When children are about old enough to stop vomiting on themselves, we teach them that instant gratification is bad—one of the simpler vices. But if Uber has its way and explodes into the big fat company of its own pipe dreams, it will make it OK for us to demand anything we want, whenever we want it.
Yes, and of course: getting a car via Uber has problems, but it can be hugely useful. I use Uber. In the rain, it has been a lifesaver. In San Francisco, it can save you hours.
But the company's not content with cars: at this year's LeWeb conference in Paris (French for "The Web"), Uber CEO Travis Kalanick talked big picture plans (in the video above), and could barely hide his ambitions. Of course, New York magazine's Kevin Roose is right, or will be eventually: Uber wants to do way more than drive you around. Kalanick wants badly to admit, yes, Uber will bring you all manner of things, a commodity cornucopia already hinted at by Christmas trees and roses, an Amazon.com that's all around you, always. So the next wave will be more than quick rides—we can expect pets, massages, canned beans, affection, Christ only knows. Anything means anything. There's an infinitude of ways to satisfy sloths with smartphones.
But it begins now, because Uber isn't just selling us car rides, it's training us to expect car rides—to take it for granted that, of course, a fleet of SUVs will mobilize with a tap, tap, tap. It's not yet instant, and it's not yet, anything we want, but it's conditioning us to demand constant convenience—to feel frustrated, angry even, when we can't get a car as soon as we want it. It's shifting us into a society of technobrats, who delight in instantaneousness for its own sake, our iOS birthright.
In Kalanick's head, we'll go beyond mere convenience, and immediate gratification will be the norm.
That sounds awful. In any other context, "give me what I want and give it to me right now" is a universally obnoxious thing to say. The answer would be "no," and probably "get the fuck out of here." But in Silicon Valley, that's a CEO's mission statement, verbatim. And we shouldn't let him make us worse.