. Now, let’s talk about your food choices ….