The Tyranny of Atoms

My buddy Kevin is lamenting moving his cache of dead-tree technology to his new apartment. I don’t blame him. When we moved down here, I was in the same position – why the hell did I have so many books? Especially so many books that I would never read again. Come to think of it, why was I moving anything at all?

We live in a world where Henry Ford’s mass-production legacy enables me to buy the same book in Mountain View that I bought in Vancouver. Not just a similar book, the same book. Ditto the clothes at from the Gap. And the IKEA furniture. And the personal electronics. With the exception of some personal effects, there’s really no reason that I couldn’t have simply sold everything in Vancouver and bought it all anew once we arrived in Mountain View. Except, of course, for the fact that it would have been a pain in the ass, and my company wouldn’t have reimbursed me for the “move”; after all, I wouldn’t have really moved anything!

As a society, we’re really addicted to shipping a lot of atoms around. Look at us – we ship water halfway around the world, simply because it’s from another country, and contains a few different dissolved minerals. How insane is that?

Travel is another area where we ship a lot of stuff. If we were really smart, there would be a service that you could request along with your plane ticket that would provide you with clothes at your destination. After all, is that pair of Dockers you’re going to need for the business meeting really that unique?

Methinks there’s an opportunity here for eBay or AuctionDrop to enable people to easily arrange to swap identical items to facilitate moves from one city to another.