Did We Learn Nothing From the Dot-Com Bust?
This promises to be a year of confusion in the tech world. Less than two weeks in, and we're already mired in this chip flaw madness, while the continued rise in Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies is concerning. What's a sure thing? Driverless cars? Quantum computing? Nobody knows.
I could go down the list, but I'm feeling a little déjà vu. In the late '90s, those who questioned a stupid idea or trend were immediately told they did not "get it." We were in a "new economy" where everything had changed, after all.
What didn't change was an economic collapse when reality set in. Having dog food shipped to your house by Pets.com was not viable as a business model. It folded.
How is that different from what Amazon is doing today with Amazon Prime? You join Amazon Prime for $99 a year and get all sorts of free benefits including video streaming of movies and free two-day shipping of everything imaginable. Only creative bookkeeping makes it work. Hello 1999. I won't even bother with the Webvan parallels.
Then there is the mania over driverless cars. According to one observer at CES, if you weren't there with some driverless car technology, you might as well have stood in the corner.
Driverless cars will only work in a crime-free, vandal-free world. Don't kid yourself, these devices have decades to go. It's not because of the car tech. It's because computers are still stupid and can easily be fooled when placed in the real world to navigate and interact on their own.
Onward to the most dubious of all technologies: quantum computing. Nobody can ever explain it in a way that doesn't make you draw back your head and flash a sour look on your face. I have listened to the theoretical angles about this so-called technology and, afterwards, felt I was just in a game of three-card monte.
I spent a long time talking to one of the most knowledgeable reporters who has covered the technology from the outset and he still doesn't know what to make of it and whether the inventors are sincere, deluded or just full of it. It's impossible to tell. Yet, Intel and others are jumping on board "just in case."
We were all fools not to buy it when one bitcoin was 50 cents. That much I will agree on. But would we be holding on forever? Who knows? For years I have equated Bitcoin with the Beanie Babies phenomenon; its collapse foretold the dot-com collapse. At least a Beanie Baby had an intrinsic worth, that of a small plaything for kids. Bitcoin has removed anything intrinsic. All it has is perceived value. You cannot play with a Bitcoin, you cannot melt them down, you cannot use them as a toy or art. They are magic dust.
But mention this to a Bitcoin fanatic, and I'm told I "don't get it." Hello, 1999.
I've heard there is a Bitcoin vending machine someplace, but I cannot imagine what a hassle it would be to use. It's nuts. But through the mechanism of mass hysteria, they are worth a fortune and going higher in value.
How long can this go on? If the scene has locked on to the late 1990's groove of insanity, it's possible that we are in an analog of 1998 and can maybe make it through the year without a collapse. But looking at the start of the year, I doubt it. Smoke, meet mirror.