It's early in the week, a time of head-shaking, brain-clearing, coffee-mainlining ultraserious industriousness, so I want to put aside minor issues like NSA backdoor techno-fascism, Microsoft's executive chess game, Net neutrality, or the vast stores of money Mark Zuckerberg will dump into his Scrooge McDuck pool-vault this year. Instead, I want to concentrate on something really important: useless mobile technology.
You laugh, but I'm sitting in my favorite diner waiting for my rubberized eggs and surveying a roomful of patrons who refuse to look at anything but their phones. I think the guy next at the counter is ordering his food from the diner's website while the waitress is staring at her PC waiting. Neither knows the other exists.
[ For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter and follow Cringely on Twitter. | Check out InfoWorld TechBrief, your source for quick, smart views on the news you'll be talking about -- subscribe today. ]
It's stunning, like standing on a street corner and seeing an infant wandering down the sidewalk munching on a cheeseburger. Future historians digging our brittle, centuries-old thumb drives from wasteland sands will condemn us for our mindless and obsessive drive to purchase the latest mobile doodad. This ingrained dodo-esque pattern will eventually give the machines the advantage they'll need to usurp society and turn us into warehoused bio-batteries.
Desperate times call for desperate measures
Mobile phone manufacturers are sitting in giant conference rooms right now, their mirrored glass views from their 75th-floor palaces obscured by sweaty steam, pizza boxes and beer cans strewn about, and a bunch of disheveled people in yesterday's clothes throwing darts at hundreds of sticky notes on the wall, each carrying one zany idea for the next mobile feature to feed the ravenous masses. They're desperate, their innovation blocked, but knowing they better come up with something sexy or we'll storm the building and gnaw on their bleached skulls.
Know it or not, you've already seen examples of our mobility-enhanced mental weakness. There's a Samsung commercial from a while back that gave me retching migraines where a young lady at a rooftop rock concert is taking snaps of the band and sending them to her friends who group together around the recipient's phone and stare with zombie smiles at her slideshow even though they're at the rock concert too! Or the wingnut bragging to his cube neighbor that he'll get his Excel assignment done faster on the larger screen of his new phone, scrolling through a tiny spreadsheet ringed with endless scroll bars when there's a two-display workstation directly behind him.
This kind of stuff makes my confidence in our future as a species bleed out of my eyes. It also freaks out Pammy when I get that way.
The latest useless mobile phone features to grab headlines include innovations from Apple, LG, and possibly worst of all, Scentee. Apple turned its latest iPhone 5c enhancement into an Easter egg for the first unlucky customer that stumbled across it. It turns out a 14-year-old in Maine apparently tried to lie to her teacher, whereupon Apple's new iPhone lie-detector told Siri to light her pants on fire. The kid has only third-degree burns and will probably recover, but her parents are insensitively gleeful that they'll never hear the "We were at the library studying, Mom, honest" excuse.