The Diderot effect
Creating a small ecosystem of Apple products has led me to reconsider whether it's really what I want or need, but this spiral I've fallen into has brought me as many benefits as drawbacks.
Denis Diderot (dəni didʁo), born in 1767, was a great French scholar and critic, remembered for his contribution to the Encyclopédie, which aimed to be the largest collection of information in human history, equivalent in modern times to what Wikipedia is, with the difference that it was edited and reviewed by enlightened thinkers of the time.
Our friend Denis was not a millionaire; on the contrary, he had many financial problems. This was partly because the work of an intellectual was not well-paid, and he was a bit disorganized with his finances. He had a large personal library that contained many works for both reading and reference, essentially a vast database of knowledge.
Due to these financial disarray, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia and an admirer of his work, offered to buy his library for 1000 pounds of the time. But not only that, she also hired him as her personal librarian with annual payments, on the condition that he would manage her own library, take care of the books, and allow her to consult, borrow, and return them as needed. This allowed Diderot to overcome his financial difficulties and gain real stability.
With this arrangement, Diderot made one of his dreams come true, purchasing a red velvet robe that would become his pride. He would walk around in his robe, show it off, and boast about it. It was beautiful and elegant, but it didn't match his humble possessions. Within his catalog of belongings, there was no place for such an elegant robe. So, he began making changes in his home. He bought a carpet that matched his robe, but then the carpet clashed with other items. He purchased expensive paintings to match, then a table, and he entered an endless cycle of consumption.
This behavior of consumption is studied in finance and psychology and is known as the Diderot Effect.
The behavior of our protagonist today can be viewed both negatively and positively.
- Negative: The cycle of consumption can lead us to ruin.
- Positive: Users of a product or platform can acquire something additional as a complement to the original.
I'll give some examples. When we buy a child a toy, we fulfill a need, but... there's always a "but"... those toys sometimes have add-ons, extras, expansions, or something additional that tempts us to purchase to enhance the experience, as happened to Diderot.
Falling into the spiral is bad; creating a complement is good.
What's my case with Apple? I started in 2014 by buying a MacBook Pro because I needed a new computer, and at that time, it was common for a programmer to buy a Mac because development tools ran slightly better in that environment due to control.
I didn't see anything special about having a Mac; I simply thought they were good devices and easy to set up. But I never had an interest in owning another Apple device; I didn't want to create a complement because I didn't see the benefit. It wasn't until 2019 that I inherited an iPhone, after 5 years, to take that first step.
The compatibility between Mac and iPhone was my downfall because I discovered AirDrop, iPhotos, Safari, Keychain, Share Screen, and several other things that made for an ideal complement. So, I dove in. After that, there were some AirPods that connected automatically to the devices, and then the Apple Watch.
These devices, individually, don't add much to my life because they don't complement anything else.
Now, I've fallen into the Diderot Effect by subscribing to Apple One, mainly for iCloud, but it includes Apple Music, so I no longer pay for Spotify. However, my friends use Spotify, and when they want to share a song with me, it's complicated, or when they want to check my playback history for matches. In that case, I'm trapped in the ecosystem.
Or when software development teams only work with one service provider, such as Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, or Amazon AWS, and they only pay for services from one company because they are tied to an ecosystem. So, they don't want to mix platforms because it's more complicated, or is it part of the Diderot Effect?
In the end, it's neither good nor bad but quite the opposite.