You have a choice…

Too much choice!

“We are our choices”, said Jean-Paul Sartre.

Which would be OK, if we were actually able to choose.  But that is where the problem starts.

You want to go out for dinner.  A restaurant would be the logical place to start.  But what type of food do you want to eat?  This used to be a simple decision, a process of eliminating a couple of choices and off you go.  Now things are much more complex.  Not only do you have the age-old dilemma of nationalities, curry over chinese, or maybe the English stalwart, fish and chips.  Now you have the problem of nationalities joining forces and creating “fusions” of each.  The word fusion and it’s morphing into a genre of food probably originated in Australia.  A cultural melting pot in which many foods converge, and then merge, giving fusion cuisine.

A great concept.  To begin with.  But has it gone too far?  

Quite possibly when we have Japanese/French, or Australian/Mexican fusion restaurants amongst others.  I don’t want sushi on my pancakes.  If I order a few bbq’d shrimps or a bit of tender kangaroo, I don’t want it in a taco.  Stop!

Technology is as bad.  Not many years ago, going into a shop and asking for tablets would usually result in the question, how strong sir, is it for a migraine.  Now you are more likely to be asked, what screen size?  Retina display?  Do you want jellybean, ios or a google based one?  Help, shoot me now. The market seems awash with tablets and not many a month goes by without either a new launch, or a “refresh” as they are euphemistically called.

And mobile phones?  Don’t start me on mobile phones.  Seriously.  Don’t. 

I recently was looking at ways of organizing the paper based notes I’m making in my Spanish classes.  This proved to be a minefield.  Evernote?  OneNote?  Useless note? (OK, I made that one up).  And where to store them?  The mythical cloud seems to be the place these days.  In Skydrive?  Apple’s cloud?  Dropbox?  The irony of DropBox is the tagline, “Simplify your life”.  Argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Is it too late to want to go back to when the world was a simpler place? We all had the same Nokia phone? People weren’t messing with my food.  My capacity to save documents was determined by the memory available on whatever device I was using.

Am I kidding myself?  I fear the answer is yes.  Have we gone too far in western society?  Have we gone too far full stop?  There are books written on minimalism.  In fact, there are dozens of books on minimalism.  Appreciate the irony in this?

And coffee shops.  Further irony.  The more independent coffee shops we have, offering more choice, they all suddenly look the same.  What was once the homogeneity of the big chain coffee shops, has now morphed into homogenous streets of endless independent coffee shops, all offering the same arty flat whites, or lattes with a pretty little flower made in the milk on the top.  The only way they can differentiate themselves now is by going to such extremes as offering overpriced vacuum made coffee (also called siphon), as seen so long ago as 1945 in the film “Brief Encounter”.  And people are paying for this.  It’s complete nonsense.  Give me an Italian espresso house any day.  Without menus and silly offerings such as skinny decaf soy lattes.  You want coffee, you pay your euro and you get a shot of pure gold.  You want a ridiculous concoction that involves messing with the heart and essence of coffee making?  There is the door.

Well, that’s my rant over.  I just suppose I am going to have to deal with the abundance of choice, despite how it makes me feel.

In the meantime, fish and chip pizza anyone?
And if you want proof that too much choice paralyses our decision making abilities, Google “the jam experiment” which details a study by an expert in the field, Columbia University Professor Sheena Iyengar.  In 1995 she conducted an interesting experiment that highlighted just how difficult we find it to make a purchase when given too much choice.

2 Replies to “You have a choice…”

  1. One could argue that choice itself is an illusion, with both the left and the right fork ultimately leading to the same destination. I could choose fish n chip pizza, or burger and yabbie pizza, but ultimately my belly is full. Perhaps the real choice is to think about choice in a broader context – and then the sub choices within that genre are all just a blur that need not be worried about so much. Then we can discover our freedom from the machine. Perhaps.

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