The all-knowing sage Douglas Adams had this to say about technology:
- Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
- Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
- Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
I grew up with a BBC micro. My earliest memories are of playing games and fiddling with BASIC.
I wasted my teens online. I could bind Trumpet Winsock with the best of them.
I did a degree in computer science.
I spent my twenties and thirties working on GPRS, UMTS, LTE, and all the other acronyms associated with mobile phones.
I dedicated the last half-decade to dispensing technology advice to the state.
I fricking live technology. My house is full of gadgets, I've written code that's run all over the world, and I'm currently studying for an MSc in technology.
But modern technology is rubbish!
I've been studying Blockchain and - while the maths behind it is nifty - it's clearly a solution in search of a problem. It's so far away from being consumer-ready - and has no obvious path to mass adoption. And that's before we get to all the scams surrounding it.
Augmented Reality still hasn't actually dropped into the hands of consumers. Even eight years ago when I reviewed Google Glass, it wasn't clear what it would be used for. Nothing in the subsequent decade has shown any practical use. I had a play with hololens and - while interesting - the effect was pretty unconvincing. Augmented Reality games have been on phones for close to twenty years. There's been the odd breakout hit like Pokemon Go - but it has hardly changed the world.
VR is actually here - although I remember the first wave in the 1990s. But it still hasn't got around the fact that you have to wear a cumbersome headset and try to focus a couple of cm from your eyes. And the videos coming out of Zuck's "Metaverse" look like N64 games - without the fun.
Self-Driving Cars seem to be as hyped as the Internet fridge. They can't even work out how to turn their lights on at night! I'm pretty well served by public transport - and there's no shortage of taxis. So I can't quite work out what a self-driving car is for. The world-sensing tech is cool - but it clearly isn't anywhere close to being good enough for real-world use.
Voice Assistants. I'd say Alexa understands me about 75% of the time. That's nowhere close to good enough. And it's impossible to use unless you remember the exact syntax for every interaction. Yes, I love being able to turn on my lights by reciting a spell - but for anything more complicated they're just a flop.
5G. This was the moment I got out of the mobile industry. All the promises made about 5G were ludicrous. It's faster Internet. It isn't going to love you or save your dog. It just makes things a bit faster with slightly lower latency. Just like 4G did. You're still going to have coverage issues because your provider doesn't care about your unprofitable area.
It isn't all doom and gloom though!
MRNA vaccines are amazing. I've got them in my bloodstream right now. I can't wait for someone to use them to inoculate against HIV or to cure my lactose intolerance.
Fake meat is interesting. I'm particularly fascinated by Synthetarianism. Sure, it's possible to live on a traditional vegan diet - but I can't wait to see what innovative new foods we can eat.
Contactless / NFC. I was an absolute NFC sceptic - and still am when it comes to "tap to interact" stuff. But for payments it has been incredible. Wave my phone near a vending machine and a can of cola pops out. Even if I'm in a different country, it works. It's devilishly complicated behind the scenes - but so much effort has gone in to making it effortless for customers to use.
IoT is putting tiny sensors everywhere. Home monitoring is nice - but industrial monitoring is changing the world.
It has never been cheaper to manufacture bespoke circuit boards. You can custom build screens small enough to fit in a Lego block.
Open Source has comprehensively won. Anyone can examine the code that runs their life. And, anyone can pick up world-class code and use it to power their new inventions.
Perhaps what I'm bored of is hype. I lived through the next-big-thing being 3D TV. I was sold on the idea that every home would own an Additive Printer. EInk is lovely, but hasn't broken out of the small-form-factor. No one is using social TV. Hydrogen powers precisely zero domestic vehicles.
I guess I have a low tolerance for over-hyped gimmicks which are forever doomed to change the world next year.