Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Tech Service Guilt

Matt Levine, Bloomberg:

Elsewhere in Uber bashing, here is Timothy B. Lee on how Uber solves all its problems with money, which is not a long-term sustainable approach. As a consumer, I kind of hate this approach. Uber “attracts customers by offering them below-cost taxi rides,” Lee writes, but that’s not how it attracted me. It attracted me with convenience and certainty and the ability to get a car anywhere. I would pay more for that than I would for a regular taxi. Instead I have to pay less, and make up for it with intense feelings of shame and guilt. This seems like a general problem with the current generation of tech companies. They’ll give you an incredibly valuable service for cheap or free, but they’ll make you feel terrible about it. (Hi, Twitter!) I feel like there is a market niche for more expensive products without the baggage, but perhaps that doesn’t scale.

Whenever I order dinner using an app instead of over the phone, I get the same feeling. In the case of Uber and food delivery, I think that guilty feeling arises — for me, at least — from the knowledge that there is a real person on the receiving end of the order, but the app allows us to treat them like a push-button servant, of sorts. This sort of privilege was previously the domain of those in the rarefied atmosphere of upper floors and private jets; now, it’s available to those of us who, in many cases, would also be on the receiving end of similar commands.