I want the chicken... I think

Molly Flatt

Travelling by plane has never felt as strange as it did this summer. Forget the carbon footprint; it was the old pasta/chicken conundrum that really had me stumped.

Cramped in my one-size-fits-none seat, glared at by the graceless hostess, it took me a whole three panicky minutes to decide which to have. But what sort of pasta is it? What comes with the chicken? What if I see it and I don't like it? Is there really no other choice?

The concept of free will underpins the human condition. Our instincts tell us that choice is good. If, as Camus claimed, life is a sum of all our choices, then the social media generation should have the richest lives to date. We are the children of the drop-down menu, and our playgrounds are Amazon, iTunes and eBay.

Technology has enabled us to break products down into smaller and smaller constituent parts so we can customise every aspect of our consumer experience to suit our idiosyncratic needs. Books, music and TV are now tiny scraps of data waiting to be assembled on demand. And offline retailers have followed the trend, from Custom Nikes to Walkers' consumer-created crisps.