Monday, March 8, 2010

Stupidity is the Mother of Innovation


1. something new or different introduced: numerous innovations in the high-school curriculum.
2. the act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods.

The word "innovation" shares some similarities with the word "accident". When someone hears "accident" it immediately conjures up visions of something bad in the listener's mind. The phrase "happy accident" might be uttered by someone who's glad a big calamity did not befall her rather than show she's ecstatic about something.

The word "innovation" - or various forms of it - is always used as a positive. As in "He always designs innovative products", for instance. As the dictionary meaning goes, that means "He" designed something new or different. HTF do you design something old or already done? I guess my obituary is probably going to say "He was a bad innovator". Is that supposed to be a politically correct insult?

At the risk of stating the obvious, we don't go and buy a new product just because it is new. Sorry, I should have said we shouldn't, not we don't, because we actually and unfortunately do exactly that. As per the definition in the dictionary, "new" is "innovative" and vice versa. One could also use the word "original" I suppose. However it is important to remember that stupidity can also be original, and where I come from, the very original stupidity I encounter day in and day out never ceases to amaze me. There is no limit to the number of ways in which idiots can design products. As Einstein once famously put it, he was darn sure about the limitlessness of human stupidity but not the universe.

I'm prompted to write this blog entry to rant about a particular chain letter - okay, spam - email that has been making the rounds of late. Normally I ooh and aah and / or snicker and / or pooh pooh such emails all the way to the spam folder or the trash bin depending on how lazy I'm feeling. Given the interesting times we live in - higher unemployment, lower wages, less benefits, looming inflation, etc. - I am making an exception. I believe it is important to inform the populace at large how certain mortals are retaining their livelyhood and growing their careers, but not their intellectual capacity.

Without further ado, I give you some gems from amongst the most innovative (sic) products for 2010.

nPower Personal Energy Generator

Marketing Bull : The PEG harvests one of the biggest energy hogs on earth - You. Place the little device into your bag or briefcase, plug in your cell phone, GPS, or iPod, and let your kinetic energy power up your gadgets while you walk. You can get an 80% charge in one hour through your own energy alone. Green and brilliant.

The device is at least 8" if not 10" long. So if we don't carry a briefcase or bag where are we supposed to carry it? Is this an innovative way of spurring the economy by forcing everyone to buy a briefcase? If not, then I guess we can tie it around our neck like a dog carrying a brandy carafe in the Swedish Alps? Maybe Godzilla can carry it in his shirt pocket. Or maybe I can carry it in my front trouser pocket. I'm sure all my male coworkers will be green with envy when they see my very personal generator. And I can just imagine any female coworker getting all energetic and charged up every time she sees me. No need to use AXE, no sirree. It is only a matter of time before the same product will be marketed as an aphrodisiac. Innovation, I bow before thee.

Flying Car : Terrafugia

Marketing Bull : Even though we are well into the 2000s, nobody has come up with a Jetsons-style flying car. Until now. The Terrafugia Transition is more of a driving plane than a flying car, but its a promising first step. The worlds first street legal plane hits runways and highways in 2010.

A car that flies. Exactly what we need. How about plane that drives? Otherwise known as "taxi-ing to the terminal". Seem familiar? Our tax dollars are ultimately being used for this innovation. Automobile companies have received bailouts and airlines are bound to any time now. So this company really has the best of both worlds. We don't need a freaking flying car. We need a cheap car and we need cheap airplanes. We need a car that actually runs on fuel cells which is cheap and does not explode. No wait. That was innovation a few years back. Whoever said all the money spent was supposed to amount to anything practical?

What we really want today is to reverse out of our garage, crash through the neighbor's fence, take off, skate across the roof of a nearby house shredding some of the shingles, and then make a beeline for Las Vegas without needing to inform Air Traffic Control. Yup. That has to be it. Currently, we have to drive our car to the airport, park our cars, and then sit in a plane which then takes off. So boring. Imagine getting out of a Starbucks drive thru and getting a phone call from your dear friend in Nepal to attend his wedding atop Mount Everest. No problemo. Just enter the closest interstate, 0 - 60 in 10 seconds, and simply take off! Marvellous!

Recompute : The Cardboard Computer

Marketing Bull : Cardboard is the new black. Legions of product made primarily of corrugated cardboard are hitting the market. This little beauty will benefit anyone who has ever broken that little sticker while changing out a sound card or adding memory to a CPU.

