THE BLOG

Sometimes the Limits of Choice Are All Too Real

10/12/2011 05:09 pm ET | Updated Dec 09, 2011

Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired magazine and author of What Technology Wants, doesn't have a smart phone.

Steve Jobs, the visionary who gave people options they never thought possible, was all about "making choices" and "living life on his own terms."

Success in life and limiting one's choices seem to go hand in hand. Why succumb to the temptation of wasting time in front of the TV when you could just not have one at all?

Psychologists agree. Sheena Iyengar's The Art of Choosing leads the way here: No choice is bad, but too much choice overwhelms us. Contrast the beauty and simplicity of any Apple product with the sensory assault of the Windows start menu.

Yet "free market" detractors talk about choice and freedom as if they go hand in hand. Being able to choose that inefficient incandescent light bulb is neither good for you nor the people around you. More importantly, having the choice of producing that ancient, energy-wasting bulb technology has meant for much too long that companies had little incentive to innovate. Bulb technology hasn't advanced much for over a century.

Ironically, now that the days of incandescents are numbered, and plenty of players are inventing new bulbs, there's much too much choice for the rest of us.