The New Affluence, A Post-Modern Moment
Over dinner the other night, a friend told me about a new company he's helping: It's called KitchenSurfing. For $25 per person, a chef comes to your home, brings the ingredients for one of three meals you've selected, cooks, serves and cleans up. Wow. Arthur Clarke famously wrote that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" and I believe KitchenSurfing meets his criteria. Ditto FreshDirect. Ditto Uber.
What these magic tricks put me in mind of is how technology brings the markers of genuine affluence -- personal chefs, farm to table ingredients and chauffeurs on call -- to the 99 percent. I remember as a kid hearing Grandmother and Grandfather stories of homes with outhouses, reminiscences of family members huddling by radios to hear the news of the day, or the long-running narrative arc of the first soap operas. These one-generation removed memories spoke of times when gas stoves, ice boxes and hot and cold running water were the remarkable niceties that conferred status in small town America. My thought at age 12 or so was that soon everyone, no matter how much money they had or didn't have, would be living a remarkably advanced, upper middle class life, as judged by the looming universality of conveniences I already took for granted: Television, telephones, heat and air-conditioning. Technology is kicking that up a notch in this iteration of the mass upscaling of the culture. So we may decry an era when kids won't make as much money as their parents did, but if they have a chef and a chauffeur, hmmm.