Those ungrateful consumers

Posted: 06.11.10

Look at all we’ve done for them and have they once said thanks? No, all they want to do is talk about the good old days. The good old what? You mean when we had Windows 95, and a laptop had VGA resolution in a nine-inch screen, weighed ten pounds and ran on a battery for almost three hours? Yeah, that was great wasn’t it?

Today we hardly even mention the battery life of a laptop. Kathleen Maher has a Vaio that refuses to quit, in fact she runs out of energy before it does. She also has an iPad and it holds up pretty well during the day. Both those devices weigh a little more than a couple of hard boiled eggs, and have 800 line resolution displays. But did she ever once say thanks? No, but she has marveled about it more than once.

We also have ebooks, Kindles and Sony, and they too weigh nothing, have beautiful displays and run for days without being recharged.

But we’ve never, not once sent an email or letter to any of those companies or their chip suppliers and said, “Gee guys, thanks.”

Pretty soon we’ll not only have seemingly infinite battery life, machines that are 14mm thick, weigh less than a paper bag, and have gorgeous high-resolution color displays with touch, but we’ll be able to display any content imaginable on them from old masterpieces scanned and made available for free by Google (excuse me, THANK YOU GOOGLE), live TV in any part of the world we happen to be, stereovision display when we want it as well as stereovision video capture with a single lens/sensor, streaming video from the web, movies on a SD card, and every song we every heard or hoped to hear. We might even have all that in a tube that we unroll when we want some content.

All that stuff exists today, now. Much of it is in one machine or another and the rest should be with us by the end of the year or first quarter next at the latest. The only thing that is a little delayed, but surely coming is the rolled up version.

And has anyone said thanks yet? I can’t hear you ….

But we don’t need to say thanks. If the technology is doing its job, and delivering on its promise, then we are totally unaware of it—the technology works when it disappears (Peddie’s third law).

Just as you never think about the pistons or valves in your car doing their job, quietly, energy efficiently, and for hundreds of thousands of miles and many years, you shouldn’t have to be aware of electronic technology. TV sets hit that level of performance and we stopped thinking about them, took them for granted. Now like everything else our TVs are going to be smart. Our houses are someday going to be smart and we’ll live like we’re on the Enterprise walking around telling things to turn on or off or fetch some content.

And that TV, well it too will disappear. All our walls and/or windows will be active surfaces and be a TV screen or a picture or a sun shade, maybe even a solar collector. Remember that roll up model mentioned above? Well what if it isn’t rolled up but an OLED wall? And solar cells are now being made transparent (see Marker Faire article this issue.) So all our windows in our smart house now power the house and all those smart devices that have disappeared we never said thanks for. It changes the notion of interior decoration dramatically.

This is one of the ways the singularity will be part of our life. Not threatening robots with acne and a bad attitude, but invisible life enriching features that will use less power (or generate it) and be at our beck and call. And when you walk in the door of this smart home and say “lights, news, call mom.” How about saying, “Oh, and thanks.”