By Bob Dorn
I’m from the stone age. I don’t carry a smart phone because I’m not smart enough. I think an app has something to do with Apple, like maybe it’s an abbreviation. It took me a number of years before I found out that Silicon Valley wasn’t a reference to that place between two huge phony boobs, where the pearl necklace settles.
My feeling about technology – just a feeling, now, or an opinion, if you prefer – is that it might be self cancelling, like a chia pet, or, say, network television, where on air people laugh at stuff that isn’t funny (and for a while longer might get paid for it). For all but fanatics, cars are done, too. I just heard a crash out my window a few minutes ago, on Park Boulevard, where most of the SUVs are showing Nevada, Arizona, Baja and Washington plates and jamming each other as they troll the neighborhood for a place to park so they can get to the zoo.
There’s no more room for cars on the streets and it’s only Good Friday, as I write, not yet the day God died, which no doubt will be celebrated by even greater hordes of zoo-goers. The best parking place at midday right now is about a 16-minute walk from the zoo’s gates. Imagine how these people are going to feel after they’ve busted their bunions getting to the alligator petting pool. They’ll still have to get back to their cars.
Soon enough there’ll be all kinds of hi-tech (is that spelled right, or should there be a “k” at the end of the hyphenate?) solutions for the parking problem at the park. Maybe one would be a parking garage in the parking lot, its rooftop unmarred by solar plaques so that trolleys can come and go unobstructed, making sure the feet of zoo-goers never have to touch the ground.
But I’m getting skewed on the idea of cars; after all, they’ve been an outmoded technology for some time now. All that stuff they’re equipped with these days, GPS, hands-free phones, video displays showing passengers the territory they’re passing through so that they needn’t look out windows .. that stuff is just bad icing on a supermarket cupcake. It’s meant to disguise the basic flaw of the product. Hell, most SUVs these days don’t even carry passengers.
What I want to get to is my belief that it’s goofy, this race to acquire electronic systems. They’re only screwing us up. I remember The Onion’s hilarious takedown of engineered complexity years ago, “Sony Releases Stupid Piece of Shit that Doesn’t Fxxking Work,” picturing some fool outside a Best Buy barely able to carry a huge cardboard box and explaining, “Basically, I’ll buy anything I see in an ad.”
Every year there are new models, new bandwidths, or something like that, that go to 4G from 3G, or machines that accept Java Beans, or Adobe Brix 2014. Every few years a whole new piece of equipment is added to all the blinking necessities that have come out the past decade; they don’t replace them, they’re just added to the list of necessities that we have to have. We can’t really afford these additionals because our salaries don’t go up.
Have you thought of buying a drone yet? See what I mean? It’s not far off. Maybe a drone with a grenade launcher? Can you afford it? Can you afford not to?
Let me lay out this scenario.
One day not too far off leafblowers will be equipped with guidance mechanisms. We’ll call ‘em DroneBlowers.
You’ll be able to sit on your front porch, or better yet, in front of your second-story window and simply press your remote and send the blower on its mission. You won’t have to leave the comforts of your house to clean up that driveway and your sidewalk, even your lawn.
You’ll just press the Power button at the top, then Lift Off, so that the Husqvarna rises up like a giant hummingbird awaiting your next command; right, left, straight ahead, reverse, whatever… You press the Aim circle, you press Blow 1 (leaves) or Blow 2 (for dust) or Blow 3 (dried clumps of unidentifiables) and all the debris is soon deposited nearer your neighbor’s place.
Along comes Silicon Valley with a better idea, a lightweight battery pack that makes less noise and has more available power. We’ll call this the SilentBlower.
SilentBlower becomes a marketer’s wet dream… no more whining, gassy internal combustion… the SilentBlower’s lithium battery can be plugged into your wall for the next day’s search for dust and unsightly clutter. Soon your neighbor gets one. And all your neighbors get them.
The manufacturer, a private company, decides to go public. The IPO is bigger than Visa’s or Facebook’s. Kids want them.
SilentBlower equips the second generation drone with video cameras to identify trouble spots not visible from your second floor bedroom window. That leads to secondary applications, principally in surveillance. Security companies will bring you the SilentBlower with or without the blower, and install video screens throughout your house.
Another tertiary boomlet comes when the security companies sell out to SilentBlower, which perfects a drone able to read the serial numbers of your neighbors’ blowers and send out electronic noise blocking the guidance systems of the blowers invading your space, keeping them from blowing dust and leaves onto your property and/or peeping inside your window.
Amazon buys SilentBlowers for an undisclosed sum, believed to be in the high eleven figures, and begins shipping units at rates below more conventional blowers. But the bubble bursts, sending the U.S. and, shortly later, the world, into The Second Great Recession. No one can afford the SilentBlower any longer. The price of lithium becomes affordable only to arms merchants.
Forbes reports that brooms and long-handled dustpans are in short supply. A market for antique varieties begins to emerge rivalling that of vinyl Lp’s and … oh well, you get it.