An invention that prevents human stampedes

Edward Taaffe
8 min readJan 4, 2021

How tech lost its way, or was pushed.

Ryan Lash / TED

5G, AI, driverless electric cars, these are put forward as the big technology goals for the world. Aren’t you just bursting with excitement?

There are a few obvious question’s I know to be critical and I can clearly see they have not been answered or possibly even been asked.
Experience tells us this is a route to fast clean failure for products that simply don’t cut it or slow very expensive death for systems.
My question is this: The people presenting us these wonders of the new century know as well as I do what the problem is, why are they driving forward?

So what are the lies?

There are certain lies known to be a kiss of death for tech projects:
1. I know nobody asked us for this, but we just know they will love it.
2. Existing businesses don’t have a business model for this, but when they see our product, they’ll invent one.
3. The business case is based on huge assumptions of sales, but it’s a no-brainer, right?
4. All those risks will be outweighed by the benefits once it is established.
5. Nobody really knows what this will do, but its technology, that’s the whole point. Everyone loves tech, they wouldn’t dare to be heard saying otherwise.

The rules of Tech.
The first rule of products and services, is that you must find or establish real need and desire before you dive in. That means real happy users, not just Twitter polls.
For a service, you analyse existing processes and then establish the benefits of a new and better way of getting stuff done. Then you handle the negative implications like politics.
Products need trial runs and Alpha, Beta releases as needed at increasing size or sophistication.

Businesses make a good portion of rational decisions, while the public make more emotional calls, but significant revenue won’t happen unless your product does what it says on the tin or better. What it promises also therefore matters.

What if the promises are vague?
What can go wrong?
It’s not just what, but when and how. If your AI cleaner bot picks the wrong bottle and sprays acid over babies beds, you won’t talk your way out of that.

What if people hit the panic button and bail out of your self-drive car because ;they feel unsafe, it’s taking too many risks.,Ii doesn’t take enough risks and drops them too far away, it just goes a bit silly for whatever reason, It’s not fun now and driving wasn’t so bad after all.

Will Farmer Jim be amazed that if he wanted it, he could have monitors on his cows and instead of knowing in 1 hour, hell know in. 0000001 seconds, when she’d like to meet a nice young AI man. (no not that kind of AI)? Or that his crop needs rain. I grew up on a farm and let me tell you, he knows already.

Here’s the thing:
Every business, state and individual is governed by the laws of opportunity cost.
If you invest in the wrong thing you don’t get the other opportunities that you scorned, but the competition will.

What serious challenges do you wish we could solve right now?
Do you really believe that those challenges will be solved by AI, 5G, Self-driving cars?

Given what you’ve seen from AI so far, would you let it dress you for tomorrow’s meeting?
Would you let it choose your shopping for next week, or decide which emails to just delete?
Didn’t think so.

So why are you being taken in?
Why are you not demanding the things you need and want instead of this fairy-tale?
Have you ever asked yourself why 5g and AI receive so much press and even our governments get behind them, when clearly, very few of us want what they claim to be able to offer at some time in the future, apart from overbearing governments that is?
Have you ever found 4g too slow to achieve your goals?
Is your broadband slow and preventing your prosperity?
Do you hate driving that much? Ok if you drive in NY, LA or maybe London, there might be a reason, but what’s wrong with the underground? Its faster and safe . . . and self-driving, sort-of.
Do you feel comfortable when your partner drives, or are you keen to be in control? How much work do you get done on the train?
Does Siri answer all your emails? Why not?

If you’re not waiting with bated breath and let me tell you, I’m not, what’s all the fuss about? Could it be something else?

The two things that changed the world of 2020 and made everything a bit silly

Pretty thumbs is a must have product

If you’re a guy it’s sort of like having a very tight strap placed over your crown jewels and tightened till your eyes water. After that you’re singing soprano and you love the ballet.

