Maybe you’ve seen the commercial. It was Best Buy’s Super Bowl ad, but to be honest with you, I had to look that up, because by the time they get around to saying the name of whatever the fuck it is they’re hocking every time I see it, I’m so blind with rage that I’m not paying attention anymore. If you watch baseball, you’ve almost definitely seen it.
In it, there is an assortment of people being positioned as innovators. One guy says, “I invented email on your cellphone,” someone gets on who invented the camera phone, then someone takes credit for letting you share videos online, and then they show a few others, and then they show the dudes who made Words With Friends sitting on an airplane getting told not to play, and then ha ha ha and then here buy this shit. By then, my head is long since through the nearest slab of drywall.
Look: Every epoch of human history is filled with bullshit. There’s no getting away from bullshit. I know this. But how can it possibly be that the guys who stole Scrabble and put it on your cellphone are what passes for the great inventors of their generation? It’s not like they fucking invented Scrabble! They didn’t invent shit. They stole shit, gave shit an unclever name, and began selling shit. They got a business loan—more than I can do, but still, hardly innovative.
And the camera phone? Show me the guy who invented the camera. Nice work on that one anyway, when people had to “invent” all these Hipstamatic and Instagram filters to make cellphone pictures at least look like they’re totally crappy on purpose. Maybe you want a little less glory for that one? Jerk.
Improving something—even if you are actually improving it—is not innovating. It’s superficial. It’s like someone coming in six months after email was invented and saying, “Look what I invented! You can attach files now!” What an innovator. Way to shift the paradigms.
You know what happens when you take people who’ve made minute software changes to get around copyrights or slightly shrunk down the inventions of others to fit them in overpriced digital leashes and you call them the most forward-thinking minds of their generation? You lower the standard. The expectation comes down just a little bit, because if that’s all it takes to get rich as fuck and get to be on tv in the Best Buy commercial, then why discover an alternative fuel source? Why cure a disease when you can treat it? Why figure out teleportation?
Once you start working in these frames, you’re immediately limited. Not every entrepreneur is going to change the world, I recognize that, but it’s hard not to look at things like app creation and wonder what could’ve happened if that person decided to build an alternative to the app in the first place. For me, it always goes back to the six corporations that own the entire universe saying, “Here, you can do this and this, but there’s still a level above you that we’re on that you can’t touch.”
Why do I still use a desktop computer, or a computer as we know it at all (and don’t you dare tell me your iPad is something other than a less convenient laptop or a fancypants GameBoy)? Why does my car still have a combustion engine? Why is my cellphone giving me cancer? Why are we stuck with these slow, creeping incremental “improvements” when what we so desperately need are leaps and genuinely fresh ways of doing things?
Because if you’re making a fuckton of money doing it one way, you’re not likely to change. You think we’d still be burning oil in our cars and houses if oil companies didn’t own a share of the government? You think we’d still be getting fucked over by credit card companies if the major banks didn’t own the rest? You want an invention? How about an alternative to the corporatocracy? How about something other than the rugged commodified brand of freedom that only a Jeep can buy?
But yeah, the guy who made Instagram. He’s the face of new American innovation. Can’t touch it, can’t use it to any real constructive purpose, but if you made it, you can make money off it—just enough so that maybe Facebook or someone like that will come along and buy up the company. Super.
Every time one of these vacuous political wonks goes around calling the U.S., “the greatest country in the world”—like it won the 100 meter dash or something—he or she should be immediately punched in the stomach and forced to prove it. Maybe I should “invent” an app that can do that.