The End Of The Line

The Consumer Electronics Show happened this week in Las Vegas. There was a time when this was an international event, as everyone wanted to see the latest electronic gadgets that were about to hit the market. The pace of change was so quick, every year featured cool new ideas and concepts that promised to alter how we experience our entertainments. There was also the futuristic factor, as companies would preview what cool new technology they were about to bring from the lab to your home.

That’s no longer the case as the consumer electronics business seems to have run out of road, as far as cool new ideas. This is apparent in the troubles Apple is suddenly facing. It makes a cool looking toy, but there’s nothing unique about an iPhone. It does what all the phones do now. The gap between it and the low end brands is not enough to warrant a premium. This is an issue turning up all across the consumer electronics space. There’s just no new technology to make any of it “must have” or any brand unique.

The big new idea this year is 8K TV, which is just becoming a reality. TV makers have made 4K the default now. Everyone hopes these super high resolution TV’s will spark a revolution in both accessory items and the content itself. So far, 4K has not made much of an impact on consumers. It turns out that better resolution does not improve the quality of the content. That was true of HD, but at least those sets looked cool and they were much easier to move around the living room. They also made 80-inch screens possible.

That’s the tell with this stuff. If a new technology has an impact on the consumer, it can first sell at a premium. That was the case with HD television. Middle-class white guys in the suburbs built man caves around their big screen. That did not happen with 4K television as people just ignored it until the price dropped to normal levels. That means the same will happen with 8K. The resolution and sound of the television has reached the point where it is more than good enough for the majority of people.

Manufacturers have known this for a while, which is why they invested heavily in virtual reality. Virtual reality or some other immersive technology is the assumed to be the next step, but people don’t seem to like the idea. VR headsets have been out for a while and they have been a big flop with the public. Part of it is you look like an idiot wearing the things and no one wants to look ridiculous. The experience so far is less virtual reality and more altered reality, like being on hallucinogens.

There’s also the fact that virtual reality will probably not work anything like the electronics makers imagine. Human perception is something we know little about and what we think we know we have all wrong. Much of our reality is probably generated by our brains from stimuli that we get through our senses. We’re not living in the matrix, but we are living in a stripped down version of reality. Our brains consumer just what is necessary to build a reality from information stored in our brains that we accumulated in life.

Otherwise, the “new” stuff coming from electronics makers is increasingly ridiculous implementations of things like voice activation. A voice activated parasol was probably fun to design, but it is entirely useless. In fact, voice activated stuff will most likely fail miserably for two reasons. One is the idiocy of it. Just think of how annoying it is to talk to a robot on the phone when dealing with the bank or pharmacist. No matter how good the technology gets, you will always know you are talking to a thing and that feels dumb.

The other factor is privacy. You have to be close to retarded to invite these devices into your home, given what we already know about the tech firms. If the mobile carriers are willing to sell your location data in real-time to anyone who wants to buy it, including criminals, then they will sell your private conversations in real time too. Just as prisoners figure out how to make their cells a private space, the future means the home becomes a technology free area, so people can have an escape from the panopticon.

The end of the road for consumer electronics will no doubt have an impact on video content creation. Something that has gone unnoticed is how the technological revolution transferred billions every year from consumers to the entertainment business, without much change in the content. If anything, the result was more bad content and much more propaganda. The selling of the poz is so over the top now, it is intolerable. That suggests the content makers are ripe for “disruption” as the cool kids say.

A hint of it is in the audio space. It took a while, but the mp3 altered music and spoken word formats. People still listen to talk radio, for example, but the switch to podcasts and live streams is happening quickly. Like evening news shows, terrestrial radio is the thing that appeals to older people. It has no future. In all probability, we are on the cusp of a similar revolution in video content. It will have different contours, but the end result will be a radical change in the economics of entertainment.

Of course the petering out of the consumer electronics revolution will have economic consequences. The PC revolution ran its course, just as we are seeing with home entertainment and mobile phones. At the end, we quickly saw a consolidation and commoditization of the market. No one thinks much about the big name computer makers and in time no one will care who makes their television or smart phone. These household names will either move onto other things or go out of business.

115 thoughts on “The End Of The Line

  1. “It turns out that better resolution does not improve the quality of the content.”

    After thirty years, someone echos my sentiment.

  2. Don’t underestimate the impact of Chinese rip-off artists. Chinese factories would fly out employees to take pictures and ask questions about the about-to-hit-the-market American and Japanese tech. After spending millions in development, Chinese knock offs would often beat the actual product to market.

  3. “No one thinks much about the big name computer makers and in time no one will care who makes their television or smart phone. These household names will either move onto other things or go out of business.”

    Except most people are at least marginally aware of “country of origin” when shopping, else legislation that punishes organizers of Israeli boycotts wouldn’t be (((necessary))).

  4. A real life Matrix will be the next big thing in consumer electronics entertainment. I am 52, so probably won’t live to see it, but it will be developed eventually- I would guess it comes sometime in the next 30-40 years.

  5. I miss the 70s when high end audio was a thing. The local mall had two or three hi-fi shops where you could listen to the latest offerings from Marantz, Nakamichi, Pioneer, Harmon Kardon, Carver, McIntosh and others. If you really had money, you owned a reel-to-reel deck. These days people don’t seem to want anything better than a small bluetooth speaker. Sad.

  6. Aren’t we still in the middle of a grand experiment on the effects of long term, constant bathing in Wifi & Cell + 3G Data stream signals? Will be curious if heavy smartphone users start showing odd health problems after 15-20 years, esp after keeping the devices activated & near their gonads.
    I’m still waiting for my Jetpack, Flying Car, and Apartment on the Moon. All that cool stuff that was promised in 1970s issue of Popular Science magazine.

