Thursday, November 19, 2009


We have already ranted against television. Your life is much richer without it! But what about "concentrated television", where you can replay shows at your own convenience and zap out the ads?

Services like TiVo and DishPVR allow you to "timeshift" your viewing and perhaps do it more efficiently, but the underlying programming is still the same. Television in any form displaces your own thoughts with someone else's. Instead of thinking about your own problems and your own productivity, you're sucked into a script provided by others.

Television and other sensory addictions subdivide your consciousness, which is a finite commodity. The more things you try to attend to, the lower the quality of that attention will be. If you are keeping track of the lives of dozens of fictional characters and stories, then you can't be attending as well to the real characters and stories of your own life.

Watching concentrated television is akin to taking concentrated drugs. You're cramming more sensory stimulation into a shorter period of time, with even less time to process it. Furthermore, when you can timeshift your television, you'll never miss your favorite shows. You'll see ALL of them! If you pre-program your shows in advance, you will come back later to have them all waiting for you. This is like having a big buffet in front of you. How can you resist eating it all?

Back in the old days, you had to be in front of the TV at the time the show was broadcast. If there were conflicts with other shows or with real activities in your own life, then you simply missed the show. Is this such a bad thing? Schedule conflicts and the pain of having to watch the ads were natural limiting factors on how much TV you watched. Concentrating the television just makes it easier to watch and more irresistible for most people. Like concentrated food, TiVo encourages "data obesity" where people overindulge to the point where their true quality of life is very poor.

It doesn't matter if a drama is "good", a comedy is "funny" or a documentary is "informative." There may be a lot of admirable shows on television. The only question is whether they are the best thing you could be doing with your limited time on Earth.

Also see: Mindless Entertainment Wasting Our Planet (Kilroy Cafe #16)


  1. How ironic...I was just looking up prices on Tivos. In the past, I didn't really watch much TV, so I was never interested in such a device. I only had a couple show that I liked to watch, and then I would watch documentaries on the History or Discovery Channel in the evenings sometimes when something looked interesting. However, I went through a period of unemployment for about 8 months, and I got interested in a couple more shows during that time. Now I have a job, so I was thinking about getting a DVR so I could keep up with the shows I watch now. I typically only watch TV in the evening around bedtime anyways.

    I might have to's a little creepy that I was looking up prices for DVRs, and then I come across this post afterwards! You made some good points too.

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