That feeling in your gut that the future of technology is not going in the right direction...

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That feeling in your gut that the future of technology is not going in the right direction...

Post by circuitbored » Tue Jan 09, 2018 4:40 pm

In recent years we've seen many things happened in the world that made us worried; from legislative attacks on an already expensive and complex health insurance structure to the repeal of Net Neutrality protections. We've see restructuring of the tax system to benefit the wealthier American population, and reduced controls on companies in fracking, environmental protection, and offshore drilling. We've also seen companies behaving in magnanimously bad ways, from Apple secretly slowing down their older devices to encourage forced consumerism, to massive oil pipelines that were forcefully installed on protected land being broken, and to Wells Fargo bank signing up customers en-masse to banking services they didn't consent to and a major Equifax credit breach. We've also seen signs of global disturbance, where North Korea is testing Nuclear weapons with reckless abandon like it's the 1950's, and domestic and foreign terrorism bubbling up to the surfaces in pretty much all of our global communities at least once a month.

That feeling in your gut is tough to bear, now the future feels not only uncertain, but grim for you and your family as survivalists on this planet. While I can definitively say the answer is not to invest in BitCoin or to place your hopes on winning the lottery, so many people are hooked into the ideal of escaping their current financial burden in life. Right now, we pay an alarming amount of taxes and living costs, many are living literally check-to-check, and that sets so many up for total financial devastation the minute a crisis arises. The floods in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina forewarned us of how chaos can set in when a disaster happens, but we somehow keep missing the messages and the understanding that when everyone is stable, we ALL become more stable.

We are living now in a society where people continually neglect the ability to consider the lives of others. The rich cling tightly to money they make, and seek advantages for economic growth and market dominance even more, the effects of that competition at the top, greatly impacts those who reside at the economic middle and bottom. Companies now reflect the desires of their shareholders to get rich, often at very questionable costs, as they push technology forward to primarily support the ideal of generating more revenue rather than driving positive and constructive innovation that changes the real daily problems we face in our lives for good.

So many products invented today can be traced to revenue generation as their main basis for being that it's getting ridiculous now... New devices are connected to the Internet, or laced with elaborate technology, or made to break for absolutely no good reason. Companies are enthralled in releasing over-cooked technology that like a refrigerator with an iPad on it, home assistants that listen to and record your conversations, drugs that have more side effects than the problems they supposedly solve, and cars that drive themselves, without any consideration for the longevity and safety or real utility of their products. These flashy products and features are often pricey, and overblown, but we also find the same features tricking down to essential items we use, like the cars we buy. Large companies can often be so reckless as to put out shoddy and rapidly-obsolete products with these incorporated "connected" features like this because they generate volumes of money for these companies. These companies aren't worried about product failure because they profit from the brand identity and by overcharging for their staple products like mobile phones, services they provide, by saving on operational taxes with often semi-illegal practices, and by getting huge financial and regulatory incentives to expand into new cities.

As technology evolves in today's world, these tech devices and platforms change so frequently that they're most always incompatible with older platforms. The Android Auto or Apple Car Play feature you rely heavily on in your brand new car today may quickly be a figurative "8 track cassette player" in only a few months after purchase because something as simple as a connection cable can change, and cause incompatibility with new devices, which will likely make your car's value vaporize faster than a fart that's on fire.

Growth is good, and innovation is good. But WHAT we're innovating is a big issue if you look at what's been invented over the past decade. We've seen a lot of wasteful innovation, from Google Glasses, to in-app purchases to unlock advanced features and functionality that used to be normal stuff, to fidget spinners, and even like TVs with relatively camp 3D technology that we don't use any more. Heck, even 3D at the movie theater is practically added these days in post-production as an afterthought, mainly so that higher gate ticket prices can be charged. Most of these items are invented by company insiders to drive revenue because of the shareholder-driven aspects of our global economy. A lot of people have gone from caring about leaving a positive impact on the world to being fulfilled by making a stock investment that jumps dramatically, like Starbucks, Apple, and Microsoft did in the 90s. Mom & Pop businesses (those that haven't had IPOs) are getting bought out and trampled by large entities that ARE publicly traded. In the pursuit of continually driving shareholder value up, these large companies need to bolster profits but charging $700+ for a phone they make at a cost of only $250 per unit...

Companies are also connecting devices to the Internet now more than ever to create additional (monthly) "service" revenue, on top of their already over-priced products, so that monthly income can also be generated to bolster their annual earnings. These companies also make reliable products have fixed periods of performance and fixed warranties (because they "magically" slow down, break, or lose functional support at fixed points). The possibility of "never needing to buy anything over again" becomes a distant memory as time passes and as we age, and the concept of backwards comparability becomes a new "Utopian" ideal, just like industry did with the word "free" in the past.

There's a price we pay for this new corporate consumerism push, and it's us as the consumers (who don't have millions of dollars) that pay that price- That cell phone you buy for $700 can't be re-sold or traded in for more than $200 after one year of use... You bought a $500 Internet connected thermostat that won't be supported next year because the company decided to suddenly "retire" support for it... You pour your money into Uber rides because it's far less expensive than owning and operating a car, but after initial greatness, drivers get disgruntled as their earnings shrink over time and they suffer without health care or normal work protections, while the parent company isolates itself from all forms of liability... You find a lot of the grand ideas involving the Internet, mobile apps, and real life get corrupted over time, and they become inconveniently expensive gradually, leaving you with no other choice but to push forward until the next amazing "ponzi scheme profit pyramid" invention comes around to replace it.

