Ideas That Can’t (But Should) Be Killed

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.

“Press here to have your microwave receive security update 3.4.2.11001. You cannot heat a burrito without this update.”

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.

No firmware update needed…ever!

About AdaptiveCurmudgeon

Adaptive Curmudgeon is handsome, brave, and wise.

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17 Responses to Ideas That Can’t (But Should) Be Killed

  1. Mark Matis says:

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. And when you get shish-kabobed by that Jenga pile which provides the wood to heat that appliance, Betsy won’t be able to summon some Only Ones to laugh at you as you bleed to death.

    Or are you counting on your dog to do that? I’m sure you know that Lurch would just laugh and saunter away…

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      Betsy and my dog would both leave me for dead. Which is a lot less concerning than a dishwasher that would summon a rescue team.

  2. Michael Clare says:

    Simplify, simplify, simplify. Mainly, clocks on appliances create the only disturbance to my calm…

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      Another reason to stick with only one clock in the house: “A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.”

    • Wolfman says:

      Clocks on the stove and microwave, which are inevitably visible at the same time, only serve to drive me crazy synchronizing them. Of all the appliances in my kitchen, they only one I really DO prefer with a clock is the coffee maker, so I can tell it to turn on at 0dark30 in the morning and have delicious brew waiting for me upon arising.

      • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

        I occasionally use the timer on my coffee pot. This is reserved for mornings when I have an unusually early departure or if I must face the day at o-dark-thirty for hunting or fishing. Thus, coffee pot clocks gets a pass for being useful; particularly if (like ours) the clock is unobtrusive. Even so, the clock goes haywire every power outage so I have to check it every time I use it. I can never assume it’s already spot on.

        In an unrelated observation, I have met many men who use their coffee pot timer but never a woman. I’m not making a value judgement; I’m just saying I noticed a difference between the sexes in coffee pot timer use. If anyone has evidence to the contrary put it in the comments. I wish I could go back in time and observe the male to female ratio for attacking the dreaded “program the VCR to record a show” activity. I’ll bet it tracks the coffee pot ratio.

  3. If I had my refrigerator hooked to the internet….perhaps they can add a readout that will display the lyrics to ABBA songs.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      Not Abba songs… it’ll likely be clues to access the preprogrammed bullshit that has been planted in your head. I’m thinking the theme to Hotpockets advertisements and subtle hints that real men drink huge quantities of Bush beer.

  4. cspschofield says:

    There are few things in life more annoying than a piece of technology with an opinion.

    Back in the day, it always bothered me that VCRs were sold with internal clocks, but without battery backup. Lots of comments were made about consumers too dumb to program their VCS, and how every one in the country was blinking ’12:00′.

    Nobody knew how to program their VCRs because the buttons were labeled in raised black lettering on a black background, each button had multiple functions depending on what other buttons were pressed, and nobody could remember where the instructions got to. Not that the instructions were a lot of help, saying as they were translated from Japanese into English by people illiterate in both.

    And the clocks were flashing ’12:00′ because the only reason to set the clock was so you could program the VCR, which you couldn’t do because of the above. And after the third blackout undid the laborious setting of the clock most people just said ‘screw this for a game of skittles’.

  5. Bad Ideas are fun! Look at Atomic Annie. Who wouldn’t want one of those?
    http://www.the-whiteboard.com/auto4th02.html

  6. Doctor Mingo says:

    First time I bought flat screen TV, the kid at Best Buy excitedly told me about all of the features it had and then told me how I could it up to this and that with hdmi cables. I looked at him and said, “Dude, I just want to watch TV.”

  7. Eskyman says:

    Surprised nobody’s mentioned “Smart TVs” which report everything you say to the spies (we’re being programmed to think they’re “Russian” spies, but they’re our own.)

    And I’ll never go back to wood stoves! Had one of them- and a wood chip hot water heater- and a fireplace- and I was choppin wood every damn day of my life! Which sucks!

    Also, I just love my automatic coffeemaker- and if it cooked my bacon & eggs, I’d be even happier!- well, as long as I don’t have to talk to it….

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      I wouldn’t let a “smart TV” in my house if you encased it in lead and covered it with garlic wreaths. No way!

      I like my woodstove but it is a lot of work.

      I like my old style percolator but use the automatic coffee maker much more often. I even use the timer with its dreaded clock.

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