A couple weeks ago, I made my first Instacart order. It was amazing. Some nice lady took my shopping list to the grocery store while I sat on the couch surfing Netflix. A couple hours later she was at my door apologizing because Whole Foods was out of my preferred brand of bottled water.
On Mother’s Day, I was poolside with some friends discussing what we were going to do for lunch. Fifteen minutes later, a nice lady from SpoonRocket pulled up outside my door with hot food for us. As she was handing me my meals we chatted about the fact that she was working a 12-hour shift on Mothers Day because she was hoping to afford to take her kids on vacation soon.
We celebrate what this new economy means for workers—independence, flexibility, higher wages. And we can argue those points (what about health care? what about labor protections?) but no one seems to be asking what it means for us, the ones whose phones have become the little ringing butler bells that summon our ladies maids, our housekeepers, our cooks, our drivers. What does it mean to live a life essentially free from inconvenience? What kind of world are we creating where there’s a class who lifts a thumb and a class that delivers their on-demand service? Have we stumbled into a twenty-first century version of Upstairs Downstairs?
This has been troubling me since that first Instacart order (not that I’ve stopped using it, I’m not THAT troubled), and it was on my mind when I read a recent New Yorker piece about Soylent. I’ve been harping on the fact of Silicon Valley’s woeful isolation and lack of diversity is leading the industry to focus on—and invest heavily in—more and more meaningless things, solving problems that are ludicrously indulgent. Soylent has to be the apex of this trend.
Let’s leave aside the fact that there’s not one single solitary innovative thing about Soylent, and the fact that the founder’s experience of nutrition and hunger extends to him having read a book about it. The problem its founders are solving is quite literally “I’m too lazy to walk to the microwave.” Even SpoonRocket, where nice ladies bring piping hot, prepared meals to your door in under ten minutes, is too inconvenient. We have reached peak sloth—just let me reach over and squeeze the nutrients down my throat, I can’t be bothered to get up to grab a fork.