Note to Self : Never hire anyone who says he / she works with a cardboard computer. Ensure said person does not live on the same continent as I so when his / her computer catches fire it won't spread beyond the coast to my house.

Me so bad. Me know nothing. Don't I know cardboard is really more fire resistant than plastic? That plastic will melt before cardboard catches fire? Really? What I do know is if I see the plastic melting I'll turn the goddamn thing off. It is better than making it heat up more and then suddenly explode into flames much later. Now, do you know that you are not supposed to drink hydrochloric acid even though your stomach produces a fair amount of it? And it is possible to recycle plastic? And the real problem with recycling computers and all electronics is the electronic components within, not the casing? And those who assemble their own computers are just as likely to reuse the old plastic computer case as they are the cardboard one? Just checking.

Me so bad. Me know nothing. Plastic is a petroleum based product! Shame on me for not thinking about the environment! And I should just ignore all the trees that will be cut down to make the cardboard computer. Not to mention, my TV stereo equipment, and maybe some day all cars on the road will also be made of cardboard. Why not? If cardboard can house electronics it can house pretty much anything. The inventor of the cardboard computer seems quite certain folks will ensure liquids don't come in contact with the computer. So why can't I assume owners of cardboard cars will make it a point not to drive when it is raining? Or make sure if they get into an accident, it is with another cardboard car? Anyone wanting to invest in my new venture can reach me at 1-800-Eat-Shit.

Me so bad. Me know nothing. What about breaking the sticker when changing the sound card, eh? Eh?! Eh?!?!

What about breaking something off when adding new memory to the computer, uh? Uh?! Uh?!?!

What can I say? The picture of the computer shown comes with an on-board sound card and no external PCI slots visible anywhere. So this computer is made to be thrown unlike the traditional plastic (i know, i know, i suck) that are not that can actually be upgraded. The computer's motherboard will not be made of cardboard so I can break it the same way when it is housed in a plastic casing while adding memory to it. If I don't worry about breaking anything it is only because I know WTF I'm doing. I also don't worry about the person who cannot pee properly in the urinal pot which has a circumference of around 3 feet. If I did I would remove the urinal, have him pee directly on the wall behind and call it innovation. If I don't do that it is because I sorta assume anyone who says he can use a computer, also knows how to pee properly.

2010 Brabus Mercedes-Benz Viano Lounge

Marketing Bull : Tilt back in your leather lounge chair. Turn on the Satellite TV. Load your Nespresso machine with the finest coffee beans in the world, then take a photo of it all with your iPhone. Load the photo and to your Twitpic from the on-board Sony Vaio laptop. Did I mention that you can do all this while cruising down the interstate at 80 mph? Classy.

I have three words for Brabus, Mercedes, Benz and Viano. In short, RFV. Recreational F****** Vehicle. They have been available for at least 30 years. If they didn't have Sony VIAO laptops, big screen TVs, iPhones, Satellite Transmission, etc. - not to mention Twits at Mercedes Benz who think they have some innovative product - in them, is because none of those things existed then. Okay, one correction. Twits existed then as they do now, but thankfully those who are bringing this innovation to the market were in diapers back then. As an aside, the Nes(tle Ex)presso POS - the acronym stands for Power Of Suggestion, you with a dirty mind - should not be lost on anyone.

Is there anything more classy about driving your vehicle on the highway at 80 mph? Other than the fact that it is probably illegal 99% of the time? And it is surely not asinine for the twits who buy this product designed by other twits, to twit about it using the laptop or the iPhone while massacring innocent folks who are driving lesser vehicles, all the while watching movies driving at 80 mph? What? The twits are not driving you say? Someone else is? That someone is known as a chauffeur and can be hired by anyone, not just the twits. One has been able to do everything mentioned here in comfort of the backseat of the car today for quite some time now. And before you ask, coffee tasted just fine 30 years back and one didn't feel the need to take it into one's automobile for it to taste fine.

Touch Wood

Marketing Bull : There is only one thing cooler than corrugated cardboard in technology. Its name is wood. The Japanese are leading a trend called Mori Girl (Forest girl), which aims to limit the use of plastic by using sustainable wood instead.

Let's see. We are being told that wood is sustainable and plastic is not. We can keep on planting trees. We cannot keep on relying on petroleum based products. Or as far as the Japanese are concerned, they don't want to rely on plastic and rather rely on wood. Well, I have some news for all. The Japanese were the premier force in finished Electronics goods just like they are the major force in automobile manufacturing today. Indeed, they are still a very formidable Electronics manufacturing base in spite of China. Yours truly has a 1970 manufactured Sansui Amplifier made in Japan, that still sounds good like the day it was manufactured. It's casing is made of wood. I repeat. WOOD.