  7. We won’t see much on the CE end until there’s a quantum leap in battery technology. Energy storage isn’t sexy, but it would change our lives in ways we can’t yet begin to imagine.

    I think also off-grid communications is a potentially revolutionary tech. The guy who figures out how to create a regional or nationwide mesh network by getting people to connect their digital devices (or simply installing mesh network devices in homes, schools, businesses, etc) would basically free everyone from cell phone companies. It would also be a lot more robust during natural disasters.

    The person who figures out how to kill Comcast and Verizon and the entire concept of an ISP will change the world.

    I remain thoroughly surprised that cable nets aren’t piggy backing HD broadcasts on local OTA sub channels to access cord cutters. Take Fox News Channel, for example…why don’t they grab Fox channel 21.5 and just broadcast their shows OTA?

    The decline in content is partly driven by cable bundling of networks which has kept ESPN and CNN alive for years. Broadcasting OTA profitably requires content that attracts viewers vs simply getting % of the cable company’s take. That’s why a lot of the original content on Prime (Jack Ryan) and Netflix (Stranger Things) is so good…they have to draw viewers.

    Finally, having done a bunch of Christmas shopping on Amazon and elsewhere, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the great irritants of my life is the whole idea of shopping in a store. Logistics are getting better and better, and we joked throughout the holidays that it seemed like we hit “submit order” and the doorbell would ring 20 minutes later with our delivery. It’s getting that good. So, the only reason to go out is entertainment…

    …making the conversion of brick and mortar shopping malls into destination entertainment hubs the next big real estate innovation. You’re already seeing signs of it. If Disney figures out how to turn a mall into a regional “DisneyTown” compete with their VR rides, high levels of service quality and absurd prices, look out. The Logistics today can support that kind of thing.

    The isolation backlash is coming. People are tired of being alone, and will pay big bucks to buck the trend.

  8. AM Radio was dead, then there was Rush Limbaugh. (also note not every part of the USA even has cell coverage).

    That said, Terrestrial TV needs to be local – meatspace oriented. In any case there will be uses for the bandwidth.

    I find 4K very useful as a computer monitor. I can see several pages of a document, or have several windows open with little overlap. TV? Do I really want to be able to see your individual hairs and pores in your skin?

    8k will be similarly useful, as a large wall map is more useful than the App-peep-hole.

    With VR you are out of it. There’s AR (augumentd reality), but the first pass was the Google Glassholes, the second was that Pokemon game asshole creator.

  9. There’s always something new around the corner. The problem is, as with so many other industries, the FTC hasn’t enforced competition in 30+ years. Silicon Valley is not the jungle of small companies it used to be, but startups that are consumed by three or four massive tech conglomerates. Real technological breakthroughs get stalled out in large silos. Xerox practically invented the future in the 70’s, but couldn’t bring one groundbreaking thing to market after their copiers.

    Companies age poorly just like anything else. When half your job becomes diversity training quizes, it’s all over. Most of these companies are just rent seekers with institutional holders of their stock.

    Look at your cable box (if you still have one, I don’t) Doesn’t it look suspiciously like it could have been produced in 1998, maybe with a new chip that can handle faster resolution, yet with a user interface from the 90’s? Does your cable company still charge you an extra $8 per month for HD in 2019, also like it’s 1998? As if you want analogue as an option at all? Mine did before I dumped them. Next they’ll be installing black dial phones and renting them to you as Wifi connections.

    This is what happens when you have years of a zombie economy with Fed money being pumped into TBTF institutions, who in turn, favor decrepit cash cow companies that haven’t innovated in 20+ years. Talent is enslaved and hampered.

    We’re also in the end result of the Jack Welch management cult, also for 30+ years, where capital expenditures are gutted, and the company begins worshiping monthly results like a golden calf. You can’t bring any high value long term projects to completion like that. So how’s GE doing anyway? Not so good. The narcissist clown blames his protege, Immelt, who was hand selected by clown himself.

    We’ve reached the end result of the baby boomer creation. This is their sickening masterpiece. All the pseudo-science, grifting, the hundreds of books like “What Color is Your Parachute?” , “Who Moved my Cheese?” This is their dying world. I hope it’s plowed under soon. Trump and Hillary reminded me of every baby boomer couple arguing after one of my soccer games back in the 80’s. They’ll be waxing their beemers in hell. I’m sorry. Illegal aliens will be waxing their beemers in hell.

    Sorry about the rant. This touched a nerve with me for some reason. I thought of a Betamax sized Comcast box and started writing.

  10. When I bought my first flat screen plasma HDTV in 2007, I would watch ANYTHING , even home improvement shows. But that Looking-Through-a-Window thrill wore off soon enough, and now my viewing is pretty much limited to Westerns and Red Sox games.

  11. VR has a huge future. You can map your room and furniture IRL to some virtual space and the immersion suggests great things: You are in some sort of exotic locale, you can call up a screen, control it with hand motions and watch a movie with a friend in a space that overlays your 3D world. It’s proof-of-concept now, but hey what a concept. You will be immersed in new worlds and historical periods with avatar AI computer angels/guides. MMORLGs have 30 million monthly subscribers now.

      • I agree with you. Unfortunately, normal people will have the opportunity to plumb the depths of absolute sexual depravity. We cannot envision how horrible and disgusting it will be.

