Back in 2011 I worked in the humanities department at the University of Southampton whilst studying my MSc. We ran a series of philosophy cafes usually in an art gallery and they were massively popular. People wanted to know if time travel was possible, if monogamy made sense, and if Schopenhauer (the fella in the picture) could give us reasons to be cheerful (the answer to all three is maybe). We podcasted them all using a very expensive Dictaphone that I still have to this day but no longer use. As a Researcher, this was an important piece of kit but it has been superseded by my iphone which can produce a voice recording of comparable quality much more conveniently (the iphone is always on my person, charged, and connected to the internet).
I’ve been writing a miserable set of blogs on intergenerational inequality in which I lay out how the big-ticket items, such as housing and pensions (as well as the planet and access to the European free market) are not available to the young like they are/were to older generations. This article is a counter to that in which I give reasons to be cheerful in the form of small ticket items. The innovations that have changed our daily lived experience for the better and saved us money to boot.
Music and TV
Millennials are the experience generation and take naturally to services that allow them to borrow from the cloud instead of owning. Where our parents have CD racks and shelves full of DVDs (some even have books) we now have Spotify (£12.99 a month or free with adverts) and Netflix (£7.99 a month divided by 3 housemates 2 of which do not contribute – thanks Paul!). These innovations have left HMV and blockbuster in their wake and ensure that for the price of one album in 2006 you can listen to unlimited music, and for the price of 1 ½ rentals you can watch virtually unlimited movies and TV.
Streaming services were facilitated by faster broadband speeds. Innovative business models (such as the gym, and puregym – both of which I periodically re-join and quit) have slashed the price of gym membership in half. Apps like the NHS’s Couch to 5k essentially fill in for a personal trainer.
Newspaper sales are in decline as we access our news in new ways. Yes it’s true The Times does have a pay wall but most choose to access free content. We follow information DJs on twitter who scour the web for content and send it our way. We rely less on journalists as intermediaries and go straight to source following industry bloggers directly.
Chuck your 50-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica on the bonfire we have Wikipedia now (one day when I’m running for president someone may read my back catalogue and note that I advocated book burning). Although we can no longer trust the results of a pub quiz, having the largest collection of knowledge in the history of humanity in your pocket does have some advantages. The ability to rote learn facts is questioned as our phones act as external hard drives to the brain.
MOOCs (horrible horrible acronym that stands for Massive Open Online Courses) like Coursera and futurelearn provide us with free university education. Accreditation is still tricky but for the love of learning they are great (so I’ve heard as I’m yet to complete one).
Food and drink
With a mywaitrose card you can get a free coffee everyday! This could save £728 a year. Based on my last statement that said I consume 45 free coffees a quarter I am currently saving about £365.80 a year.
Steve Jobs remarked of the iphone that ‘it’s our best ipod yet’. 10 years ago I had a satnav (£150), camera (£250), Dictaphone (£150), ipod classic (£180), alarm clock (£30), and watch (£280) amongst other things. Now it’s all in my phone. In addition to being the conduit through which we access all the above mentioned service the smart phone has cannibalised a mountain of tech.
What a wonderful world
I’m not going to go on about the sharing economy, taskrabbit, deliveroo, uber etc because I think you get the picture. I could have been a bit more empirical and looked up the price of a laptop in 2006 before indexing to inflation but this would miss the point. Some of the value of the products and services we have can’t be quantified easily. Consider a news story. Good content is as valuable as it always ever was but when the news source uses a push notification to ping it to your person in real time it has value in its timeliness. How redundant the newspapers were on the morning of Brexit. The examples above when taken together paint a picture of a lived experience dramatically changed by our tech.
You wake up and already our phone has replaced our alarm clock. During the night, its collected data on how we slept and written it up into a small report. You listen to a playlist that’s been specially curated for Monday mornings before heading to Waitrose for a free coffee. Whilst in the queue you check the BBC news app. At this point a whatsapp from Paul interrupts telling you to pay the rent and you log onto your online banking to transfer the money. You arrive at work to a heated argument about how many vertebrae a giraffe has in its long neck. You check Wikipedia and see that it is 7, the same as a human. 8 uneventful hours go by and you decide to grab an uber in order to get home in time for Hollyoaks. Deliveroo nets you dinner and binge watch three episodes of Charlie Brooker’s excellent Black Mirror on Netflix. You consider going out for a run with couch to 5k but decide better of it. Instead you start an online course on magic in the middle ages. You get into bed and browse Instagram until 1am which you promised you wouldn’t do as last night you only got 6.3 hours of sleep which is 17% below target. You think to yourself.
What a wonderful world.