This week's long read, and it's a goodie. I can't remember the last time shipping and logistics was described so lusciously.
The great trick of online retail has been to get us to do more shopping while thinking less about it – thinking less, in particular, about how our purchases reach our homes. This divorce of a product from its voyage to us is perhaps the thing that Amazon has sold us most successfully...Amazon’s emphasis on speed compelled other retailers to hurry, too, and encouraged us to believe that if something cannot be had quickly, it is barely worth having at all. It is as if we have forgotten that a product is an object moving through space, fighting gravity, air resistance and other forces of nature. Companies, though, are only too aware of it. While we choose and buy our purchases with mere inch-wide movements of our thumbs, they are busy rearranging the physical world so that our deliveries pelt towards us in ever-quicker time.
The piece goes through everything from warehousing and packaging to the environmental impact of cardboard 1mm thicker than normal and how cities are going to change in decades to come thanks to humans experiencing evolution in reverse.
For thousands of years, human progress was indexed to the ease and speed of our mobility: our capacity to walk on two legs, and then to ride on animals, sail on boats, chug across the land and fly through the air, all to procure for ourselves the food and materials we wanted. In barely two decades, that model has been turned inside out. Progress today consists of having our food and materials wing their way to each of us individually; it is indexed to our immobility.
While all the pre-Black Friday sales "[invite] you to gaze out upon the entire bazaar all at once and to indulge the merest whim", I highly encourage you to take a pause and read about how all the items are going to get to you.Read more...