Technologies of Distraction

What do these three technologies have in common?

  • Amazon’s drone delivery prototypes.
  • Boston Dynamics humanoid robots.
  • Facial recognition for tracking people.

Answer: they are all flashy, impressive, easy to understand. Also, they are possibly not the most effective way of accomplishing a certain function.

  • Drone delivery is really expensive, risky and inefficient. It’s potentially useful in cases of extreme urgency where there are no roads. It really does not make sense for mass delivery of consumer goods. For this, a hybrid delivery network using all sorts of transportation technologies suited to individual scenarios is the answer.
  • Seeing a robot perform athletic feats is the equivalent of a computer beating us at chess. However, a robot can have any shape and any size. It can be a gun with wings, it can be a chainsaw on wheels, it can be both. A robot that can jump, dance and fight like a human is really just flexing.
  • Facial recognition is one of countless technologies to track humans. Off the top of my head you can track someone’s gait, body type/shape, style of clothes, voice, devices they carry, fingerprints, body temperature, modes of transportation, heartbeat, breathing rate, etc. We don’t hear many people complain about the prevalence of those other forms because humans just can’t relate to them as well.

The point: for every one of these marketing-friendly technologies that catch the public eye (and maybe infuriate activists) there are countless others that are more powerful, unnoticed and inevitable.