    • Or, you can read a book and exercise your brain’s imagination function to make whatever scenery and characters you want. Dull people need a constant barrage of electronic stimulation to keep themselves functioning. I give you Millennials and their smart phones as examples.

      • Indeed. A good friend of mine has refused to see any of the Lord of the Rings films. “I know what Strider looks like!” Can’t say shes’ wrong.

    • If people still could visualize they wouldn’t need VR to see how new furniture fits. Besides how many times do people buy new furniture? Rarely.

      Like most modern tech it will be most used for the basest of human tastes – pornography and it will truly allow people to become their worst. It will also be used torture and brainwash people.

  12. 8K is an absolute joke. These absurd resolutions remind me of the kinds of people who buy $300 digital Monster cables and freeze them and insist that they can hear the difference.

    It’s been objectively shown that most people can’t tell the difference between SD and HD, and almost no one can tell the difference between 1080p and 4K unless they buy an 80″ TV and stand 6 inches from the screen. Literally no one wants 8K, it’s just a huge waste of bandwidth.

    But that’s what the industry has become, sadly. Selling shit to customers that they couldn’t possibly need, while spending exorbitant sums on advertising and PR to convince them that the products aren’t worthless. Nothing is being produced to meet consumer demand, instead the big companies are producing what they already know how to produce or what their socially-retarded engineers think is cool. There’s no leadership and no thread connecting them to reality.

    • Lance_E,

      Quite. I’ve never seen an 8K monitor, but I can’t imagine that for practical purposes it will be an improvement over 4K or even over 1080p for most source material. (The quality of the source image is the biggest variable, and except for 4K Blu-ray discs or the limited repertory of streamed 4K videos, it is a limiting factor.)

      But “early adopters” must have the latest thing, even if it’s something that the industry and technology outgrew years ago, like vinyl records. I consider myself an audiophile, and I think audiophiles who have convinced themselves that black discs are superior to well-engineered SACDs or even “red book” standard CDs are kidding themselves. But high-end turntables, cartridges, and vinyl discs offer endless opportunities for conspicuous consumption.

    • >Literally no one wants 8K, it’s just a huge waste of bandwidth

      There’re probably a few razor-burn fetishists out there who would disagree with you, but they’re too busy furiously abusing themselves, much like a monkey on crack, thinking about 8k porno crotch shots, to even type a response.

    • I can see the difference between HD and SD on shows that are broadcast in the HD medium

      That said a lot of shows look stupid in HD that don’t in SD . Folks I know watch NCIS L.A from time to time maybe to enjoy the Civ Nat Agitprop and when I watched it with them the bad acting and bad filming were even more apparent than usual

      As far as 8K you’d think it would cool on video games or the like but nothing I play would benefit from it and frankly too many new games are shit cash grabs , Fallout 76 I’m looking at you, just like the stuff promoted at CIS

  13. When technological advances in a field reach a point of diminishing returns, about the only thing smart marketers can do is gin up a retro revival among the self-nominated elite and the hipster set.

    Beginning about 15 years ago, digital audio — the compact disc — had reached what was, at its best, a very satisfactory level at a reasonable price. (And it has since been further improved with the advent of available 24-bit, 96 (and up)-kHZ sampling rate.) CDs were great for most people, but for the music and hi-fi industry, a problem: the medium was becoming a commodity. What to do?

    Hey, kids! Hey, big spenders! Don’t you know that “black discs” have magical properties not found in silver discs? That’s right, vinyl records like your grandparents played Doris Day on are the coolest thing ever! Just check out these $5,000 turntables with $3,000 cartridges and all sorts of gadgets to make them work right. You won’t believe how great they sound, especially when you buy your music on audiophile pressings at $50 per album.

    But you don’t need to bother with physical media at all if you don’t want to. Radio isn’t dead. It’s now called streaming, and you can listen to your heart’s content for the price of a subscription. Or download your 99 cent dancetraxx to listen on your computer, especially if you have a fancy digital/analog converter and other equipment for a substantial (and expensive) upgrade.

    As the public gets bored with, or indifferent to, 240K 12-foot monitors, I expect this technological reverse engineering to become the wave of the future in the video world. You and your designer-sweatpants-clothed friends will sip your craft-brewed chia-seed beer while viewing your team’s antics on a 19-inch black-and-white moni … er, TV.

  14. It doesn’t help their cause that much of the stuff produced in consumer electronics is just garbage quality. I have had Amazon Kindles for many years now and with each new one I buy, the quality is noticeably worse. I am pretty much buying one every year on Prime Day because they are apparently only made to last about 12 months, if that. The economy delivered to us be the free trade crowd is endlessly buying replacement cheap merchandise to replace the cheap merchandise we bought just a short time ago.

  15. I watched a special on “things that are great for gamers at CIS” but as far as I can tell, nothing they had there was much better than by old gaming rig

    A little faster and a bit more expensive doesn’t thrill.

    Also re: VR — its a solution looking for a problem. It might have value as a drone control or with waldos for some applications but day to day? Its of no real use.

  16. My son has a PS4 with a VR headset and it’s actually pretty cool. Consider if you will some of us had a “portable” Macintosh 512E once upon a time and thought it was the coolest thing ever! Do you remember how small that black and white screen was??

    But times change. Just as no one has a 21″ CRT monitor on their desk today, how we view media will change again in another 20-years.

    There’s a good YouTube on why anything past 4K is pointless:

    To be fair, consumer technology really didn’t change all that much in the last century either. Yes, we said goodbye to horses, but no one yet is buzzing around in flying cars nor are they likely to be doing so since self driving technology will most likely be the future. The engine replaced horses, AI will replace us.

