Excursions by Amit Gawande

The Promise of “instant”

Patience is a virtue that is rapidly getting extinct within us. Everything digital has trained us to expect everything instant. You want to read, watch, listen to, learn, earn? There’s an app for that.

We were ruined, further, by the advances in efficient service distribution at scale. You need things delivered - there’s a service for that. Groceries? Yeah, those are covered. Food? Cab? Stationery? Yep, we got those covered too.

Services would reach you earlier after a week or more, if at all they could reach you. It became days. One day was a stretch goal that was soon met for many. And next was hours. For many services, it is minutes now. 30 minutes or free.

We have all been ruined by this promise of instant”. A detour of 15 minutes before the food is delivered is worthy of a lengthy rant at the service provider now. A delay of a day before one’s headphone is delivered is intolerable.

Days of patiently waiting for things we need, we want have long been lost. We are ruined by our lack of patience.


Martin Weigert has an interesting take on this - this is what he wrote while sharing this essay as part if his weekly newsletter at Meshed Soceity.

(…) there are at least 2 types of patience: Waiting for the pay offs of one’s work (whether on oneself or external projects), and waiting for things one needs. I consider the first type a virtue. The latter type however, seems to be mostly a mental hack to make a virtue out of necessity. Have to wait for 4 hours to get your 5 minutes at the doctor? Be patient! Have to wait one week to get the thing you bought online? Be patient! Have to wait one day until your bank transfer has been processed? Be patient! In these cases, there is nothing inherently virtuous or positive in waiting.

I do not disagree with any part of this. And I was indeed focused on the second type that he talked about because that’s primary what he face more often and so is what that tests us the most. It is important that we do not lose our sanity if things do go wrong while we wait for things and have to wait longer.

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