The worst innovation of our day ?

Sep 30, 2015
Vote on Hacker News

I have this ongoing contest with a childhood friend on identifying the most impactful contributions to society’s moral decay. Potential winning candidates reflect more than mere kooky inventions: they genuinely qualify as innovations because they witness widescale adoption, for better or (in this case) for worse.

I had won the last battle when I cited Autotune, seizing the crown over my friend’s previous winning entry of Reality TV.

Most people agree that the masses’ thirst for reality television reflected some of society’s worst character traits. The advent of Autotune is more debatable. Some argue that Autotune technology gave voice to less vocally-talented artists and represented musical ingenuity at its finest (a similar argument I would advance for Jamaica’s Vybz Kartel, who sometimes employs Autotune, but contrary to some naysayers, is extremely vocally-talented, though I digress…). However, to fully fathom the devastation on society’s musical sensibilities wreaked by Autotune, I encourage you to listen to the following songs by T-Pain, in order:

  1. Buy U A Drank – official version
  2. Buy U A Drank – a cappella, totally unplugged version

Not only will you appreciate the overused synthetic disaster that is Autotune, you will be probably be unexpectedly amazed, as I was, by T-Pain’s talent. That guy can sang !

Anyway, I was basking in the glow of being top dog in our game of World’s Worst Innovations until my buddy seized back the trophy last year with Selfie Stick. I had to grudgingly concede.

rudevc-selfie-stick

Here’s an interesting fact about the selfie stick: it was invented twice. First conceived in Japan in the 1980s by Hiroshi Ueda, the selfie stick was later re-invented by Canadian gadget maker Wayne Fromm.

With no disrespect to the inventors (kudos for creativity!), the selfie stick was a most unfortunate creation, especially in its present-day incarnation. The trouble with the selfie stick is that it provided a shot of adrenaline to the Selfie fad.

This might come as a surprise: I don’t want to see your Selfie

Taking a selfie has become hands-down one of the most annoying social habits of our modern era. Granted, the first selfies were fresh and quirky, even kind of retro, harking back to taking cozy black-and-white snapshots with one’s significant other in the photo-maton booth. But the uniqueness wore off fast.

Selfies jumped the shark on 3/3/2014, the day after Ellen Degeneres broadcast her famous Academy Awards selfie to the Hollywood-gawking world. Now, people are holding up street traffic, endangering innocent bystanders, even interrupting pro tennis matches to snap their precious selfies. A recent Taboola link enticed me to click on this Pulitzer contender called 22 Completely Inappropriate Selfies. While I can present no scientific evidence to back this up, I have a feeling that there is a direct correlation between the number of selfies in a person’s Twitter feed and their degree of douchebag-i-ness.

Mercifully, Japanese ingenuity is leading the way to salvation. Just last week, West Japan Railway Company has banned the use of selfie sticks at 1,195 of its 1,222 stations. As reported in TechInAsia, JR West cited safety concerns as the reason for placing the ban. Many older stations have overhead wires that could be damaged – or even give off a shock – if struck with a metal selfie stick. There’s also the potential for a selfie-taker to stumble onto the tracks while trying to achieve the perfect angle and lighting that makes them look 10 pounds thinner.

Paris Office du Tourisme: Entendez-vous ?

selfie-jocondeParis is the number one tourist destination in the world, abundant in photogenic landmarks, which translates into the capital of camera clicks, and by extension, a higher volume of selfies. This city boasts an extensive network of trains, trams, and metros – and their corresponding electric cables, crowded sidewalks, and a fair share of reckless drivers. For everybody’s safety, nay for the moral compass of Parisian society, let’s take a cue from the Japanese and consider banning selfie sticks.