    Transportation, communication and the majority of consumer products in the last century simply took advantage of newer materials (e.g. look at a hand drill from the 1930’s and today) which resulted in better materials, cheaper production and lower costs to the consumer. Everything today is simply old tech combined and repacked like the old clock radio. Maybe we have reached “peak technology”…??

    IMHO the next big leap will be teleportation. Helicopters, atomic submarines and moon landings are so “Jules Verne”.

    • We haven’t reached peak technology, we’ve reached peak diversity and dysgenics.

      What we’ll probably see is the USA and western Europe losing dominance, and more innovation coming from countries we used to think couldn’t innovate, like China and parts of Eastern Europe.

  17. One of the barriers to ‘enjoying’ TV now is the hassle of simply watching it. I have Netflix (and would cheerfully kick it into touch if it wasn’t for one my live-alone relatives liking it too much through my account) and a Samsung TV. All this would be fine but my cable provider’s remote is not the same as the TV one, so it’s a game of hunt the right remote every day ( though it’s usually under the dog) and frustration sets it.

    Then when you do turn the TV on, sometimes Netflix cannot connect or worse, the TV is updating something. By the time all this has run its course I have lost interest before we even get to the content, which as has been observed elsewhere here, is rarely worth the effort. Mind you, it can be fun finding the plot holes and complaining for example) about blatant errors in procedure in a cop show–and I am no cop so if it’s obvious to me it must be agony for those who work in the business.

    I refuse to watch the news as it is so blatantly biased, littered with factual errors and nothing but an opinion moan. As for quiz shows, it is so deeply penetrated by ‘correct think’ that one show had a tranny on who did not look good in a frock. We are supposed to find this relevant and entertaining, and it is neither. Then there are movies, which cannot show the whole thing because of TV’s continual time considerations, so random cuts are made, and comedy shows which feature people who simply are not funny however PC they are.

    All in all, television is an increasing waste of time, and frustrating getting to sneer at it. The screen (I used to say box, but it isn’t any more) tends to sit more often than not with the best thing on display: a blank, black screen.

    One last comment: I used to know a guy who worked in television, and he maintained no one in the business actually watches it, even if they say they do. They regard it as only suitable for the plebs, but way beneath them and their status in life.

  18. Innovation comes from imagination. Most electronic innovation can be traced to science fiction. Very few of my daughter’s peer group* read books for entertainment and I doubt any read sci-fi.

    *Fortunately she is an avid reader, but no sci-fi.

    “Of course, the glorious future promised in the middle of the last century never happened either. Instead of flying cars, hot women in tight fitting jumpsuits and colonies on Mars, we have traffic jams, fat single mothers scurrying over the southern border and an emerging police state.” Z

    Where are the new fantasies and promises? An entire generation is too involved with selfies, unmasked singers, and sending dick picks to read and imagine what could be.

    Apple has wrung the last few bucks out of Job’s dead imagination. Today’s “innovator” Tesla seems only to find new/innovative ways to jerk off the taxpayer for subsidies.

    • Apologies for the lack of formatting. For some reason it isn’t breaking into paragraphs.

      • There was a bunch of SF writers among them Cory Doctrow complaining about this a few years ago.

        They came up with an anthology that mostly went unnoticed since I suspect people figured stories of a happy future we less plausible than Dragon Ball Z

        The future is either “Collapse , White Kampuchea meets 40K , or people end up used as living tools by corporations after they fail to pay debt ala Ready Play One and even scarier Continuum.

    • Problem is is that sci-fi went PC/MC/Nihilist on us a few decades back. I used to be a avid sci-fi reader from the late 70’s onward until the late 90’s. Then it got depressing and I could sense people pushing some sort of agenda behind their stories. Many were so bad you’d want to take a shower after reading them.

      Sci-fi author John C. Wright goes on in great length about this in his book “Transhuman and Subhuman” It used to be on Amazon as a E book but he took it off and is only available on his site for viewing. In it he dissects a lot of the authors and their works.

      The Left is poisoning everything in our society from art to architecture to literature, gaming. Anything they can turn to trash they will. Very little remains of traditional values and goods that hasn’t been violated and corrupted by the death cult.

      • Thank you for the Wright information. I just checked his site. While I may not agree with everything (rarely do) he is a thinker and I can respect that.

        “The devil always sends his errors to earth in opposite pairs, so that the unwary fleeing from one falls into the arms of the other, and, in either case, the unwary is lost and the devil wins.”

        I come to Z’s site because he is also a thinker. Thinkers are few and far between anymore.

  19. Apple is in trouble because the markets have figured out that under their preening homosexual CEO they have no new product in development, much less a market-changing product. Added to that, the Chinese are now kicking their ass in the only smart phone market that’s still growing – China. The hipster techie utopia cult image has also taken a hit, as Apple’s real world politics endorse an intrusive, technologically-policed progressive conformity.

    Sex dolls look like a growth market though.

  20. I still have tube-type amateur radio equipment and stereo gear. I don’t know what my son will do with it when I’m gone since most of those who are interested are as old as I am. I was a computer programmer for thirty-five years and still build my own computers but I have absolutely no interest in all the magic that’s out there now. I barely tolerate cell phones as a necessity.

  21. I see this as a fundamental limit on consumer electronics. Other than a cheap big screen TV I can unroll onto the wall like wallpaper, I cannot thing of any electronic gadget that does not exist that I would like to have. Consider also that Moore’s Law, the technology trend that has been the driver of all of this, is reaching its end. Moore’s Law will certainly reach its end around ’25 or so.

