Why we remember less, and why an out-of-control MVP culture is to blame

The value of an experience can be weighted by the accompanying memory. If we remember, we’ve experienced. Modern existences, however, are led by unconscious routine, and we tend to remember in periods –months and years over days and weeks. Our timelines are blocks separated by special events and milestones.  

Changes in our digital experience have no associated ‘moment’, and so no memory is created. We don’t remember the instant we make a new digital connection (whether it’s Tinder, Facebook or LinkedIn). It happens sometime during the daily commute, or when we’re out shopping. There’s no sensory input – sight or smell or sound – so the instant cannot be recalled.

A focus on minimum product viability has curtailed our experiential potential. We start our search at the bottom, and produce the most appealing offering that allows events to occur seamlessly, as a background process, with minimal input. Products like dating apps, ecommerce platforms with one-click purchases and even driverless cars take us from where we are to where we want to be with less experience. Instant gratification means instant result.

We make MVPs and MVPs make us. It’s hard to return to a ‘harder’ solution once we’ve enjoyed its more convenient facsimile. When supermarkets were felt be an offensive incursion on the sanctity of the small town high street, people didn’t stop using them. Wall Mart was met by enormous anxiety as it spread throughout America, but it still spread. Now supermarkets and shopping malls are yesterday’s solution and face the same extinction – especially against Amazon and its recent partnership with Whole Foods. We, the consumers, switch to whichever is easier, and moral dilemmas and crises of identity do little to deter us.

It’s a downward slope. Each product is an accretion to this need for quick delivery, which in turn adds pressure on the next product to be even easier, faster and gratifying.

Let’s look at Tinder. Tinder is the MVP of dating. It reduces dating to two outcomes: yes or no. Swipe or no swipe. It’d be tough to ask the Tinder generation to return to the relatively laborious and soporific process of meeting somebody, interacting with them and developing an attraction based on a myriad of factors. Viability means giving us what we want, but what we want is rarely good for us. Few ‘want’ to work to achieve something; we’ve come to understand work as the negative and results as the positive. And any proponent of needless negativity is, as we all know, a villain.

Convenience should never mean bypassing experience. If we bypass experience, we have no frame of reference, nothing to fund our lessons or contextualise what happens to us. We become a collage of pictures grazing each other’s edges.  

Having valued experience is more difficult than taking a photograph or one-click shopping. Not hard in the actual sense, but hard in the modern sense – it requires interacting with our immediate surroundings and not adorning our digital veil for protection and shelter. It’s seeing a waterfall and climbing its rocks or swimming in its waters, without immediately reaching for our phone to create the memory on our behalf. Our secondary impulse may be to jump in and sense our environment, but the value we take from that is belied by our first. Why bother to remember when a phone can do it for you? Or, as a more common example, why suffer awkward social situations when salvation is pocket deep?

This action-result slipstream we’ve created is dangerous. Experience matters. Without it, our technology dependence grows to hedonistic heights – by using it to simulate experiences on our behalf. Experience requires consciousness, and digital filters dilute consciousness.