There’s a problem in Silicon Valley. The problem is the appearance of chasing the cool and ‘awesome’, when the reality, of course, is that, once funded and then the end-goal of massive IPO is achieved, the company takes on board members who wish to please shareholders. It’s all about the bottom-line dime.
The myth of course is that we’re pleasing the users. The reality is that we’re avoiding ‘difficult’ conversations in board rooms with people who are wafting fractional point downturns in share price. It’s a race toward the lowest common denominator; go for the safe so you don’t ‘spook’ the markets. If not safe, then go for the ‘safely wacky’ – that moonshot gamble which might just pay off.
Of course, if you have enough spare cash – generally stashed in some far dominion safe from the clutches of unpleasant taxes or, more likely, embarrassingly large and precariously poised in an in-shore entity with the feds breathing down your neck salivating at a windfall or subject to the whims of combative Presidents and unfriendly oversight committees; then you might decide to burn off some of the financial sump pile by doing something hideously expensive for mere mortals but marvelously tax efficient for multi-dominion business behemoths.
Something like creating a self-driving car, for example. Or perhaps a grocery store devoid of nasty barriers to empty wallets created by such things as having to pause to pay or shudder talk to other humans.
Have you any idea how much tech goes into self-driving cars? How much effort must have been invested in object-recognition technology which is so good you were able to convince a gaggle of hand-wringing safety wonks that yes, it will be quite safe and besides you have such a ton of cash laying around you don’t need insurance because you can pay off any pedestrians who foolishly fail to comply to the car’s hazard recognition algorithm, perhaps by wearing the wrong kind of T-shirt which the car decides most assuredly is a piece of road and therefore safe to trundle over on the way to dropping off someone’s fully-automated pizza.
All that object recognition technology will get better. Because we’re all wanting Johnny Cab cars… and flying cars… and hover-boards which actually hover rather than scoot around on seemingly random gliding wheels and deposit the user in 360 directions like a used Champagne cork… and because 20th Century Fox told us they’d be here by now. Also, the NSA want to be able to tell the difference between a good guy carrying a lunchbox and a bad guy carrying the end of the World as we know it. It’s extremely inconvenient if you shoot an innocent librarian by misidentifying their PBJs. People tend to get a bit cross about that.
Don’t try and fool me about “enhanced reality” being a great thing too. Y’all know that’s the next vector for ‘advertising delivery’. You look at your empty fridge and 5000 advertisers get to jostle for the right to show you how cool your empty shelves would be and how that half-empty jar of pickles were paired up with this week’s latest offers from your local grocery store – all delivered by self-driving car/drone/flying grocery bag unsullied by having to be touched by any unpleasant human hands.
Oh the future is bright (or dim, or monochrome, or rainbow dragon depending on the exact filter you apply).
You know what I’d do with the right amount of cash and that object recognition technology?
I’d cure blindness.
Well not cure it – that’s going to take some next-level bionic cell regeneration insanity – but I’d make it less of a dark world – glasses which see for me, see for you, see for anyone who needs to and bring some light to that darkness. Sight by proxy for those who can’t quite see in the first person. Sight that speaks. Sight that warns of low-flying shelves. Sight that whispers through your twilight that the dog is laying on its back waiting for its belly to be rubbed. Sight that tells you the sky is a curious shade of green and tries to describe the indescribable Aurora Borealis. Stuff the self-driving cars, we should be advancing public transport anyway before we fill every square foot of rolling hills with increasingly shiny single-occupant natural disasters.
Let’s be truly useful… just because we can… if we really want to; let’s ‘cure’ blindness.