Remember that video that went viral where somebody started with an empty room and then filled it with furniture and decorations without ever leaving? What a glorious demonstration of the way our insatiable lust for convenience has successfully isolated us from each other and euthanised any kind of economy not grounded in corporate-operated, internet-enabled marketplaces.
I don’t feel good about being an Amazon cyborg, but I don't stop either. For all that I am always looking for new options for buying books, I have not been able to shake off the world’s largest ‘bookstore’. Equally worrying are the number of times I order some other kind of item via Amazon, either because I looked in the bricks-and-mortar stores around me and couldn’t find it, or because I don’t have time to make it out to the shops and convenience becomes impulse becomes purchase.
Setting aside various allegations about the work environment for employees of Amazon, and the shockingly low national taxes being paid by the internet giant, the trouble with being an Amazon cyborg is on the one hand the cyber-impulsiveness it encourages, and on the other the ignorance about what we are doing when our buying process is simply a search and a click. People are quite frequently purchasing from Amazon without any concept of whom they just purchased from... perhaps for many people this doesn’t even matter – but it’s rather difficult to see any virtue in this wholesale disregard for context.
To be fair to Amazon, the situation we are now facing is an entirely logical extension of the aggregation of retail revenue that has taken place over the last century. Chain stores in the 1920s, supermarkets in the 30s and 40s, shopping malls in the 50s and 60s, warehouse stores in the 70s and 80s, megastores and big box retailers in the 90s and 2000s, followed by the logical extreme: online marketplaces backed by a vast warehousing and distribution infrastructure. All Amazon has done is extend the trend of taking retail out of individual hands by exploiting ever-growing economies of scale and capitalising on the possibilities of the internet to take this yet one step farther.
The thing about the Amazon cyborgs’ cyber-impulsiveness is that it doesn’t even register as a debility of any significance and is all too easily dismissed by invoking the consumer’s ultimate moral values: convenience and price. The attempt to stack up any other kind of perspective against this becomes largely untenable if we have already accepted this rather strange logic that places ease of action and lowest cost above any other means of assessment. Thus we end up in this peculiar predicament where we Amazon cyborgs are sustaining the online retailer and any qualms we might have are swiftly swept away by the sheer comfortable ease of our ongoing relationship. I might pause to express some anxiety about what’s happening... but within a week, I’ll have ordered something else from Amazon.