Published 2023-01-31 on Yaroslav's weblog

We take it as a fact that life is simpler for man these days than it was even a couple hundred years ago, let alone a thousand years ago. We hear it all the time. If we take a closer look to even what has been happening in the last 20 to 30 years, it might turn out that life might not be getting simpler anymore.

If we are talking about surviving, then yes, most certainly it has become quite simple for people to live to see another day and to avoid many of the natural causes of death, even those as simple as starvation and disease. That is, if we talk about the developed world from the point of view from which I'll be writing, since even in most of the not so developed parts of the world the advances of the developed nations have been seeping through.

Mostly of course, life expectancy wasn't that great before not because people didn't live until old age, but rather because not many children survived into adulthood, or even birth, for that matter. The point, however, is not that, but the fact that for one to be able to just survive and live to see another day — to not die of starvation or disease, or be killed by wild animals — is pretty easy nowadays.

That said, surviving for a man isn't really the goal, but rather the means. Man is more complex than a simple animal, he seeks to find meaning in life, accomplish great achievements, produce great things and maybe leave something to be remembered for, at least by the people closest to him.

So for man to be happy he needs to constantly go through some effort to achieve something worth of that effort. It is by this process that men acquire the feeling of accomplishment. What changes for each person is what is worth achieving. But if something doesn't require much effort then one doesn't feel as if they've really achieved it.

On the other hand, if something is difficult but is deemed as not being worth one's attention or unnecessary, we try to avoid it. If it cannot be avoided it causes one to feel annoyed, stressed, etc.

There are, of course, some factors that cannot be avoided, that are part of the physical limitations of life itself. They can be quite unpleasant, but by consciously or unconsciously being aware that they absolutely can't be helped one doesn't feel as bothered by them as by those things that we know that are artificially made difficult.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, covering one's basic needs has really become so much simpler that even though most of a man's life in the past was devoted to them, nowadays has been relegated to basically just a small fraction of a person's day. This is of course great, since it allows man to pursue greater achievements that he may set his sight on. It also allows for debauchery and degeneracy among those unfortunate people that have bought into the thought that happiness and freedom mean indulging in hedonistic activities without restrictions, but that is a topic for another day.

Even though those basic tasks have been significantly easier, there are some other aspects of life that are becoming more complex than necessary.

Life shouldn't be simple. There should be hardships in life, but, as I mentioned, they should be the kinds of hardships through which we accomplish something great. Yet modern life is becoming more complex and difficult in precisely the wrong ways.

'tis actually a rant

It has been a really long introduction for a very simple rant, but I wanted to give some context first.

There are some things that used to be much simpler that are now becoming more complex and annoying without any benefit whatsoever.

Probably not all of the examples that I'll list are actually that way in other parts of the world (I live in Russia), but I get the feeling from what I see online and talking to other people that it is not much different in most of the developed (so-called developing countries included) world, and even though some examples might be exclusively local phenomena most probably there are different examples from other parts of the world that are at least in similar in nature.

It's also not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.

  • Electronic or electric crap where it doesn't make any sense. An example of this is the electric seats that now come as standard in some cars. It's much faster and easier to adjust it with ye olde mechanical levers, not to mention that they are more durable than their electric counterparts.
  • It's become nearly impossible to live without a cellphone. You need it for your bank, many online services, and even some offline ones. Online services shove it unto you in the form of totally insecure yet terribly cumbersome SMS 2FA; and now you can't even properly dine at some restaurants because to read the menu you now have to scan a goddamned QR code.
  • IoT in general, but especially in consumer and home appliances. There are some appliances which are still easy to find in their "dumb" (or rather non-retarded) versions, but there are others such as TVs which are almost impossible to find without "smart" crap. I don't want my fridge to connect to the internet, I just want it to keep my food cool so that it doesn't spoil. In fact, I don't want anything other than my computer(s), my phone, my home server and my router to connect to the internet. Now that I think about it, I might even want for my phone to not be connected to the internet.
  • (Online) accounts for everything. This has become so bad, that I have to split it into subpoints.
    • Computers - fortunately, when it comes to general computing devices I don't use proprietary systems that impose this crap unto me. It still baffles me the way in which using computers has become so much harder for users of such consumer-oriented proprietary systems such as Windows. You have to have a M$ account for that and for this, the default is now not a local account but the M$ account when installing Winblows. I haven't used Windows in a long time, but I wouldn't be surprised if now you couldn't even use the non-professional version without first signing-into a M$ server.
    • Appliances - I sometimes play friends in some bars in gaming consoles. I remember when playing videogames from a console was as simple as putting the media and powering it on. Now you are constantly pestered to log in, not to mention that in most cases you also have to install the game or even "first-day" updates. Here also comes to mind the case with most "smart"-anything, such as TVs.
    • Day-to-day life - this cancer of accounts has been seeping and spreading into day-to-day real life as well, which is even worse. Now if you make the mistake of actually giving your phone number for one those discount cards you suddenly find yourself with an account (even though it might not be obvious at first) and a lot of SMS spam. But worse of all, government related accounts. It's okay when online government services are offered as an alternative, but now there are certain things which can't be done at all without having to register an account in their web services, which are developed by incompetent government workers that haven't heard the word security or privacy in their lives.
  • You can't just go into a supermarket and just buy what you need like it used to be, you are bombarded by discount offers, coupons and the like. Just when you are about to pay you are asked if you have their discount or loyalty card and god forbid you don't you are asked if you would like to get it. Every single time.
  • Advertisements everywhere. There's nothing inherently wrong with advertisements in and of themselves, the problem is that they are now everywhere. Websites, supermarkets, apps, home appliances, operating systems, cars, your mail box, your email inbox, etc. they are all filled with advertisements. It's become a circlejerk of everything trying to sell you something. Want to open the car sharing app to rent a car? How about some discount for coffee? Maybe if I wanted to drink some coffee I would have gone to the store or café to buy some.

These are just some of the examples of the way in which so-called "progress" is actually making life worse instead of improving it.

We are getting better at certain things, like more efficient engines and more powerful computers, but the end experience in most products and services is getting worse.

The point of technology is to be used as a tool to give more freedom to people and make life simpler. Instead of that, people are becoming less free by being hyper-dependent on technology and complicating life all around.

The worst part of all of this is that there is no reason why things should be made this way. Not even profit, since even though that seems to be the goal most of the time, it doesn't really contribute to making life better for their customers so that they actually spend money on things they actually need or want. It seems to be that the people that were inventing and making things some 30 years ago were actually interested in improving the experience of their users, be it a simple TV or a car. Now it seems that it's just a matter of who has the shiniest new features or whatever is being hyped now.

I do have to wonder what all the developers and engineers that design such systems are thinking. Maybe they are told by their management that it is what needs to be done, but certainly they must have some agency to know better and do better. Not doing anything is better than being complicit in building the nightmare that is being built nowadays.

I don't really think that the people that are complicit in this really think that this makes their lives better. Even if it brings them money, now that money can't be spent on anything that gives you exactly what you need.

© 2018—2023 Yaroslav de la Peña Smirnov.