Innovations that shouldn’t have been innovated…
When people say “innovation” – especially people in business and investment – they say it with a smile. They say it like they’d say “cold beer,” as if it were always a good idea.
Not for breakfast, it isn’t. Especially not if the morning brewski is followed by smoking crack.
There are plenty of innovations – starting with crack – that need to be “unnovated.”
American Consequences Managing Editor Steven Longenecker and I have been making a list… We’ve divided the labor, with me concentrating on more general things because I have what you might call a “general intelligence” (which is another way of saying I’m full of B.S.), while Steven has been concentrating on specifics because he’s actually, specifically, smart.
I personally would go further and get rid of all smartphones. I’m sick and tired of dealing with people whose faces are stuck in their phones.
And, yes, I’m talking to you, my three children at the dinner table.
“Did you say something, Dad?”
“Sorry, I was just texting grace. ‘bles us o lord 4 these yur gifts…’”
Texting hits that “sour spot” between the immediacy of a phone call and e-mail’s sped-up version of the Post Office. Put texting together with music and video delivered via personal electronic devices, and everybody’s face is stuck in the phone.
Imagine the TV show Cheers set in 2017. Theme song: “Where Everybody Knows Your Username.” Sam and Diane, faces stuck in phones, never notice each other. Nobody yells, “NORM! or realizes that he’s arrived. Waitress Carla isn’t there because drinks are ordered on menu touch screens. Woody delivers the drinks but doesn’t have any funny Hoosier hick lines. Cliff is still a know-it-all but he’s posting everything he knows on his www.KnowItAll.com blog. And Frazier is busy providing virtual psychoanalysis.
Yes, this would be tough on people who live in hot places. But it might be worth the sacrifice. A/C is what allows Washington to operate year-round.
Ever been in D.C. in the summer? The whole city used to come to a sweltering, sticky, sweaty, somnolent halt from June through September. But now the government agencies can, with the flick of a thermostat, ruin the country 52 weeks a year.
As Mark Twain said, “There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” (And every other branch of the federal government.)
A census is required by Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. But the census is just supposed to count us, not ask us how many toilets we have.
The hell with the other statistics the government collects. They’re just excuses for further legislative and regulatory interference in our lives. It’s none of the government’s business whether I’m employed or not. (In fact, since I haven’t held a “real job” since 1981, I’m not sure myself.)
The same goes for…
You’ll recall what it got us by way of presidential candidates last year.
Movie Special Effects
When special effects were limited to ketchup and blank cartridges for tommy guns we got The Godfather. Now, with highly sophisticated computer-generated imagery, we get Captain America Fights the Civil War With Doctor Strange and the Guardians of the Galaxy at Spider-Man’s Homecoming Dance.
They violate the “PowerPoint Rule” – If something is so complex that it needs PowerPoint to explain it, it’s too complex to be explained with PowerPoint.
The Social Sciences
They’re not science and they’re not social unless you like hanging out with weird academic types. Sociology is bad chick lit. Anthropology is lousy travel writing. And Psychology is vicious gossip.
The 24/7 Work Week
Enough already! Everybody should have a day of rest – no work, no noise, no obligations, and all communication on a strictly voluntary basis and conducted face-to-face or in pen and ink on nice paper. We need a Sabbath.
This doesn’t have to be a religious thing, although many sensible religions require it. The Muslims say Friday. The Jews say Saturday. The Christians say Sunday. I say “Three Day Weekend!”
The Juicero Juicer
This is Steven’s top “unnovation” – a $400 juicer that’s been the darling of Silicon Valley and also the darling of Silicon Valley gadget start-up funding.
Let me repeat the Juicero’s price. $400. Because… Because when you put fruit and vegetables into the Juicero juicer it produces… juice.
You also have to pay for weekly deliveries of special Juicero prepackaged fruits and vegetables. The Juicero then presses these fruits and vegetables with enough force to, according to the company’s literature, “lift two Teslas.”
(Why you’d want to lift two Teslas is another matter. And given what’s happened beneath some Teslas, such as fire, you should get the heck out from under there.)
It gets better. Juicero purchasers soon discovered (they’re no dummies in Silicon Valley) that they could get juice directly from the Juicero pre-packaged fruits and vegetable by squeezing the packages with their hands.
Maybe next Silicon Valley will discover they can get fruit and vegetable juice by popping open a can of V8. Then add vodka to make a Bloody Mary and drown their despair over having paid $400 for a juicer.
Or perhaps Silicon Valley will even discover that at Target they can buy an Oster blender for $19.50.
Looks like somebody is reading our minds.
As we went to press, Juicero announced it was shuttering its business… destroying more than $100 million in venture funding in the process. Despite its lofty price tag, the company lost money on each juicer sold. Count this “innovation” as unnovated.
The Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer
As if a banana weren’t already the easiest thing to cut except a… (PJ’s comment)
The Hutzler 571 has 3,676 positive reviews on Amazon, garnering an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars.
However, before the CEO of the Hutzler Manufacturing Company lets the 571’s new-found fame go to his head, he should maybe read the positive reviews.
Here’s an excerpt from a positive review posted right at the top: “… my parole officer won’t allow me to be around knives.”
Are the Juicero juicer and the Hutzler banana slicer the most ridiculous new wrinkles ever in culinary equipment? Hah! Behold the Smalt, the “World’s First Interactive Smart Salt Dispenser.”
The device looks like a pepper grinder in the Star Wars stormtrooper mess hall. Although, it won’t grind pepper. What it will do is create a computerized record of your salt intake, make a “conversation starter” centerpiece on your dinner table, provide mood lighting for your dining room and background music via Bluetooth connection to Amazon’s “Alexa,” and, if you have the Smalt app, it will even put salt on your food “with a shake/pinch of your smartphone screen.” (To quote the promotional literature.)
The Smalt (again, quoting the promotional literature) “will transform an ordinary kitchen tool that people have been using for centuries into a fun experience.”
As Mom said when she swung the meat cleaver at Dad.
Like walking around in nothing but your adult diaper – except less dignified.
I didn’t even know about this until Steven sent me pictures of the RompHim line of men’s clothing that I’ll never be able to un-see.
Infantilizing American men has been a long-term fashion trend: The permanent adolescent Pee-Wee Herman look of “skinny suits” with pants and sleeves too short and tight. The “can’t quite grow a beard yet” look. The nine-year-old-boy look of T-shirt, shorts, and gym shoes on Casual Friday. The “Look at the swell rub-off tattoos I got at the dime store” look. And now this…
I’ll know this trend has peaked when I go to the liquor store and the Dewar’s bottles have rubber nipples on top.
The 84-Month Car Loan
On a more serious note, Steven also alerted me to this deeply foolish auto finance innovation. Eighty-four months is seven years. If I could find a new car that would last for seven years, I’d keep it forever and never need a car loan.
The average price of a car in the U.S. is $28,936. The average car loan interest rate is 4.6%. The average loan term is 67 months. This is bad enough. It means you’ll pay $3,930 in interest in addition to what you paid for the car, which was too much.
But you’ll pay $4,963 in interest with an 84-month loan. Yes, your car payment will come down a bit, from an average of $482 per month with a 67-month loan to an average of $400 with an 84-month loan. And you’re still personal-finance roadkill.
One peek at the Internet and I found a 2007 Ford Taurus – a bit dented and in need of brake pads and windshield wiper blades, but in good running order. Price: $400. You could buy 84 of them and keep the other 83 for parts cars.
Steven and I also got two great unnovation ideas from outside sources.
First, there’s Matt Levine, the brilliant Bloomberg View columnist:
The Dentacoin ERC20 Token
A global blockchain cryptocurrency for use only in payments to dentists.
“I am becoming increasingly convinced of my thesis that the story of cryptocurrency is not one of re-learning all of the lessons of modern capitalism, but of un-learning them.
“Here in the 21st century, I assumed that the purpose of currency was to intermediate between different goods and services, to make them fungible and commensurable, so that people don’t constantly have to negotiate the exchange rate between yams and goats, or between goats and dentistry. Who decided that the problem with dentistry is that it needs its own currency?
“In 50 years, I will reminisce to my grandkids about olden times, when there was a single currency that you used to pay for food and rent and cloud storage and heroin and dentistry. ‘Wow, grandpa,’ they will say, ‘that sounds… actually really convenient?’”
And finally, there’s Dave Barry, humorist nonpareil (French for “keep your adult diaper on, he’s that funny”). Dave says:
Buffalo-Style Chicken Wings
“For many years, nobody ate chicken wings, and for good reason: They are inedible. They are essentially meat-free bones. You might as well chew on a plate of toenails. But one day a shrewd restaurant owner came up with the idea of serving the wings ‘Buffalo-style,’ which means ‘to people who have been drinking beer.’ It is a known fact that beer-drinkers will eat pretty much anything: Exhibit A is ‘Slim Jims.’ You could put a dish of salted mothballs in front of beer-drinkers, and they would snork them up. So chicken wings were an instant hit.
“Today, ‘Buffalo-style’ chicken wings are served in restaurants all over the nation: The waitperson brings out a plate of bones, the customers gnaw on them for a while, and then the waitperson takes them back to the kitchen, where they’re run through the dishwasher and placed on a plate for the next set of customers to gnaw on. A restaurant can sell the same set of ‘Buffalo-style’ wings hundreds of times; this provides a big boost to the economy, and it is easier on the chickens.”