    Beyond semiconductors and computing technology, I think the next frontier is bio-engineering.

    • I did think of one new frontier in consumer electro-mechanical products, about an hour after I commented here. That is sex toys (teledildonics) and sexbots. However, I think Tim Cook and his fellow SJW types are going to leave this market to new entrants.

  22. There is one new development that bodes well for the dissenters among us that may have to fight back against the rise of a tyrannist government. Everyone knows about small personal drones (cheap and easy to use), but they have limited range due to small capacity battery packs. Well, that has now been solved. New generation drones can use an on-board AI and an auxiliary module to drop onto a power lines for a fast recharge whenever needed. The range and capabilities of these things is now nearly unlimited. Take that Big Brother.

  23. Good people use technological advancement to help humanity. Bad people use technological advancement to control humanity. The Bad people are winning, and will continue to do so.

  24. “The selling of the poz is so over the top now, it is intolerable. That suggests the content makers are ripe for “disruption” as the cool kids say.” I’ve often wondered why people on YouTube don’t just make their own sitcoms. Technology is to the point where it can be done, probably at little cost. And the poz really is something to behold on the networks. I haven’t watched anything other than sportsball for years, but for whatever reason I caught part of an episode of “Will and Grace” (the reboot) the other night. Probably nobody in the intended audience has ever laughed as hard at it as I did then. The propaganda was so hamfisted, Goebbels was probably sporting wood in Hell. One non-pozzed YouTube sitcom could rake in more than all the network shows combined (until it was deplatformed, of course, but still).

    • Check out on youtube, Oats Studio movie shorts(mostly sci-fj), Axnar(a Star Trek fan movie), Helsreach(Warhammer 40k fan movie). All of these were done on a shoestring budget. There are others if you look.

      They are of a quality that equals or surpasses what Hollywood produces. The fact is there is a lot of talent out there and it’s impressive.

  25. VR (as it is currently being done) will always be a niche because of motion sickness on the part of the users. If you don’t get physically sick, the dissonance between the vision and the inner ear, which is the basis of motion sickness, will wring you out in any case.

    As to monitoring, those of us who fight the battle will stand out, because we will not have much of a profile, in a world where everything is documented for most of the pod people. That lack of a profile will be the data equivalent of being observed driving at night with your lights out.

  26. There’s a great Twitter feed called the Internet of Shit that highlights and makes fun of the insane devices people are hooking up to the network.

    It is telling the urge with which companies like Amazon are trying to get people to adopt voice activated devices like Alexa. The price point for their most basic model is about $25. They’re not making a profit from the device itself I’ll tell you.

    • My wife thought it would be a great idea to buy an Alexa for one of my daughters a couple years ago. While they were out I changed the “wake up” name on it (you can do that) to “Admiral Rogers”. Just to prove a point.

      • I don’t own one, but know plenty who do. I was told you could NOT rename them. (I could be wrong). Too bad…..I suggested it would be funny to name it ROCHESTER.

  27. Until every car can get streaming Internet to pipe those podcasts into your Dodge, standard and satellite radio isn’t going anywhere. To rip off the Bugles here, Internet killed the TV Star, but is unlikely to kill the Radio Star.

    • Every car already does. Pretty much all new cars come with Bluetooth today, and if you can afford a new car it’s highly likely you’ve got a cell too.

  28. Digression on the subject of VR…

    Imagine you went to a stand-up comedy performance by a well-known stand-up comedian. And he didn’t tell any jokes; instead, he made one plain, simple, true statement, and then a second plain, observable, true statement, and then drily explained, with the help of a dry-erase board, why the two statements were connected. It wouldn’t be funny.

    The old cliche “it’s funny because it’s true” is partly true but incomplete; the correct, accurate ( and unfunny) formulation is: “It’s funny because it is leading in a recognizable direction but the statement is syntactically incomplete; but my brain was able to follow the suggested path and, through pattern recognition, supply the withheld data by inference, at which point my brain was able to understand that the incomplete statement was in fact true, based on the extra input which I myself supplied, whereupon my brain, to reward itself for its success, administered itself a chemical reward in the form of a dopamine hit, which is what gave me the pleasurable sensation of thinking the process was funny.” The perception of “comedy” is actually a pleasant, usually harmless, mild form of drug addiction. Ask me how I know this.

    The other day I was reading one of the longer poems of a major mid-century American poet — one of the actual good ones, not the frauds. The poem depends for its effect on increasingly complex and sophisticated forms of enjambment (look it up if you don’t know what that is). In order to understand the poem, you have to understand the enjambments, and in order to do that, you have to engage in a form of complex sentence-completion games. And you get a dopamine hit for putting the pieces together, the same way you get a dopamine hit as a reward for “getting” a joke (viz. Completing the puzzle in your own mind) or for anticipating the lines of “Miss Lucy Had a Steamboat” or “There’s some girls marries for love”.

    It’s not the only reason humans enjoy art, but it’s one of the major reasons. And it’s why VR will not become a truly enjoyable activity until it can provide not immersion, but the dopamine hit which comes from making the correct choices.

    An artist by definition always makes choices, but a GOOD artist makes choices which force you, the audience, to make further choices which are only yours to make. It makes you a co-author. The real fun doesn’t start until you switch off the auto-complete and pilot the craft on your own.

    • This is a great comment. It is a good way of explaining one aspect of human consciousness. It’s also why Huxley’s idea will bee closer to what we get than what current VR technology suggests. People will strap in to be stimulated as they watch a normal video. Their brains will be artificially stimulated to feel sadness, anxiety and so forth.

