Making Life Easy

The overwhelming success of certain web applications has encouraged more than a few tech minded people to search for the latest life enhancing idea. Venture capitalists see this area as one of huge growth and are throwing big money at some of these ideas. Of course, a great many of them, such as Airbnb and Uber, have quickly spawned imitators with, I presume, market share fracturing with each successive imitator. The value of name recognition in this context is huge, but it will be quality of service which really determines the success of any venture. Hence, the need for the venture capitalists whose money can create the infrastructure that will enable development and provide that service.

Life for a great many Londoners in the 18th century had nothing to do with ease of any sort. Perhaps the greatest advancement, as far as many people were concerned, was the home still, a contraption that could prove extremely dangerous because of the need for open flame. Not only was it dangerous to produce, but so many people were drinking that there was a “gin epidemic” and a hefty tax was passed in 1736 to deter consumption. Of course there were riots and the duty was reduced and eventually abolished. It should be understood that it was far safer to drink spirits in London than it was to drink water, but notwithstanding this fact, the liquor taxes were resumed, in perpetuity, in 1751.

No matter what the vehicle one uses to make life more agreeable, almost all of them will have negative aspects. Apps on a smartphone don’t do anything per se until you use them and find them workable. I have had bad Uber rides, for example, and as far as I am concerned, it is a service that is flawed and yet, in a rainstorm in any obscure spot in New York City, it is also a godsend. (A number of Uber competitors have sprung up in NYC, so market competition is in full swing which should make them all more service oriented.) Is this quibbling on my part? A little bit, but enough quibbles can doom a product—human responses can trend precipitously in any direction. Look at Donald Trump’s ascension in the polls. Almost makes me wish for a hangover.

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