Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Tufnel-ization of America

Several people have suggested that November 11, 2011 be designated as "Nigel Tufnel" day, which makes complete sense for those of you who know what I'm talking about. Personally, I love the idea, but I think it's too late. Our country has already been Tufnel-ized.

Just last night, I was watching a basketball game. During a timeout, I was treated to commercials hawking movies and phone service. The movies, of course, relentlessly pointed out that they were in THREE-D, not that flat, pathetic two-d of your grandparent's ilk. And the phone service was FOUR-G, not that slow, pathetic 3G that your parents are probably saddled with.

Have we, as a nation, become so stupid that subtler differentiation plays are lost on us? Or are we all now so enslaved to software that we only understand "upgrades"? Do we accept, on faith, that something is better than its predecessor simply because it's "one louder"? At the risk of mixing my metaphors, there's something Orwellian about this and we should all remember to look behind the curtains.

3D movies rake in $3.50 more per head than their 2D counterparts at an incremental cost that's close to zero. And maybe I'm just being curmudgeonly, but I don't think 3D enhances the experience materially. It's either a good movie or it's not. I'm not sure a 3D re-release is going to do much for Waiting for Godot and I'm pretty sure there's no technology in the universe that's going to save this one.

And what exactly is 4G anyway? OK, higher bandwidth and better integration of voice and data services, but is it available everywhere? Now? How much more does it cost? Most importantly, do I really need it? Has my life truly been empty just because I've had to have a wifi connection to video chat?

There's a great article in the New York Times about the technologies that we have now that we didn't ten years ago. It's really astonishing. I'd become so accustomed to half the things he mentioned that I can't remember living without them. Hell, "blog" wasn't even a word ten years ago.

But still. I work in technology and I know that some of these technological advances really do add meaningful value. But we should question everything. Let's not get caught up in the marketing just because our Apps now go to 11.

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