Romantizing the Trivial

Everybody loves a good Apple rumor. It seems like for the past few years, predicting what kind of hardware and software big companies will show off is a sport in and of itself, and the industry hypes itself to a frenzy dreaming of the next, next big splash.

Which leads to posts like Gruber’s completely over-the-top speculative piece on what an “iPad Mini” might look like.

People complain about Silicon Valley startups not tackling big problems, while @daringfireball speculates on iPad Mini dim. for 5 more pages
– Me

All this time and attention of the media – which can materially affect the stock market – are but one of the examples of the elevation of the trivial. Maybe Jon Stewart’s right in criticizing 24-hour news networks stretching the definition of “newsworthy” to fill up hours of the day; we, as a society, seem more than ever to focus on the short term and constant minuscule iteration, and obsess over the tiniest things under the guise of “attention to detail”.

Of course, the tech startup scene has had the same criticism leveled at them ever since dotcom bust, but especially now that so many are exiting via buyouts and acquisitions. The attraction of talent, construction of lean companies, building of MVPs and the seemingly complete absence of a business model do not encourage up-front investment on revolutionary ideas[1]. Most end up being a mishmash of existing ideas applied to tangential markets, the canonical “[big name] of [underserved market segment]” startup.

That said, I hope that our modern culture celebrates monumental achievements with the increased fervor over incremental consumption. The Curiosity landing was a welcome reassurance that people still cared about big ideas, and along with the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs Boson from the LHC, that people were still excited by science and the technological advancement of the human race. There have been a smattering of industry initiatives which are also exciting: SpaceX, self-driving cars, virtual-reality goggles, and super-computerized Jeopardy contestants are a great sample of multi-year, multi-billion-dollar efforts that dare to dream big.

Let’s cheer that.

Footnotes    (↑ returns to text)
  1. The Solyndra bust and scandal didn’t help the “fund big, risky investments” cause either.