TV's used to have wood casings too. Almost every damn Electronic gadget at one point or another used to have a wood casing. Even oscilloscopes in Science labs and Hospitals. Everyone moved away from wood because metal and plastic are more durable. Really? I obviously do not know WTF I'm talking about. Metal does not rot easily unless you put it out in the rain, and plastic doesn't period. But what if my electronic gadget gets wet. You tell me! You are the one with the gadget made of wood!

A strong wood casing is also a heavy wood casing. Plastic and aluminum (which does not rust) are both strong and lightweight and work better and have therefore become the material of choice for such devices. Going back to wood is not innovation. It is different only to those who have weren't alive when wood was the rage to house Electronic devices. Now it is about being "cool" which is mostly a matter of being "different" or some politically incorrect or misconceived ideology that touts wood as being "green".

There is another take on this. It would seem the Japanese have finally wised up to the threat that is China. Look no further than the iPhone which is "Designed by Apple in California and Assembled in China". They are now banking on everyone upgrading to "wood electronics" and hoping it will take China some years to adapt their factories to adjust to this "green" movement. Or maybe they have some not so obvious insight regarding the abundance of plastic and scarcity of wood in China? I can see the Japanese Premier sending this wire to Obama :
The Chinese are now the largest holders of US Treasuries and they are not a friendly regime. If they decide to summarily dump dollars onto the open market under the pretext of diversifying their foreign reserves, it will cause a severe inflationary spike in the US. If you want us to purchase more of your BS, err, I mean US dollars, kindly urge Steve Jobs to consider launching a more durable Wood iPhone diverting all new manufacturing orders and jobs to Japan. This will supplant the revenues lost by Toyota due to the recent scandal. In turn we will agree to keep the Toyota problems from getting resolved anytime soon (I'm not making this part up, am I?) and it will help your decrepit automobile industry to reassert itself.


Marketing Bull : You have your phone, your iPod, your headphones, and your wi-fi headset, in case you get a call. You have your sunglasses. You are ready to go or are you? What if you could pull on your shades and have all of the above, in one cool package? Enter Tri-Specs. They come built-in Bluetooth wireless headphones for an MP3 Player or cell phone, retractable earbuds, built-in volume control, and even voice control. For $200, you can be the coolest kid on the block.

So what we are really saying here is that if one is thinking about buying shades or an MP3 player, this is the gadget to buy. And if you already have an MP3 player you pay for the shades and end up with an MP3 player you either don't need or either don't use. And if you had shades, then now you have another pair of shades with an MP3 player and you either don't need the other pair of shades or don't use them. Ain't that cool?

The Sun's hurting my eyes, and I want to listen to music but can't because the battery is dead. Or I listen to music through another MP3 player which I carry around as backup. No, of course not. You see the shades double as solar cells. No really. It can happen. Why not when anything is possible because it would be cool and innovative and all the cool kids are vociferously demanding it?

So one stands in the sun all day so the battery will have enough charge when one is sitting on the sofa at home in the evening listening to music. With one's shades on, of course so that the overhead light doesn't hurt one's eyes. Just watch for it. The solar cell addition will be next innovation to this Frauduct, err, I meant Product.

Corrugated Carboard Laptop Case

Marketing Bull : If you are sick and tired of those cool-looking black leather laptop cases, rejoice! Giles Miller has designed a customizable cardboard box for that perfectly fits your little Netbook. You can even put your own logo on it. Take that, Targus.

I don't know where to begin. Clearly, common sense has prevailed among those who have not (yet) rushed out to invent the cardboard laptop. Maybe they see a good reason for not doing so. Such as a cardboard laptop will not be able to handle the abuse resulting from being carried around, which a desktop does not have to bear, among others. Needless to say, that has not stopped someone who apparently is quite famous (Giles Miller ???) to be able to shove this fashion statement down the throats of hapless individuals such as you and me. This laptop bag is supposed to withstand check-in lines at the airport? No, of course not, you dodo! It is not meant to be used by folks who actually need to carry a laptop. This is supposed to complement the Gucci bags lugged around by yuppies!

It is not often that words fail me, but this, sadly, is one of those times.

