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ces man wearing glowing suit at ces 2019
Image: CES PR

CES, or the Consumer Electronics Show, is happening this week. Where once there was a utopia of actual consumer technology showcased with the intention of actually existing and being placed within the greasy, outstretched palms of consumers within the year, now sits a wildly untamed circus of smart home tech, speculative AI that serves little purpose besides a buzzword and cars born from fantasy and science fiction.

CES itself has become to technology what the San Diego Comic-Con has become to comic books; an event bred from a medium that served purpose in our lives, but now a ragged slave to entertainment, infotainment and broad strokes of wild speculation and theories. Yet, the content that flows with hurried expedition towards our eager brains does not let up and we do not cease feeding. Our hunger for anything that brings us closer to the future of technology cannot be satiated, nor should it.

Like all of you, I’m spiritually on the CES floor at this very moment, exploring the bonds between human and machine through highly erotic displays such as that of macro photography of speaker dials. My brain has been 3D printed there, at one of many 3D printing booths giving away trinkets and showcasing a device that they hope, with rainbows in their eyes, that someday shall occupy a space with the same presence as your microwave oven. Yet, as the backpacks rub together on the show floor, there is a friction with new technology that cannot be cooled down.

Augmented and Virtual reality continue to permeate the floor, like a fetid, rotting corpse that refuses to be removed or evolve into mushrooms. Products integrated with AR/VR continue to be showcased, but it is easy to presume that most of it will never make it to market. We’ve bought into the concept, but the execution as a practical consumer good is still something just out of the grasp of the technologists with the soldering irons.

We love to tenderly caress and palm these technologies, these devices that speak to a greater plane of thought and future thinking, yet we also know that much of this is just playing pretend. It’s a technology tea party with a toddler; the cups are real but the tea is something we have to pretend to enjoy. Seriously, how excited are you for wearable dog collars or anything with the word “blockchain” in it? Does the possibility of 5G-enabled devices keep you up at night? Or do the nightmares of AI infecting IoT devices keep you saturated in cold sweats as you try to find peace in the dark hours?

“While computers and robots are doing the scut-work of society so that the world, in 2019, will seem more and more to be ‘running itself,’ more and more human beings will find themselves living a life rich in leisure,” wrote science fiction author Isaac Asimov way back in 1983. A corporation such as Facebook producing a device with the purpose of having an eye on us is certainly a theme that Asimov would have written about. Here, at yet another CES, smart-home tech continues to threaten to make our lives not our own, but an automated shell of existence in which we simply set the timers for the operation of our lives.

Intelligent toilets are just the beginning of the end, as we expose our most intimate bits to the cascading, enveloping cloak of technology. We wander around, staring at folding phones, roll-up TVs that elicit a feeling of shame in display and connected shoe tops, considering how these things can perhaps improve or enhance our lives. Yet, like how a calzone is little more than a folded pizza with less purpose and how our shoes are little more than protection against the elements, we cannot begin to really comprehend the impact that giving ourselves totally over to consumer technology will have.

CES 2019 is just every CES before it, with Alexa integrated into more products and something subliminal about AI buried deep within the subconscious messaging. Circuit boards and smart-home tech turning us each into a discount Lawnmower Man, at one with the machine in consciousness, but still slogging through the world feeling continuously left behind by the speed at which technology advances and integrates into our lives. We may never use most of the items displayed at CES, it’s all just technology content in the physical plane, but we’ll damn sure glorify it as if greater things aren’t yet to come.

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