    • Or in shorter form from from EB White…humor can be dissected, like a frog, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are of little interest to any but the purely scientific mind”

    • …what was needed now
      was a good comedian, ancient style, a jester
      with jokes upon absurd pain; pain is absurd
      because it exists, nothing more…

      Poetry is truth twined to rythmn.

      Comedy is misunderstanding and pain.

      The truth part trips up females who write poetry.

      The pain part is why women are bad comics but good at screaming
      screaming for rent.

    • Best comment I’ve read on any site for quite a spell. Congrats, and congrats to Zman for the article.

    • Great movie. I saw it back when it first came out back in 1974. I’ve only seen it once, and I still remember scenes from it. Excellent performances and screenplay.

  29. I don’t really follow consumer electronics but your article lines up pretty well with what I see. Except this part:

    ‘You have to be close to retarded to invite these devices into your home, given what we already know about the tech firms. If the mobile carriers are willing to sell your location data in real-time to anyone who wants to buy it, including criminals, then they will sell your private conversations in real time too.’

    We’re a culture, at least the younger people, who feel a need to broadcast every little thing we do. Big Brother is no longer watching, he’s too busy sorting all of the private information we voluntarily send him.

    I don’t know anybody under the age of 50 who doesn’t have a smartphone tracking them 24/7 with its own listening device and the Amazon echo is in all of my family members’ homes. I rail against these things, if it can tell when you’re talking to it then it must be monitoring everything you say and therefore storing it for some amount of time at least.

    Guess what I got for Christmas from my father: a damn Amazon echo. It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers when the pod people give pods as gifts.

    (We returned the echo.)

    • What really gets me about the autonomous cars is the opportunity for problematic folks to have ‘accidents’ via some externally hacked input. Unless all self-driving computing is on board with no external network connection I will never trust my drive to a self-driving vehicle. I’m a much bigger fan of better long-distance travel. While i’m not a big Musk fanboi, the guy at least appears to have a vision for radically changing transportation in ways that work for the little guy. Hyperloop tech that uses individual vehicle sleds (you drive your car up onto a sled, which then zooms through the tunnel or along the surface or raised track) could be a big improvement for extending suburbs into far exurbs without increasing commutes. It’s pretty pie-in-the sky, but I would much prefer that – the engineering is a lot less risky because there are a lot fewer external variables.

      • The cost/benefit doesn’t work for everything Musk dreams up, which is why he would not exist without taxpayer subsidies.

    • Your post is interesting to me because even us who care about these things just don’t comprehend how deep this rabbit hole already goes.

      Police have had real time plate scanners for years which immediately pull the registered owner’s license / record for any arrests, warrants, etc. So for our police state this tech is actually pretty much stale at this point. They use to be fairly visible on the outside of the vehicles for a while, now they are much more discreet and embedded in the front / rear since the tech is smaller.

      They don’t have all that real-time telemetry data but neither do they need it to simply harass someone who may be a WrongThinker.

      With cell phone trackers which is another tool being freely distributed to cops along with the MRAPs and other ‘war toys’ it is pretty obvious where all this is headed.

      People are still under the assumption that if you disable location / GPS on your phone it actually matters. Pro Tip: It doesn’t. The minute your power the phone on your location is easily triangulated.

      • At some point, we’re going to all need burner phones or at least burner SIMs with fake IMEIs. Until they make those illegal.

    • Autonomous cars currently have a higher rate of death and injury per mile driven than human-operated cars. As awful as human drivers are, self-driving cars are worse. It will take years of road testing to show they are no worse than humans because humans log billions of miles per year.

      Objects in this mirror are farther than they appear.

      • Autonomous cars would work fine—if every car were autonomous. The problem is they can’t react like a human—try merging into heavy traffic without ever breaking the law. You have to be able to judge other drivers’ intent in ways a computer can’t. Then of course there’s the hacking, or government thugs shutting your car off because your registration payment is late.

    • As has already been pointed out, these vehicles are hackable because they are going to be interneted. “Autonomous” is a misnomer. Vehicles on the road today can be controlled remotely and hacking them has already been demonstrated. See Bruce Schneier’s Click Here to Kill Everybody.

  30. I would argue that the video content revolution has already happened. Netflix & Hulu are leading the charge, so are Amazon and Youtube – Anybody with a couple thousand dollars can be a director, and with some talent one can stand out quickly. It’s still in the experimental phase. A good example of what can be done now by talented folks without the big Hollywood studios is the Coen’ Brothers new film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – not a single film at all, but six short films bound into one (some hate it, some like it, I’m on the ‘like’ side).

    Cable is dying. The only things propping them up are the Cable News Networks, ESPN (which is collapsing under the weight of SJWism), Food Network and HGTV (white women love to watch white people renovating houses). Watch for the streamers to start co-opting those as well.

    • My television is used almost exclusively for streaming youtube. An occasional Netflix or Prime movie, but I suspect this is the last year for services for me.

      • My family cut the proverbial cord last year. No cable, and only one broadcast-capable TV (with a Leaf antenna in the window next to it… I’m not going to the trouble or expense of putting up an old fashioned rooftop antenna for better reception). Everything we do on a TV is piped through the Internet now, save for the occasional old movie we pull out on DVD.

        • My experience with cord cutting is I watch Tv as a schedule activity now, like going to the movies or to a party. “This Friday I plan to watch a movie.” Otherwise, I don’t think about it.

  31. “Disruption” is by far the most annoying word today. Not only are consumer electronics going out the door but so are startup models. No good ideas left for apps or electronics to warrant exponential growth with angel investing, that’s why most startups are really just Ponzi schemes fueled by rounds of funding in order to generate fake growth. San Francisco will be the new Detroit pretty soon, just give it another recession.

