No Sympathy For Tech

So as you may have just seen, some insiders at big companies (Zuckerberg, etc.) sold off stock. That tells me the sign that things are slowing down in tech. Well, one of many signs:

  • Everyone’s all in on AI, which means that there is going to be some shakeout when it doesn’t all work out.
  • Plenty of sites that are a little unstable, like ol’ Kotaku’s pivot (ha!) to guides.
  • Whatever embarassments crypto still holds for us.
  • Venture Capital looking for quick profits (See Ed Zitron’s latest).

This tells me that at some point we’ve got a shakeout in tech. As in something bad – and something earlier than I expected. This isn’t a surprise – for the last six months I’ve seen people make predictions that boil down to some combination of:

  • A big name takes a hit.
  • A lot of not-as-big-names fail because of a mix of bad ideas, low ad rates, and so on.
  • AI doesn’t pan out like people hope.
  • General enshittification.
  • VC money moves away fast.

I’ve been trying to puzzle out what’s going to happen myself. But there’s something else I want to address – how people react. See, I think there’s going to be little sympathy, and plenty of schadenfreude when the inevitable “big fall” happens.

People regard tech different than they did ten years ago or twenty years ago. Sure there’s some interesting stuff, but it’s often pricey, questionable, or not much more beyond interesting. Beloved sites are enshittified. Nothing seems new, often because it’s not.

Gone are the days of breathless waiting that felt like there was something worth waiting for. Ads are everywhere, websites are overclogged, products might be fourth-rate knockoffs with AI generated images. New gizmos ape SF concepts while planned obsolescence takes the fun out of the new. Annoying bad features are a joke among social media users.

A friend of mine of well over two decades has noted they feel things were better back when we first met.

So when the “big fall” happens, in whatever forms (I expect a kind of cascade collapse), I think people won’t care and many will enjoy watching things burn. When they do care it’ll be more how they’re personally impacted for obvious reasons – but there’s so much less “loving tech together” these days.

That’s also going to make everything from economic recovery to new products to potential government regulations harder to predict. Watching people fall out of love with tech (and tech has done plenty to shoot itself in the foot) isn’t quite like anything I’ve seen in my life except one thing.

Watching how the reputation of smoking collapsed in my lifetime. No, it’s not exact – tech has benefits smoking’s benefits were mostly social, but still the “feel” is there.

Perhaps that’s something for me to explore later. Just writing the above was exhausting, because so much has changed over the nearly three decades I’ve been in tech. Looking back over half my lifetime feels like several.

Steven Savage

A Lack Of Features Is A Feature

There’s a lot of features in technology and games. This setting, this button, these new photorealistic graphics, etc. Seems like we’re drowning in features, or at least what people tell us are features.

Now some features are obviously B.S. Not sure we need an AI bidet. Some “user enhancement” is data tracking. With a great deal of effort I’m not going to talk about such “fake features.” I’m going to talk about features not being features, and their lack would be its own benefit.

Features that would be a feature if we didn’t have the feature, if you get my drift. Which now that I look at that sentence, you may not, but I like it so reread it until it makes sense.

We’ve all dealt with apps and technology that have so many features they’re now not useful. No one uses all of them, they’re confusing, and it makes getting what we want done harder. But also each unusable feature is also time put into code, put into support, and something that can break code and screw you up.

The onslaught of features is less useful, less stable, less reliable. It makes me wonder if software would be better off more modular for people who don’t need “the self-publishing graphic features that blow up your document once a day.”

Less features or modular features as a feature.

Let’s talk super-optimized realistic graphics. Great for say, rendering movie effects. But is it needed for Call of Shootbros: Apex Duty? Does everything have to look realistic? How much more time does this add to development, debugging, and support? Yes I’m sure it drives sales and brings in planned obsolescence, but maybe things could be easier.

Resilience and stability of a system, of development, etc. would be a feature we’re missing. Seems often when fancy new games come out on PC I hear about all sorts of graphics and stability issues.

What about applications that let us stay always connected? I’m not going to diss social media, but even when we ignore the ad-driven crap and the like, the speed is a double-edged sword. The feature is useful, but one we have to use with caution.

Some features are useful, but with discretion.

All of the above features do things and have their place. It’s just they may be overwhelming, pushed, or just things we didn’t think about. At this rate not having them, or having them restrained or gated kind of feels like a feature.

Hell, maybe we need to rethink the idea of “feature” in software and tech. Or maybe I just used the word way too much in this post.

Steven Savage

Take Some Responsibility

You probably heard the news: Air Canada had to pay up for something an “AI” chatbot said. This story saddens me as I love flying on Air Canada. Honestly in my trips up there the flight is often part of the fun.

Basically a guy asked an Air Canada chatbot on advice on canceling due to bereavement, it gave him advice on refunds that was wrong. He followed the advice and of course when he had to cancel, he didn’t get his refund, and made a small claims complaint to the appropriate body. Air Canada argued – seriously – the chatbot is a legally distinct entity and that the guy shouldn’t have trusted the advice, but followed a link provided by the chatbot which had gotten things wrong.

Obviously, that didn’t fly, excuse the really stupid pun.

As an IT professional who’s career is “older than One Piece” let me weigh in.

I work in medical technology (indeed, it’s my plan to do this for the rest of my career). We vet everything we install or set up. We regularly review everything we set up. We have support systems to make sure everything is working. This is, of course, because you screw up anything medical and bad things happen.

Also it’s because someone that goes into medical anything is usually pretty responsible. We IT folks are in the mix everyday and know the impact of our job. We also work with – and sometimes are or were – doctors and nurses and other medical professionals who get it.

I love working in this environment. If this appeals to you, I can honestly say check out working in medicine, medical research, and education. It’s awesome.

Know what? Other people using technology can and should take the same level of responsibility.

Technology is a choice. What you use, how you implement it, how you expose people to it, all of that is a choice. You built it or paid for it or whatever, you take responsibility if it goes wrong, be it a life or someone deserving a refund.

If the product isn’t what you thought? Then those who made it owes you an apology, wad of cash, corporate dissolution, whatever. But either way someone takes responsibility, because technology is a choice.

We’ve certainly had enough of moving fast and breaking things, which really seems to just result in enshitification and more and more ways to be irresponsible.

Besides, reputation is involved, and if nothing else saying “we don’t care of our technology on a website goes wrong” is going to make people question everything else you do. I mean, if you were on an Air Canada plane after hearing about this “sorry, not our fault” approach how safe are you going to feel?

Let’s try to be responsible here.

Steven Savage