This is driving the sinking feeling you feel... When you ask yourself "OMG! Where is my phone?!", because you fear having to pay another $700 for a new device, when you regret buying those cool (now retired) Google Glasses, or an Alexa Unit, Google Home, or an Amazon Fire Stick that became "bricked" after a software update 2 years after you bought it. Your future feels uncertain, and you're at the mercy of huge emotionless companies, driven by shareholders... If you don't have huge amounts of money burning a hole in your pocket, it's time to stop supporting this regime from growing, because it will bankrupt us all in years to come, from buyers to shareholders. These days, news media is also run by the same shareholder-driven interests... Stories that break about new technology are often planted ads for the same technology, bought by companies, these commercials are presented as news you can trust. It's hard to separate fact from fiction for this very reason with television news. The story behind Takata air bags installed in pretty much every Honda and Toyota car made in the last decade broke as a story, yet recalls are only being slowly rolled out by news media as to not raise fire and fury of buyers, even when these air bags have killed the very people they're supposed to protect during collisions. News stories can make or break entire industries, from produce growers to energy suppliers. Even a story generated by hype or speculation, then adopted by news networks can easily send stock markets to a peak or rock bottom spike, where people make profits, but others suffer as a consequence. For this very reason, it's important to be skeptical of everything your read and view now more than ever, because news can prove to be as unhelpful as helpful in today's consumerist climate.

Modern software we use on a regular basis has also taken a huge turn towards being less helpful and functional as well due to many software makers jumping on the "in-app-purchase" bandwagon. In-App-Purchases are additional costs, beyond the sticker price of the original software that makers add within the application as barriers to application functionality. These locked portions of applications can only be "unlocked" by paying additional money, watching ads, by giving up personal information, or by being forced to do something else that generates money for the app maker. In-App-Purchases seem like a harmless process until you will be forced to watch a quick ad before turning on heat or AC in your (paid for) car on a freezing or hot day in the year 2023.

Software developers have thrown out common sense (prior existing) features in many apps we already use, and replaced them with frustrating limitations in hopes of driving revenue for "deluxe" (upgrade) versions, fake in-app revenue, subscriptions, and upgrades. Many apps that are pretty much standard, and that have been built into cars and phones like music players and email clients, have actually been rolled back from long established common-sense functionality to encourage users to upgrade to paid (upgrade) apps, leading to more profit for manufacturers. If you buy a $700 phone, a common expectation should be for it to come with long-standard functionality like music player software included. If you read into last year's story about Electronic Arts and their software development and pricing practices on Reddit, you'll see why it's rather crazy how easily we're now being fleeced as consumers.

These days not only can your device or it's software be "rendered obsolete" remotely by manufacturers now, but the software platform it runs on can be rendered obsolete, leading to major headaches in running software you previously purchased and thought would last for at least a few years at least. Sure, security is a concern that drives a lot of device updates, but how long should a software maker or hardware maker ensure the reliability of their sold products? Setting a fair price for these products before they are sold should also be essential now more than ever considering that a product may NOT actually last as long (or be supported) as previously thought- Companies won't make that change happen unless consumers are informed, and if consumers raise the issue by not supporting deceptive practices and opportunistic profiteering of this kind.

If software and hardware items for sale are required to have a product support lifetime listed on their label, a lot of things would change. A simple Nest Camera you buy now doesn't guarantee how long it will be compatible with networks and monthly service it requires to run, yet it can't operate without being connected to a network... If you buy it for $250, is only 2 years of operation (before support is shut off) acceptable to buyers? Items with a short life cycle, or with low durability should be sold at a relatively lower cost than high-durability items (dictated by the product's period of validity and warranty). By making hardware devices more and more disposable, companies are contributing to negative global impacts by creating landfill waste, even if we recycle most of their devices. Big ticket items especially like televisions, mobile phones, cars, and computers, should include guarantees of real product support and reliability for specific time frames, otherwise, if they go obsolete in short periods of time, there should be consequences beyond the company simply issuing a flimsy "upgrade discount" because it impacts so much they don't have to pay for. A major question arises in all of this is why the FCC's Consumer Protection division is more bent on removing laws that protect modern consumers than making new ones that govern businesses in these cases? I'll leave that discussion for another thread...

Now is a great time to take a careful look at what we're buying, the ethics of the companies we support, the legislators we elect, and what the markets are doing to decide how we want our futures to go. Capitalism and Democracy are noble concepts that can work when exercised properly, but those ideals, as well as any other socio-economic ideals, can be twisted and manipulated by self-centric and ethically corrupted individuals with political power and monetary influence. Let's hold companies responsible for their actions, and tailor our individual actions towards reminding companies that they should put their customers back on board as important stakeholders, then we won't have to worry about them constantly trying to mine every last dime out of our wallets, which should make a lot of those apocalyptic and uneasy feelings we have about the future of technology subside.

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