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The biggest show in tech is ignoring the biggest problem in tech

At CES, hardware companies are inviting us to bury our heads in the sand–deep.

The biggest show in tech is ignoring the biggest problem in tech
[Photo: David McNew/AFP/Getty Images]

This year, Amazon accidentally shared our private conversations with random people. Facebook purposely gave away our data–including our messenger logs–to other corporations. Google had its social network breached–twice–which is truthfully a smaller invasion of our privacy compared to its vast ad tracking network. Microsoft planted its heels as a military contractor. And Apple was both busted for and continued to slow down costly iPhones after they’re but a year old.

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2018 was an unprecedented bad year for technology that has eroded consumer trust. But you won’t see any mention of that this week. Because it’s the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. It’s the time of year when gadget manufacturers everywhere line up to dazzle us with their latest takes on thin and shiny. It’s one long “This Is Fine!” cartoon, playing out in the stale cigarette-scented air of the Hilton Las Vegas–with canapés!

Privacy and security are the two things we need out of CES that we most certainly won’t get (despite Apple’s giant ad). Instead? I’ve gotten pitches for $15,000 massage chairs, delivery robots, and, as always, more TVs than I can count. It’s like the industry is telling us, kick back, binge on a show, and stuff your face until this nightmare has come to an end.

[Photo: Glenn Chapman/AFP/Getty Images]
It may be onto something. While many Silicon Valley companies face this self-made onslaught of privacy concerns, consumers are doing something weird: They seem to be reverting back to technologies many of us thought were dying. In a world when smartphone sales are declining and people are quitting Facebook in untold numbers, old-fashioned CES stuff is having a new golden age.

For instance, televisions had a great 2018. Televisions! Sales of smart TVs continue to grow, and people are actually streaming content like Netflix to TVs more often than before–a whopping 145% more often than a year before, to be exact. Game consoles, too, celebrated their best November since 2010. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo each sold respectably. Microsoft demonstrated an unprecedented turnaround for its Xbox One brand. And the Nintendo Switch became the fastest-selling console in U.S. history.

It’s quite the turn of events. Our future is looking less like holographic telepresence social media and more like a 1980s living room with a bigger screen.

It’s too bad that CES can’t bring us the technologies we need to fix what’s wrong with technology. CES is a show dominated by hardware makers–Sony, Samsung, TCL, and LG–rather than platform holders like Facebook and Google. And aside from Apple, there’s really no hardware manufacturer that also has any measure of control over the platform side, too. Instead, hardware makers and even consumers are burying our heads in the sand–or in this case, some very expensive 8K TVs.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day

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