There’s something appealing about new tech. It’s one of the reasons I like watching tech reviews and unboxing videos on Youtube. The past year, I’ve been extremely dissatisfied with the Macbook I bought in 2015 – several keys stick while typing and the space bar stutters as well. After hearing about problems with newer Mac keyboards, in addition to the bloated corpse that iTunes has become, I’m just fucking tired of Apple. As part of my contract with my current job I’m getting a 2-in-1 laptop and I’m excited to be able to edit and comment on essays using a pen and touch-screen and am trying to figure out what my new workflow is going to look like. Thus, I’m currently obsessed with 2-in-1’s: I’ve spent the last month-and-a-half looking up Youtube videos and articles about the Microsoft Surface and the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga.
But this is what it’s always been like for me. Every time I buy some new device, whether it be a phone, video game console, or even a controller, I spend an alarming amount of time smelling it: no joke, I adore the metallic, plastic, sterile scent given off by newly opened tech. Now I’m not one of those people who watches ASMR videos – that’s just not my thing. But the tactile feeling of devices is what I fuckin’ live for.
Which is hard to reconcile with considering how much I loathe tech culture. I currently live in north Seattle and ho-ly shit there are some problems that these huge companies have created and/or exacerbated here; rampant homelessness, astronomical housing costs and overall cost of living. In some of the research I did in the planning stages of our move here, I found that there’s been a lot of backlash over this. The development of things and this constant push to STEM-ify everything without considering the consequences is creating this ouroboros of capitalism – prototype NewThing, create a market for upcoming NewThing, obsess over NewThing, buy NewThing, tire of it…OOH! NewThing2 is coming out!
NewThing sucks us all in; its promise creates cults of personality around NewThing creators/disruptors. It’s why people like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs can get away with being supreme assholes. Because they’re so capable of making NewThing people constantly acquiesce to their demands and whims, providing tax breaks for their factories, giving them free passes for creating inhumane conditions for their workers. In the rush to find the next NewThing master, Silicon Valley keeps funding increasingly aggressive grifts, from Theranos, to Juicero, and even Bodega. And the BigBrain Bandits of Silicon Valley can’t help but continue shooting themselves in the dicks by investing millions of fucking dollars in the name of “disruption”.
It’s all a grift and I’m just as guilty of falling for it as the next person. The laptop thing I can at least defend: both my job and my hobby involve a lot of typing and my current device drives me mad. But what about the next console? Or the newest phone? These NewThings always promise so much but end up costing us even more. And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the rampant sexism, racism and cyberbullying inherent in tech culture. And it’s so easy for kids, particularly young males, to get sucked into these technological cults and transforming them into violent, hateful techno-radicals. It’s honestly frightening and I don’t know how to reconcile these things. I want to be reasonable and like things I like, but it’s hard not to feel complicit in feeding into NewThing culture.