The need to be different - dare I say cool - is a virus spreading in some Generation X'ers and most Generation Y'ers costing the world untold zillions in productivity and natural resources. We need to spend our collective energies in devising - dare I say truly innovative - products that are required. Required, not craved. That is not to say the CD and MP3 players should never have been invented and we should still be running around with our 8-track tapes. No. However, it also doesn't mean one spends one's considerable intellect, simply attributed to one for being human, into devising a chair on which one can sit, eat, fart, watch TV, exercise, have sex, pee, sleep and finally die. But try telling that to the person who devised the shades with the MP3 player.

Innovators (sic) will always figure out a away to fulfill any mandate you give them. Just because they can and not because they should, because they don't know the difference, and no one is telling them otherwise. The Audio CD, the DVD, the Bluray Disc all provide substantial improvements over their predecessors and offer obvious utility benefits. Cardboard Computer? Wooden Smart Phone? What next? Telephone handset in the heel of the shoe so we "Never leave the house without the cellphone"? The house is on fire and I have to run downstairs and dive into the shoe closet for the phone. I mean shoe. Err, I mean phone. Wait a second dumb-ass! You sleep with your shoe on your bedside table. I mean phone. No, I meant shoe. No, I mean please just shoot me!

And that brings me to the last product for 2010 that caught my eye. Or should I say poked my eye?

Apple Tablet

Marketing Bull : It has always been tough to determine what Apple will put out in the next year. But this time, the anecdotal evidence seems to add up. Its safe to say you will see a touchscreen- based tablet Apple product that will both fight with Kindle for books and netbook manufacturers for small computing.

iPod, iTouch, iPhone, iPad, iTablet, iKillMyself.

Don't get me wrong. I've grown to love my iPhone. It was a true innovation that enabled one to do stuff that was not possible before. Now however, we are just waiting for Apple to give us a new product.

iPad! Really? When Apple comes up with a new product we - at least temporarily - forget all our problems. Economy is doing good. Apple stock goes up 20%, all stock indices go up 3%. I don't think anyone was as excited about the automobile or the airplane as we seem to be with the iPad or the iTablet.

How thin do we need our TVs to be? I recall watching Total Recall when it felt so cool to see a window pane transform itself into a TV screen. Do we need that too? A wise man (or woman) once said something so simple yet so profound. "Necessity is the Mother of Invention". We need an iTablet like we need a LED TV, which is another way of saying we really don't. We don't need it. We want it. There's a big difference.

This is a different kind of greed. Wasting intellectual capital and natural resources is not Capitalism anymore than being practical is Socialism. Progress of a civilization is to be guaged by how its advances have benefited mankind and not by the number of avenues of entertainment it has delivered. This is the reason other countries are eating our lunch and the American Dream is fast becoming a myth, assuming it even exists anymore. Our kids are more likely to live a China Dream or maybe an Irish Dream. You can say I'm biased but I would rather simply enjoy Irish Cream instead.

We are a gluttonous society avariciously consuming all kinds of products we don't need. We used to have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, the kind of greed that in fact used to be good. Now we are simply slaves to consumerism. I need another Tablet PC like I need a another Lobotomy. It would seem most folks out there are opting for it. I am not talking about the Tablet PC.

If any Generation-Y'ers are reading this, I would like to point them to two truly innovative and un-cool products in recent years. Both deal with crap - and I mean that literally - and has made their inventors rich while benefiting consumers at the same time. The Water Free Urinal and the Low Flow Water Efficient Toilet. Okay. Go finish laughing. Come back when you are done.

In the first product, the cost of the technology employed is more than offset by power wasted in sewage pumps for moving excessive waste in traditional setups. No water accumulation means a cleaner, healthier environment and non-stinky restrooms where disease is less likely to infest and spread. The second product conserves water too. No brand new factory required to manufacture it. It simply takes a proven product (we should know !!!) to the next level by applying some common sense and science. Science! A truly innovative concept it would seem to be in today's world. We should be happy some of the geeks and nerds and otherwise uncool dweebs among us worry about getting rid of all the crap - both literally and figuratively speaking - that all of us disgorge out daily, more efficiently, cheaply and cleanly.

We need to rewire our brains. A square bucket does not make it any easier to carry or dispense water. A triangular bathtub is not a comfortable way to sit back and relax after a hard day at work. A hexagonal commode will not lead to a more satisfactory crapping experience. Circular pieces of toilet paper will not help us to stay regular. It is high time we all woke up and recognized the smelly brown stuff that is being shoveled through all of our collective conscience and see it for what it really is.

Chocolate! Not.