1. Platform power.
The power of Social media platforms and anyone with the cash and knowhow to get us mere mortals believing, talking about, voting for and maybe even buying whatsoever they lay out for us.
So far they elected Trump, Johnson, Orban and a host of smaller celebs, but don’t kid yourself that they haven’t seen the possibilities, or that they have decided to lock away the genie.

2. Quantitative Easing (QE), the act of Central banks printing money, or rather giving it to commercial banks for free to be distributed to the people and thus generate trade and prosperity. Of course, you’re right, the banks don’t do that. They give it to the CEOs of huge companies who in turn buy back their own shares, driving the markets in the opposite direction to the economy and making huge personal fortunes for themselves, banks and hedge funds. It also creates an even wider gap between haves and have-nots, but that’s for another day.

These two things may sound boring, but shortly you will know why these things have led to hovering umbrellas that promise to open when it rains and hover above your head.

It’s quite simple when someone explains it to you.

All this money created by Central banks is floating about in commercial banks and the bankers are desperate and indeed, feel duty bound, to find borrowers at 0%. The problem is that CEOs are not the people who normally create business cases and borrow the money, people like me tend to do all that boring stuff and neither do they get involved much with product ideas, they just do talks after the product is a runaway success and imply that it was their great idea.

They do recognise an opportunity though and they want this free money, so they have a PR and Social media firm dream up an idea that will have PR mileage, and then slap together a presentation for the bank manager who can’t wait to give them a cheque and there you go.
Self-driving cars, pretty thumbs, Five G phones, day trips to the moon, tights that can walk on their own, AI that interviews and hires people and AI that predicts when someone is about to think about a crime and grabs them . . . it’s a long list.

All this money and indeed all these ideas would never be able to hang together for any length of time were it not for the newfound ability to make the masses believe and talk about almost anything you’d like them to think about and talk about:
— It’s not the CEO who has their wages while they get evicted, it’s a starving migrant in a boat on the sea.

- This pandemic only kills foreigners and stupid people, Ill be fine, I’ll go to the ball game and spend money in a bar.

- Mass surveillance won’t be used on me, only on coloured folk.

- Trump represents god against the devil.

- Self driving cars will be great, everyone else thinks so.

-Pretty thumbs are important.

-Holding your own umbrella is a drag, I could get so much work done.

Money from hot air meets hot air from money, a marriage made in heaven and the key ingredient is you.

They don’t need you to buy any of this stuff right now, they just want you looking at it, liking it, clicking the links and viewing the videos. Don’t misread me, they do appreciate your efforts, they’re just not going to pay you.

All the time you are trying to convince yourself how great the world will be with hovering umbrellas, self-drive cars that go out touring without you and pretty thumbs, they are salting very nice pieces of that money away in tax havens where you and your government will never get your grubby paws on it. Then they will borrow it back cheaply so they pay no tax at this point and they will buy the overpriced land, homes and other things that you can’t afford. Your children have no chance of owning or even renting a decent home, much less with security and its because of these guys , the the so-called Economists that suggested it and the crooked politicians that sanctioned it.

So there we have it, trillions of pounds of cash piled up by people who are afraid to invest it and hair-brained ideas by CEOs to grab some of that cache and earn himself a nice bonus with no downside.
There’s no jobs coming and probably no driverless cars either any more than oranges with taps, pretty toes or any of the other mad ideas. Right now its estimated that 5 trillion is sitting in savings ad other instruments not being used for any productive purpose because they are scared stiff to risk investing and 0% well, would you? The answer is crazy you probably guessed it and then dismissed it; -1% interest so they lose some of it if they don’t invest.
Imagine if the economy was a circular flow and investment created jobs that enriched consumers who then rushed out to buy stuff their families needed. Wouldn’t that be heaven?

Well talk about that another day.



Edward Taaffe

Ed is a technical consultant and writer in the areas of Digital and Products. He writes here on random subjects that catch the eye.