Silicon Snake Oil

This morning, I ran across two stories that perfectly illustrate the concept of silicon snake oil, the all-too-often-believed line that technology is going to change everything (for the better, of course) and you really have no choice but to be an enthusiastic adaptor of all of it.

  1. Duck Unchained, an article in Dissent magazine about a French newspaper that continues to be very successful despite being extremely judicious about the technology it adopts. It has no online edition; its web presence is limited to a small site that allows customers to purchase a (print) subscription online.
  2. The Tesla Model 3 cost $28,000 to build, German engineers say—and it still may not be profitable, an article in Quartz magazine about how Tesla’s enthusiastic and insufficiently-questioning embrace of technology it hurting its bottom line.

I’ve linked this article and made the point before, but in many ways the Amish are one of the most technologically sophisticated groups in the world today, because they neither unquestioningly reject new technology (as many think) nor unquestioningly embrace it. They evaluate it, then decide if it is a net benefit or a net loss to their overall society.

It’s why I’ve personally decided I want nothing to do with a “smart” phone, a “smart” home or “smart” appliances: any benefits I’d get would be extremely likely to be overshadowed by the harm caused by increased complexity and decreased reliability.

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