Amazon’s Echo Dot is on its fourth generation. And within each of those generations there are myriad iterations and variations on the basic design.
And that’s just the Dot. In all, there are dozens of different “Echo” devices. And each one is either a newly-introduced product or an iteration of a previous generation. And there will be more next year and more the year after that.
That’s what the status quo looks like in smart gadgets. If you got a smart TV for your birthday last year, you can probably get a new version of the same TV on your birthday again this year.
It’s not just an environmentally unsustainable paradigm, it’s also a greedy one that creates a meta-market for people who care more about the prestige of an iteration than craftsmanship or product support.
The iPhone model
However, it’s difficult to challenge the iterative hardware paradigm in an age where the technology world is experiencing an explosion in artificial intelligence advances.
Ten years ago, as far as the mainstream was concerned, artificial intelligence was something that scientists and businesses used to sift through massive amounts of data.
AI is a consumer-facing tech now. We interact with chatbots, we rely on the algorithm to surface our entertainment, and we control our lights, alarms, and cars with integrated AI systems. We’re a hybrid human-AI species now and the lines between us and our technology will only get blurrier as we evolve.
This requires a reexamining of the iPhone model. We’ve become accustomed to yearly announcements from big tech. Our dopamine receptors tend to get all atwitter imagining what the next big thing from Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Tesla, and Facebook will be.
When you consider how quickly hardware, software, AI, and programming languages are advancing, it’s almost impossible to imagine a better way of doing things. We want a new iPhone every year because the newest iPhone tends to be a genuinely better product than last year’s.
Time stands for no startup
However, if there’s one thing that’s certain in the technology world, it’s that everything changes. Netflix was founded in the same year that DVD players went on sale in the US. In a little over two decades DVDs have gone from obscure to mainstream to one of the most lucrative media markets in history to obsolete.