I’m beginning to wonder if all of our conceptions about traditional paradigms of consumption are wrong. The belief that more is better is common, but appears to lead to a certain shallowness of knowledge, joy, and habit.
I haven’t really enjoyed a book in months. A book is different from a TV show or a movie because of the considerable time investment required. It differs from a video game because it is passive entertainment. Books are meant to transmit a narrative or knowledge. Difficult books require close examination and careful consideration for the absorption and assimilation of ideas. Books are wholly unique as an entertainment medium for these reasons. That’s not a criticism of other media. Quality books are meant to be consumed more than once. They resist understanding on the first pass through. Their ideas have depth and substance, and the sign of a quality book, is in part, and inability to grasp its full meaning immediately.
As a society, we have near limitless access to art and information. I can view any painting, read any book, hear any song, and watch any film in an instant. The result of this infinite access is that, as a collective, our society has developed a distaste for the imperfect. I don’t like a song, I can press a thumbs down button, and I will never hear that song again. Artificial intelligence learns my preferences, and creates a curated list of music that aligns perfectly (or so their engineers hope) with my tastes and preferences. The more I interact, the more the machine learns what I enjoy, and the more insulated my world becomes.
This only makes sense. The companies that supply our media want to provide us with entertainment that we enjoy, and they want to limit our exposure to media we dislike. They spend millions to create these learning machines to provide me with the most competitively pleasurable entertainment experience available. Modern excess culture is very good at giving us what we want, but what we want is not always what we need.