    • “No good ideas left” thinking was what IBM thought about computing. I’m not saying that there will be major advances, but don’t count it out. It’s likely to come from outside the existing system of Silicon Valley Startups though. Major research breakthroughs, for example, rarely come from massive programs designed to make breakthroughs. Another law of Systemantics.

      • Technological advance, like evolution, happens in fits and starts. A new technology sets of an orgy of innovation, which slows and is then followed by a long period of consolidation. All of the low hanging fruit has been picked from the microprocessor revolution. Strangely, it gave oligarchy a new lease on life and new tools to stifle threats. We’re probably headed for a long dry period as a result.

        • Every technology reaches its max at some point. Commercial airplanes really haven’t changed in 50 years. Cars get somewhat better each year, but automakers have not had pricing power beyond inflation increases in decades. Space travel is a black hole. I am hopeful the next two paradigm shifts are a battery breakthrough that will make free energy almost infinite, and cures for cancer, heart disease and dementia. Looks like we might be close on the last one. However, expanding our natural lifespans beyond the natural range mentioned as far back as in the bible will probably stay beyond our reach.

          • As for health breakthroughs, try Keto, switch often to fat burning rather than sugar burning to slow stress on body. Very effective for epilepsy, for cancer as slows the feed of sugar to the cancer cells (along with immunotherapy), and for insulin resistance Type 2. Add some intermittent fasting. Yes, it requires work. Most people won’t experiment with Keto. Like religion, emotional response to your food is not to be changed as considered a threat. Yes, your appetite remarkably drops. Kinda nice to walk through the Costco snack aisle and sashay on without a bag of chips. When playing cards with a group of LDS women, they are the ones eating green jello and funeral potatoes, and dive right into dessert the moment the sandwiches are gobbled. Not me. They’ve learned to love me anyway although with a very slight distrust. Food is powerful and can identify your tribe.

  32. Problem with higher resolution TV is that at some point, your eyesight really can’t tell the difference (especially as you age). And once screens get to a certain size, bigger is not all that much better (only so much space in a man cave).

    Now, holographic TV would be cool (where you really are in the middle of the show), but that would require not only TV reception/projection technology to change, but the filming end of it as well.

  33. Just echoing what a few others have stated re: “The other factor is privacy. You have to be close to retarded to invite these devices into your home, given what we already know about the tech firms.”

    The average American is an absolute moronic sheep today. I don’t think people truly understand how little people care about privacy or civil liberties for the sake of convenience. This is a feature, of course, not a bug. In a generation (less really) there will be no one alive who can remember a time where they were not surveilled 24 hrs a day.

    My own neighborhood has become a voluntary surveillance grid. Every other neighbor has a “Ring” doorbell which is ostensibly to make you ‘safer’ just like every other encroachment on freedom we paid for in blood in the past. These people have no earthly concept that Amazon is uploading their data and keeping it FOREVER in cloud storage and that they’ve created a surveillance web that authoritarian regimes of the past could only imagine in fever dreams.

    As a follow on to that, these devices and every camera you pass in public, which are manifold, will have face recognition tech in it, and nobody cares. Not even a little.

    So we went from a liberty loving European descended people who are highly skeptical of big government to a nation of gibsmedat mocha shaded hordes who are fine being watched and listened to not only on the street but INSIDE their own houses. And by extension, YOU are watched as well.

    I remember watching this scene and thinking we were about 20 years away from the dystopian omnipresent surveillance state depicted in the film. 2002–>2019 so I was fairly accurate.

    p.s. Re: 8K and VR they both suffer from the same problem. Bandwidth. Until we can get it about 10X what it is now and in the case of VR ‘cut the cord’ it is a tech demo with no useful function at the moment.

    • I’ve relabeled (and reversed) my mail slot as a gun port, still functional during blackouts.

    • To my eyes and ears, playing a physical Blu-Ray disk yields a much better look and sound than any cable or streaming service. If people really cared about the higher resolutions, 4k players and disks would be flying off the shelves. (They’re not)

      • I think the collective shrug over Blu-Ray was the warning sign that video reached the end. yeah, it’s better, but not enough to matter to most people.

        • Netflix account sharing, Chinese pirate movie sites. Something of a wonder that Hollyweird isn’t screaming louder for more IP protection. The SOPA backlash must still be lingering. One would think that at least some GOP bagmen would be able to get their cash in exchange for whipping China.

        • True with cars as well. Good enough, so they all look the same and do mostly the same. We are left with people enjoying their noisy new Mustangs or lifted trucks and Jeeps, LARPing their personal, possibly aspirational, good old days, or otherwise driving in silver pods with grey interiors. Tesla has cracked the code a bit, by building a smartphone version of the car, but otherwise, “good enough”.

      • Agreed. I stream Netflix (relative gave me their password) and while the picture is good it’s often clearly not all that HD

  34. One of my customers deals with a lot of tech companies in California as he does videography and the like. He says they all are in heavily with AI. Enough so that he has very negative outlook on the future. His stories about these people seem like a sci fi story and we are in the precursory stage of dystopia. He is out at the show now, I was astounded of how big this thing is, city blocks of displays and vendors.

    That said, if you saw what the Iphone X could do, you would change your tune. Bigtime.

    • Like what?

      I have a relatively new LG phone. It’s nice and does the things I want it to do better than any of my previous phones. But I want to throw it in the sewer when I walk out a restaurant or store and (unprompted) it asks me the rate the place.

