Data Ethics Philosophy and ethics of big data  
    LinkedIn     YouTube     email     Homepage ethics workshop business ethics workshop philosophy and economics
Contact Tab

What is Convenience?



Enjoyment, with effort decreasing toward zero: pure convenience.

  • Enjoyment: fruitful engagement with the world.


Plato’s Phaedrus contains one of history’s original studies of convenience: the invention of writing. It allows public speakers to enthusiastically deliver their words without having to first grind them into their consciousness.



Some experiences approach purity in convenience. The IMAX theater located steps from the Grand Canyon promises, according to its webpage:

A giant six-story movie screen and 12,000 watts of digital surround sound allows visitors to literally experience the Grand Canyon as if they were actually there.

The same webpage offers helicopter and jeep tours into the real canyon, but why bother?


Objects of desire, when they happen to be other people, preserve intractability, even in the age of Tinder. Still, every profile added to the platform nudges users toward convenience-purity in two ways.

  • Every new image delivered to the screen is one less person that needs to be sought in a busy, noisy club, and every profile read quickly is one less tedious (probably) conversation for potential suitors. It’s just much easier to do the preliminary sorting of possibilities from impossibilities with a screen then with human interaction.
  • Every time images and profiles are swiped right or left, the filtering algorithm tightens: it better predicts what users want, and delivers it still more efficiently.

Convenience and the end of effort


There are two views of effort.


One is that effort is simple exertion, a loss of energy.

  • Correspondingly, the elimination of effort is an unqualified good.


The other view is that effort contains both exertion and authenticity.

  • Laboring for something – hiking into the Grand Canyon, for example – is not only an expenditure of movement and sweat, it's also the formation of a connection, one that's distinct from the link formed by pure enjoyment.
  • Effort is a sense, not unrelated to seeing and touching. When you invest sweat and muscle into a climb, you don’t just drip salty beads into the dirt while kicking stones along the pathways, you also take something from the dirt and stones, you learn something about the contours and demands of the place. You sense what the Canyon requires, in the same way that you see the colors, and taste the dust in the air.
  • This requirement – this answer to human effort – is part of what a place is.

If effort is part of what a place is, then experience is authentic – complete, penetrating, real – when you suffer for, and into it.


Conclusion. If effort is nothing more than exertion, then pure convenience is desirable and achievable. It's a purification of enjoyment.

  • At the Grand Canyon, a virtual reality experience is better than the real thing.


If effort carries authenticity, then pure convenience may or may not be desirable, but it's definitely not achievable because having it means losing an essential part of what you want.

  • At the Grand Canyon, the real thing is the only way to get the full experience, no matter how advanced the artificial reality technology.

Pure convenience and the end of desire


Pure convenience extinguishes desire because the perfected state means a response to your wants will be produced even before you know what you want.


If convenience is truly absolute, then there cannot exist even a moment of dissatisfaction, not even a split second where your desires have not yet been relieved.


The feeling of desire disappears in the reality of absolute convenience because there's never enough time to realize that we don't already have everything we want.


Is pure convenience death?


If the triumph of convenience means the end of desire, then there's also a link between convenience and the most traditional relief from the ache of wanting: death.


On one level, big data factories and their disseminating platforms – Tinder, Amazon, Facebook – are suicide machines.


Suspicious of convenience

Through philosophy's history, convenience has been regarded with suspicion.


Heidegger and Marx affirmed that people understood their place in the world at least partly through their labor. So, the diminishing of work and initiative automatically threatens our ability to understand and define ourselves.


When Plato addressed the convenience rising from invention of writing he also introduced an irony: while writing is supposed to aid our memory, it actually creates forgetfulness because once we start jotting things down, we'll stop exercising our ability to remember. The message is that there may be something corrupting lurking in convexnience.

Ethics Workshop ©
CC License