Progress soars when people come up with new ideas. (Which is why Universities were formerly prime movers of civilization. Their current manifestation as musty tombs sucking at the teat of student loan debt is a story for another time.) Many new ideas are splendid and collectively they lead to the blessings of civilization.
As we try out new ideas we occasionally encounter bad ones. This is part of the process. Just keep the good and ditch the bad. Lucky for us, bad ideas are soon obvious and the market seeks to eliminate them. The instant a bad ideas faces competition it’s separated from the herd, hounded to the ground, and torn asunder by superior options. This is why our current world is pleasantly free of disco, New Coke, and the Yugo. They were bad ideas, the market tested them, they sucked, and everyone dropped them.
Sadly, some folks get hooked on bad ideas; possibly because they’re brain damaged or possibly because they’re emotionally stunted. They simply can’t learn. These people are either harmless flakes or marketers. An example of a harmless flake would be a disco fan who pines for the taste of New Coke. We need not fear the flakes. Pity or even emotional support, is called for. We call such people “eccentric” (or “dumbass”) and keep them safely shunted away from the real world. Ideally they have a pleasant life of inhabiting antique stores, prowling eBay venues, and and boring young people with stories of how great the good old days were. No harm, no foul. The only time they’re an issue is when we’re dumb enough to let them near factories. Then they inflict their nitwit foolishness on the rest of us. The worst part is they never quit regardless of the utter failure of their idea.
Exhibit number one is the asinine idea of hooking a refrigerator to the internet. In the demented minds of marketers (who should have but sadly were not fed into woodchippers), a refrigerator is better, for unspecified reasons, if it’s hosting security flaws and reporting back to Samsung. This bad idea was intended to be just the start. Eventually the madness would infect all appliances. It’s not a new idea. Jackasses floated this shitbiscuit at least 15 years ago. They even started advertising back then: “It’s gonna be awesome! Your refrigerator will soon be hooked to the internet.” I asked “why?” The answer was a variant of “something, something, something, because we can and quit resisting what’s good for you!” Nobody was persuaded because it was a shitty idea that didn’t improve the function of the appliances in question. A few morons (also called “early adopters”) paid a premium for a fridge with an LCD screen but the rest of us were… sane.
Fortunately, the bottom dropped out on that mess. I was called “dot-com bubble pop” or (depending on where your bread was buttered) “Armageddon”. Reality had done its job and kicked dipsticks who wanted an IP address on the dishwasher out of the supply chain. All that was left was a virtual crater, vaporized money, and a puppet.
Internet connected appliances retreated to history’s list of failed ideas but the urge to boss people around lodges deep and it wasn’t properly killed as it should have been. Even as the rest of us continued to live normal lives, demented marketers schemed.
Now they’re back. I hate them for it. Today’s word for “shit sandwich” is “internet of things” a new retread on an idea that was tried and found wanting.
I don’t want my bacon storage apparatus on wifi. I have enough trouble keeping electronics running right now. The thought of OS updates for a toaster galls me. Who needs that kind of complexity in life? If you meet someone who gleefully anticipates rebooting the freezer because the ISP had a glitch, do everyone a favor and throw him off a cliff.
Since consumers hate the idea, the new gambit is to pervert the market. Since people won’t chose failure prone, spyware laden, spam-bot hosting, bullshit it must necessarily be mandatory, pre-installed, and ubiquitous.
Probably in the end they’ll win. They’ve won in so many other ways. My stove and microwave both have clocks. I don’t want a clock on those devices because I have a fucking clock. I like my clock. It looks nice and tells the time. It’s battery operated so I don’t have to reset it every power outage (which are common here). I don’t want to nuke soup in my clock and I’d prefer a microwave without a time display. How hard is that? The only reason appliances come with clocks is because the ugly digital displays is already there and if things get too simple, marketers can see the emptiness within.
My opinion as a consumer with cash in hand is the only one that should matter. And I don’t want bells and whistled. Appliance LCDs turn my pleasant rustic farm kitchen into the bridge of a very dumb spaceship. I should be able to make toast without facing the BORG collective’s eternal lidless stare.
I’m not alone in this. My mundane concern is a preference for simplicity. Everyone who knows security has bigger concerns:
“What I’m really concerned about is that your remote control of things is, in Nate’s words, “in the air” — and if you can turn off your gas oven from your hotel room in Bali, who’s to say that some asshole can’t turn it on from his mom’s basement in Poughkeepsie? Having this ability to control your stuff remotely is fine, provided that you are absolutely, 100% certain that you, and only you, can do the controlling. Me, I don’t believe that, and I do not trust this situation because for fuck’s sake, every single system in the known world, from Target’s customer file to the IRS taxpayer database to Iran’s nuclear development program has been hacked.”
Oh well, I have options to evade. (And increasing motivation to do so; the operative word being “crotchety”.) Just this weekend I made coffee on a 78 year old appliance. (I discussed the adventure of installing Betsy in these posts.) As the “internet of things” approaches its final conclusion and nothing works at all, I’ll happily cook bacon and eggs over wood heat while the rest of the word needs broadband to toast bread.