Why does everything have a clock built into it?
Your microwave… your oven… your DVD player. Everything’s got a clock in it. Why? I’m a respectable middle-class citizen, and am the proud owner of several straight-up, no-frills clocks. I’ve even got a miniature one which I can strap to my wrist – it’s called a “watch,” or so I’m told (what will they think of next). Nowadays I cart around a miniature computer in my pocket, and that has a clock on it too. I don’t need every single product I own to have ANOTHER clock included, yet there they are, blinking away at me, all slightly out of sync with each other. I never use any of them to find out the time, so why are they all included in these products I buy?
The answer is simple – once one microwave was built with a clock, they all had to have one. No longer could the humble microwave simply bombard our food with short-wave radiation; it had to tell you the time too. A feature which was completely redundant and unnecessary was suddenly absolutely essential to a product it had nothing to do with. Microwaves have clocks because they just do; that’s just the way it is. No one bothered to question it.
Which brings me round to the subject at hand; Will.i.Am’s new “invention,” a car with some cameras built into it. The vehicle has of course been greeted with much fanfare and it even has a swanky music video to advertise the thing. Much like the rapper/producer’s foto.sosho iPhone camera, this will no doubt be heralded as further proof of Mr i.Am’s genius, foresight, and Midas-like touch.
Friends, when it’s come to this, we are in trouble.
A few years past the tragic death of Steve Jobs, who are the big innovators and entrepreneurs of today? People look to Dr Dre, who recently sold his ‘Beats by Dre’ headphones company to Apple for several billion. These headphones are known to embody the very principle of style and marketing over substance; the headphones themselves are nothing special, but through canny marketing and use of celebrity endorsement, Beats became the must-have brand. More recently, the latest iPhone releases are being pilloried for following in the footsteps of the larger Samsung phones, poor quality of design, and a lack of fresh ideas. Microsoft has spent billions acquiring Minecraft, a video game which by its very nature is user-driven; yes it’s a great idea, but it’s a great idea that’s already been had, played, enjoyed, and finally sold to the highest bidder.
Remember when Steve Jobs announced the iPhone? It was new. It was beautiful. It did new things that other products couldn’t do. Same with the iPad – it was a whole new category of computer in a market which had been going for 30 years. It was innovation. That was why people loved Steve Jobs: vision, new ideas and fearlessness. Later down the line, the culture of personality spilled out over the boundaries of tech-heads and design-lovers to the point where Jobs was held up as some sort of digital messiah. So where are we now?
We’re looking to fill the gap. Steve is no longer with us; Bill Gates is retired and trying to save the earth; the titans of innovation and entrepreneurship in tech are gone. We’re desperate for a new leader, a new person to show us the way, and (let’s be honest) a new figurehead to fawn over and make ourselves look clued-up by talking about how much of a genius they are. We used to have Steve Jobs striding across the stage showing us a new device which would literally change society. Now we have Will.i.am with his geometric haircut (from the 80s) doing a bad version of the robot (from the 80s) in a jacket with big shoulder pads (like the 80s) flogging his super-expensive car (which reminds me of the Night Rider car, again from the 80s), and this is held up as innovative, even ingenious.
We’re going backwards, people. We’re sticking clocks in everything – we’ve just replaced them with cameras.
We need a hero.