    • Big tech has been taken over by rent-seekers men like Brin, Zuckerberg and others who just see it as a way to enrich themselves and control the population at large. They are very bad people.

      They also know what they are peddling is toxic to humans, especially the young. Out in Silicon Valley the elite send their kids to schools that don’t permit Ipads, netbooks, etc. Because they’re well aware they damage children’s cognitive development and addict them at the same time. There are numerous studies and even admissions by some Facebook developers on this.

      They are no better than digital drug peddlers.

  35. At Christmas my brother showed me his new 4k TV. Nice picture but not worth replacing a current TV.

    I thought killing plasma off was kind of a step backwards. I have one and it is still the most pleasant screen to watch sports on.

    • That’s been my experience. Yeah, it *seems* a little nicer, but not enough to motivate a switch, even though prices are reasonable. For me, the difference is not enough for the hassle.

      • In 1999 a friend called me up and asked if I wanted to go see a $10,000 television. So, naturally I said yes. We drove 87 miles from Cheyenne to Denver to see…

        A 40″ Panasonic plasma television…

        The modern world sucks in a lot of ways, but the fact that I bought my last Sony, 60″ LED for $899 at Best Buy less than 20 years later is a wonderful thing.

  36. The days of the electronic man-cave went the way of the ham radio, and the buffalo before that. Do it right: your cave should have guns, tools, fishing rods, hockey sticks and other manly accoutrements. The only exception to this might be tinkering with robotics.

    As for consumer electronics future – I am holding out for artificial and anatomically correct inflateable sex partners with AI. Be nice if they could cook and clean too.

    • So you’re holding out for the near-extinction of the human race? Once we have that, nobody’s going to have kids except those wacky religious folks. Perhaps that would be a good thing after all, at least in the West…

      • No one is having kids now except the highly religious. At current projections the US will be almost entirely Amish with smattering of Orthodox Christians and Jews , Evangelicals and LDS in a couple of centuries and mostly living at a much lower century tech

        All sex-bots would do is speed that up a little.

      • But the wacky religious folks who have kids voted for Romney in the Senate!

        We’re doomed, doomed..

    • “The days of the electronic man-cave went the way of the ham radio”

      So, you believe ham radio is extinct?

      770,000 ham radio operators in the US would disagree with you.

      We’ve moved on to digital. I can now bounce a digital signal off the ionosphere that arrives in New Zealand with a signal strength of 24 dB _below_ the noise floor, and the Kiwi ham radio operator will still hear me.

      These things are going to be useful when that Fourth Turning is in full… turn.

  37. You have to be close to retarded to invite these devices into your home, given what we already know about the tech firms.

    I agree, but according to their sales data, roughly 16% of the country is retarded. Sales for these devices have most likely leveled off for now, the big test will be if the tech companies can get young adults to buy them when they move out on their own. If not, it will eventually die off. Given the addiction young people have to personal tech, I wouldn’t bet on it going away completely.

    • I love the idea of an electronic PA, but I would want it on a closed network or one where I controlled where the information goes.

      For my house to tell me its 12:30 and I have an appointment in 1 hour when I’m hunkered over a sewing machine would be a game changer for my time management skills.

        • Yeah I would think you could simply set up an alarm on your existing smartphone. So much of what we think a ‘smart home’ could do our phones do already, we just don’t have good processes to manage it. You’re going to forget to tell the house to remind you, just like you forget to tell your phone to remind you. Heck, you can buy a non-smart timer from Walmart for 99 cents, and alarm clocks for a few bucks.

          • This is what I do now. Still, its attractive. Not something I’m going to get due to the privacy concerns.

            As it is, I use an old fashioned planner/appointment book to avoid having everything on my phone.

    • Funny thing about tech: I requires smart and clever people to design smart and clever devices…but unless it is used in a smart and clever manner it makes people dumber.

      And it does so in a very passive effortless way. Intelligent machines now liberate many people from having to engage in even a bit of concentrated thought. Instead of thinking through a problem, a simple one, they Google an answer. Do this enough and any need to work something out on your own becomes torturous and more and more difficult.

      This turns individuals into automatons with less and less ability to think even within the box, never mind outside of the box.

      Tech may have hit a wall in its appeal, but we’re also becoming dumber (it’s not just due to the invasion from the south).

      We have so much “stuff” now that we are constantly multitasking. No one seems to have the time to concentrate on 1 thing, to dig to some deeper level of being, to make a real and significant breakthrough.

  38. ” You have to be close to retarded to invite these devices into your home, given what we already know about the tech firms”

    I’m in and out of high-end homes all day everyday for my work and the norm is to have these devices. I’d say 7 out of 10. I find it shocking also that they don’t care about their privacy

    • Me too. And yet, these guys will put a piece of tape over the lens of the camera on their computers and obsess about privacy too – as they use their cells and Alexa to do everything for them… it’s bizarre…

      • Not in my experience – my brother is all in on this tech, doesn’t tape cameras, obsess about privacy or anything. Libertarian to the core but totally trusting that big business has got his best interests at heart, after all, market forces are the best right????

    • My husband’s boss gave out a bunch of Google “Home” devices for Christmas. We promptly took ours to a local store for credit – no way we wanted that thing in our house. People are too damn lazy to even press “call” on their smart phone and need an electronic assistant for simple internet searches. Sorry, but tech is merely a tool and while I might say “Wow, how clever!” I still would rather rely on my own gray matter, thanks.

  39. I’ll listen to KGHS, good time oldies, when wrenching out in the garage… Otherwise everything is podcast

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